SUN Hockey Pool

'Cap'tivating game plan

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Beating the Washington Capitals should become that all-important first step.

It's up to the Calgary Flames to make it the beginning of a journey in the right direction instead of promptly reverting backwards.

"We just have to remember what we did that made us successful, paying attention to the little things, little details," said centre Wayne Primeau.

"We learned from the first few games if we don't play well defensively, it'll be a hard league to win in, and I think we did a lot better job.

"We can build off that and do it even better."

Their chance to build momentum and climb the standings starts tonight in Nashville, where the Flames headed yesterday after an optional practice at the Saddledome.

Tuesday night's victory over Alexander Ovechkin and the rest of the high-flying Capitals wasn't perfect by any means, but there were some signs the Flames (2-3-1) may have turned the corner from their early season woes.

The Caps had 31 shots on goal, but the number of high-grade scoring chances was lower than surrendered in the five contests to start the season. Throw in better goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff and the result is what the club was looking for.

"When we have fluctuations and breakdowns defensively, the last line of defence is the goaltender, and it always makes the goaltender look inconsistent when you're not defending properly," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "His confidence in himself and the group grows as he sees the details being looked after, and it makes his job easier. There's no easy job, but it makes his job easier, and it makes the team's possibilities of success even greater."

But the performance went beyond just better defence and netminding.

The Flames -- who'd blown several leads in those previous games -- held on to a tight, low-scoring victory against a talented Washington crew that was noticeably frustrated by the tighter checking.

"That was an important step because of the leads we'd given up and cost us games previously," Keenan said. "Getting a lead is difficult as is learning the process of what has to be done to maintain the lead. In this league today, the margin is very slim, and you have to be able to perform -- under pressure -- the necessary details that are put in place to win tight games."

To a man, the Flames believed they proved something to themselves by shutting down the Capitals, who went into the game tied for the league lead in goals scored on a per-game basis.

"I hope so," forward Michael Cammalleri said. "It was a good test with the skill we were playing against to protect a one-goal lead. We need to understand we can win 1-0, 2-1, and the games we score a lot of goals can take care of themselves."

The next step is to know how they did it and repeat it.

"This is a pretty conservative answer, but I think it's an overall mindset, commitment to checking and playing defence," Cammalleri said.

So now we know the message from the coaches today -- take the consistency needed to win that game and carry it forward.

"That's the process," Keenan said. "Rather than strictly the outcome, it's the consistency of what you're doing game-in and game-out, shift-in and shift-out, period after period after period."


Videos

Photos