SUN Hockey Pool

Not out of the woods yet

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

In dramatic fashion, the Calgary Flames effectively erased their bad start.

So what's next?

With a clean slate and one of eight playoff spots in the Western Conference within spitting distance after a 3-2 comeback win over the Canucks in Vancouver brought the Flames to .500 Saturday, there has to be a lot of confidence in the dressing room.

And there should be. Entering November on a three-game slide, the Flames have now won four straight and earned at least a point in their last five. Two of those wins came against arguably the strongest squads in the West -- Dallas and Anaheim.

But there is still much work to do, as head coach Jim Playfair undoubtedly reminded them on the way home from the coast or when players popped in for treatment yesterday.

The way the Flames continued their streak Saturday, scoring three unanswered goals in a hostile arena against a desperate opponent with one of the best goaltenders in the league bodes well for the defending Northwest Division champs.

But don't hand them another banner just yet.

Consistency -- which may be Playfair's most used quip in pep talks and press conferences alike -- is something the Flames have yet to show they can bring.

Just look at the way Saturday night's game unfolded.

After a helter-skelter first period which saw the visitors give up a pair of powerplay goals and a handful of turnovers -- as Oilers bench boss Craig MacTavish would say, the Flames treated them like doughnuts and ordered a half-dozen early -- that could have resulted in Vancouver scores, the team came out with a decidedly different look in the second period.

Playfair juggled his lines in Sutter-esque fashion, putting a steadily improving Alex Tanguay on the top line, sticking an energetic Byron Ritchie between Kristian Huselius and Chuck Kobasew while flanking Matthew Lombardi with grinders Brandon Prust and Darren McCarty.

The shakeup worked as Tanguay and Iginla clicked twice: Once, when Tanguay sprung Iginla on a fast break up the middle resulting in the team's first goal; and again on the tying tally from Rhett Warrener with Iginla doing the dirty work on the wall and Tanguay feeding the pinching defenceman for his first of the season.

Lombardi rode the pine for much of the middle period and seemed to be fuelled in the third by his inactivity. His mad dash down the ice led to Huselius' winning goal.

But the players shouldn't need to be mixed and matched for inspiration. And it shouldn't take a colossal hit on their captain to inspire anyone.

Which means while another lengthy string of victories in the month of November is entirely possible -- maybe even longer than the octet which catapulted the Flames to the top of the division a year ago -- the Flames shouldn't be slapping each other on the back too hard until they find their rhythm and play a couple of games as a unit.

Maybe that's the next step.


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