SUN Hockey Pool

R'n'R revoked after rout

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The plan for the Calgary Flames was some R'n'R. The prize was taken away.

They were supposed to stay behind in San Jose for a couple of extra nights after their last outing, take the time to rest and relax, spend a day seeing the sights -- Alcatraz is a cool place, Napa Valley would be fun -- and then go for the annual rookie dinner, when the freshmen pick up the tab.

Instead, they returned home yesterday, given only one "recovery day" on the heels of their 6-1 beat down at the hands of the NHL-leading Sharks.

So now, another couple of 'R' words must enter their vocabulary.

Regroup and reload.

In double time.

As they awoke yesterday, the Flames were still holding on to a spot in the Western Conference's elite eight with a 9-8-1 record. By the time they return to action Tuesday night at home against the Colorado Avalanche in the first part of a home-and-home series, they very well may be outside a playoff spot.

Check that, most likely will be outside.

If Thursday night's thrashing isn't rock bottom for this club, a peek at the standings that morning could very well serve as a reminder.

When the man whose ability to see the positive in situations is legendary, captain Jarome Iginla, starts using the words "dismal" and "bad," you know you have a problem.

Even when thrown a chance to use their crazy schedule as an excuse, Iginla shot it down emphatically after his team was devoured.

"It's all part of a NHL season," Iginla said. "Sure, some days your legs might not be as great, but that's not even close. We got pushed out of it right from the start.

"We were dismal all the way around. It was all of us."

The schedule makers hardly did the Flames any favours the past couple of weeks. Eight games, 13 days, four time zones and three road trips adds up to a hard spell.

Still, it was a test of this team's mettle and they failed miserably.

Losing is one thing, it happens to all teams. Even the Sharks, a team clicking in all areas these days, will go through a losing skid between now and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The problem is how the Flames have dropped games lately. This past week alone, they've twice been rocked by 6-1 scores. In both those contests, the opposition ran roughshod over them in big part because the Flames weren't prepared to work as hard.

You can question whether they were prepared to work at all. Last Sunday's shellacking in Chicago featured three Flames powerplay chances in the first nine minutes. Instead of taking advantage, or at least giving themselves a lead, they frittered away the opportunity, barely registering any pressure with the man-advantage, and were down by a pair before the intermission.

Thursday night's affair was even worse. Not only were the Flames outshot by a horrible margin through the opening period -- 20-5 -- and down by four goals, an even more telling stat regarding preparation came at the faceoff circles.

The Sharks won the first eight draws. By the time Calgary won a faceoff, the score was 2-0. That's not fatigue, that's not being ready.

The blame for that element hinges solely on the players. It's their responsibility to be ready to go when the puck drops. They knew the Sharks would come out of the gates like gangbusters, that's been the M.O. in the Shark Tank for as long as anybody can remember.

They also knew the Sharks would have some extra oomph from having lost their previous two outings.

In no way did the Flames match their opposition. At least the Flames had a great view of what a top-notch team can do when it follows the game plan.

Which brings us to another aspect that has to be delved into deeper: The coaching job Todd McLellan has done with his squad.

Personnel-wise, San Jose is still much like the same team we've seen the past couple of years. What McLellan has done is make his team more dangerous with offence-based theories. The San Jose system is based on attacking, using a strong offence to be the best form of defence.

Shots come at the net from everywhere, especially the defencemen, and the Sharks circle the cage ready to pounce on every opportunity and causing confusion for the defenders. It's entertaining, too, but moreover a departure from the defence-first philosophy too many NHL teams employ.

It's up to Calgary's coaches to figure out a better way of coping with San Jose's game. Detroit's, too, since they're so similar. If they can't, some changes may be in order, and we all can guess what direction the Flames would go.


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