Bad habits tough to break

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Brent Sutter paused for a couple of seconds when asked the question.

On the heels of his team's 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night, the Calgary Flames head coach was asked why his team pulled the same bad stunt against the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres on successive nights.

Both times, the Flames scored just over a minute into the game.

Both times, they were overrun by the opposition for the rest of the opening period.

"Habits," Sutter said. "You see it happening too many times and think, 'Why's it happening?' It's learning how to succeed and win the right way. It's accepting the fact our team has to play a certain way. I think they accept it but, at times, they get away from that execution.

"My job is to continue to push, push, push to get it through."

The Flames should be feeling good after their road trip.

They put up a 2-0-1 record in a trio of games against Northeast Division teams.

Their 5-0-1 run since flipping the calendar to November has them within a point of the Colorado Avalanche for the lead in the Northwest Division -- curiously, it's the Avalanche the Flames play tomorrow.

The Flames have climbed into the league's top 10 in goals-against average, having allowed only seven in six games, and they are still near the top in goals for.

However, they aren't happy about their overall play.

Too much of their success has been on the back of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

Makes you wonder whether Sutter is having a tough time getting his message through when the team is winning.

"If you look on the positive side, you'd rather it be that way than the other way," Sutter said. "As players, they have to understand and realize there's a certain way we have to play, we need to play, and we're gonna play. You have to buy into it.

"It's not, I don't think, them not buying into it. It's executing it and realizing there are no easy games."

With the way his charges appeared to take their foot off the gas after taking early leads in the past two games, Sutter admitted he wasn't pleased.

"I don't want to be negative with the fact we got five out of six points. It's a very good road trip from that standpoint," he said. "But I wasn't happy with the way we played the first period (Friday) night, and I wasn't happy with the way we played the first two periods (Saturday). Our goalkeeper played great ... and you can't keep relying on one guy to do that for you. It's gonna burn you, and that's why I'm putting the flags up as week speak."

The players know their coach will continue to hammer the message home.

"At lot of the times, it's what we do to ourselves," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"When we're successful, we're first of all skating. We're on the body and getting pucks in behind their defencemen with a really good forecheck. When we're not playing well, we're not skating, we're not on the body and we're turning over pucks. That happened the last two games.

"Other teams are coming hard, but when that happens it's more important you stick to the things you're supposed to. That way, you're able to break down the other team's aggressive play."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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