SUN Hockey Pool

Tired of excuses? Flames are beat

Suddenly snakebitten Flames captain Jarome Iginla couldn’t put this puck past Blues goaltender...

Suddenly snakebitten Flames captain Jarome Iginla couldn’t put this puck past Blues goaltender Chris Mason during Calgary’s 4-3 loss Tuesday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. (Scott Rovak/QMI AGENCY)

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 5:57 AM ET

The San Jose Sharks have lost five straight games.

Are you ready to write them off?

Of course not. The Sharks are still a Stanley Cup contender and will be come April despite their past playoff history. But, right now, the team is going through a skid.

The Sharks have talent in goal, talent on the blueline and major talent on their top line. Plus, they have a solid coach.

So, should you look at the Calgary Flames any differently right now while they're in a stretch with one win in five outings?

Of course not.

The Flames have a goalie who may be the best in the game, still have a top three on defence in Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf that any team would love, and their forwards are the same crew which rattled off all those wins through November and into the start of this month.

Oh yeah, they have a coach who knows what he's doing in Brent Sutter.

They're just a team going through a dip in performance.

Nothing more.

By no means does that mean all is hunky dory in Flames country.

During the last few games, they've made way too many mistakes, been sluggish at key times and been off the mark with the way they need to play to be successful.

But the common denominator in those problems is mental sharpness, which -- whether fans want to hear it or not -- comes from fatigue.

In short, the road-heavy schedule caught up with them in the past 10 days.

Since the start of November, it's a team that played 15 of 21 games on the road and made two trips to the Eastern time zone and two trips to California.

No matter how hard you battle through all that -- or how many zeroes are on the paycheque -- it catches up.

Now comes the chance to start getting it back together.

Make that a golden chance, with seven of the next eight games at the Saddledome.

"Our record at home is not as strong as it is on the road, but it's nice to be going home for a while," said left winger Nigel Dawes. "It's an important time of the year for us. The way we've been playing, dropping a couple of games here, we need the points and need to play well with the home games coming up."

Since arriving, Sutter has been doing what he can to instill in his players the importance of the process needed to win, but the gameplan hasn't been working of late.

Too many missed assignments are happening, such as the game-winning goal in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Too often, they aren't in the right position, and it's cost them. Dawes admitted as much in regards to the second goal St. Louis scored -- Andy McDonald's breakaway tally -- saying he was out of position.

Eventually, even a Red Bull can't make you alert.

Which is why the Flames plan to hit a reset button and put things back in order mentally, so their physical game returns.

"It's little details and we have the ability to fix those. We've shown that. It's a matter of doing it over and over and over again," Regehr said.

"You saw we did a pretty decent job for two periods (of Tuesday's game) and then, for some reason, we didn't in the third period.

"Getting back to repetition and all those details that win a hockey game or create momentum to win a hockey game, scoring chances and powerplays, we need to get back to doing it throughout the whole game."

You can bet they will.

The Sharks will return to form sooner than later.

So will the Flames.

Bet on it.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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