Flames feel powerless

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

Circling the dressing room with purpose in his stride, Rich Preston delivered handwritten notice yesterday to each and every one of the culprits, er, players chiefly responsible for the Flames poor start.

"Powerplay meeting 9:25 tomorrow," read the coach's note left in stalls of the team's top scoring threats.

It may surprise many to learn, despite their record, the Calgary Flames have fared well five-on-five so far, outscoring opponents 12-9.

Quite simply, the team's problems can all be boiled down to this fact: The powerplay stinks.

Aware it's the difference between a winning and losing record, those on the league's worst unit (3-of-45 for 6.6%) feel the sense of urgency to improve at a time when penalties are being called at a record clip.

"I know your next question," said Preston, when asked if indeed he was the man chiefly responsible for the faltering powerplay unit.

"I think early on we had problems recovering pucks and that's just a problem of being outworked. But lately, one thing we haven't been doing enough of is shooting."

Finally, something everyone in the Flames room can agree on, including powerplay QB Roman Hamrlik.

"I and everyone on the powerplay have to pick it up -- we have to be more desperate than the other guys," Hamrlik said. "We need to make one or two passes and put the puck on the net and get three guys going for it."

As Preston points out, 75% of all powerplay goals stem from point shots that go straight in, get deflected or result in rebounds.

Defenceman Jordan Leopold says the Flames need to attack the net.

"You're not looking for tic-tac-toes," he said. "We're pretty much perimeter now. We have to get in that scoring zone."

While the Flames have done a better job setting up shop in the opposition zone, perhaps one of the problems is the plan is geared towards getting the puck to Phaneuf for his big blasts.

Said Preston: "In this day and age, the other teams scout you. Especially after that 5-on-3 against Edmonton when Dion had eight shots, teams look at that. You don't want him to stop shooting but you have to use it to your advantage when teams overload on him. In his case, now he has to work on the fake and spot a forward down low."

And preferably that forward would be Jarome Iginla, who has yet to score with the man-advantage.

Yet, telling Phaneuf not to shoot is the wrong message, according to head coach/GM Darryl Sutter.

"If they're going to give Dion a shooting lane, I'll take that over Iginla," said Sutter, preaching patience, even though his is running low.

"If you're getting opportunities, you've got to stick with it ... We're getting chances and, hey, if we scored a powerplay goal the last game (against Phoenix, a 2-0 loss) we're not even talking about it."

He's right. A powerplay goal in either of the last two nailbiting losses and the Flames record is .500 at worst. That's how crucial the powerplay is.

"No question," said Preston. "If the powerplay is working, we'd be laughing."

Instead, the look on his face is one of consternation.

A look the boys will be tired of seeing come 9:25 this morning.


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