Good times, bad times

The Flames have struggled at times even while racking up a post-November record of 25-10-7. SUN...

The Flames have struggled at times even while racking up a post-November record of 25-10-7. SUN MEDIA/Al Charest

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

The Flames and frustration seem to go hand in hand these days.

It's hard to imagine why. This is a team that has won 60% of its games since Dec. 1 and earned points in more than 75% of them.

But as close as they are to a top seed for the playoffs that begin four weeks from now, they are equally near the bottom of the post-season pack with one straggler sure to be left behind come April. With little room for error or confidence issues this late in the campaign, the Flames have struggled at times even while racking up a post-November record of 25-10-7.

That's why fans, coaches, and even the players have been exasperated even as the Flames keep pace for the Northwest Division lead.

"The talk about the team ... with players sometimes it's frustrating too," defenceman Robyn Regehr said of the inconsistency that shows up from game to game and sometimes period to period.

"The fans have seen that, the coaches have seen that. When we're on, we can be a hard team to beat. Then there's times when we're just nowhere near that.

"I think that's been the tough part so far this season."

It's those very times when the team looks unbeatable that has people in Calgary on an emotional yo-yo.

After playing terribly for a period or two, they respond with one or two dominant frames, but stringing them together in one night -- especially at home where they have missed out on nine additional points due to games that have gone to extra time -- is a rarity.

"We want to play unbelievable for 60 minutes, there's no doubt about it. We want to dominate games, and really put teams away. But for whatever reason, that's not happening," said Craig Conroy yesterday as the Flames got ready for tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet). "But we're getting points and moving along."

Head coach Mike Keenan, whose frustration has mostly been over the way the team's disturbing starts and disappointing powerplay performances at home, figures effort is what would keep everyone happy.

"I think it's a well earned expectation, because when we play well, we can be amongst the best. Our record indicates that since December," said Keenan. "That's what we're looking for."

What they want is a division title. That will likely be decided in the final few weeks of the regular season with the Flames' last nine games against Northwest opponents.

"The reality is, we had a really poor November, and really got behind a lot of teams and have had to play well and win a lot of games just to get back into the race," said Regehr. "That's where we're at right now.

"Fortunately, we've been able to get into a position where if we win the games that we're supposed to and play well, we don't have to worry about what's going on with those other teams."


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