SUN Hockey Pool

Sutter aims to bring out best in Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

CALGARY — In the aftermath of his team’s 3-2 win over Vancouver Saturday night, Flames coach Brent Sutter was asked who in particular he liked in the game.

“I liked our team,” Sutter replied without flinching.

Certainly he had good reason.

Up and down the roster, everybody contributed in some manner.

Some did it on the forecheck — such as David Moss, who fired a game-high eight shots on goal.

Some by blocking shots — in the way Curtis Glencross did a couple of painful times.

Some by throwing bombs. Those two fights with Brandon Prust were for the ages.

Others scored goals, created chances or shut the door in the defensive zone.

However amidst the euphoria of quite possibly the Flames’ best outing of the season — it’s up there with the 2-1 win in San Jose and 5-0 thrashing in Nashville — two questions remain:

• Why can’t the Flames perform more often like they did in GM Place?

• How frustrating is it for Sutter to see his team put together a game like that some 24 hours after such a dud in which the club lost 3-2 to Columbus at the Saddledome Friday night?

Lord knows, he unloaded on his players after that win, and rightfully so.

“Number one, and I want to make this clear, I was not frustrated (Friday) night,” Sutter said. “Frustration wasn’t in my mind. I wasn’t frustrated. I want to see these players — this team — play at a standard where they can be rewarded.

“They’re a great group of guys, it is a caring group, but it’s being on a path and staying on that path as a group. That’s really important.

“As a coach, you want to see the players rewarded, but for us to have rewards — which is through wins, and I know you’re not going to win every game — it’s ‘Let’s play a certain way. Let’s play at a certain level.’

“To do that with this group it’s important to play a good, solid team game, and everybody has to do it.”

Having played nine games in 14 days — the final four of those contests in five nights and in three different time zones — the Flames were given a deserved “recovery day” Sunday.

The thought process is a day’s rest to prepare for another divisional battle tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

Does anybody know what kind of performance the Flames will provide against a Colorado team which has won all three meetings so far this season — and all by 3-2 scores?

Will it be another complete outing such as the one win in Vancouver?

Will it be another home-ice clunker?

Most likely somewhere in between.

Most importantly, it shouldn’t take another lowering of the boom by Sutter to have his team play up to snuff.

“It was important to see a response and in a way they could be rewarded,” Sutter said of the Canucks game. “The important thing for the players to see first-hand the way they can play. It’s one things to show them on video, preach about it and talk about it, but it’s another thing for them to be rewarded for it.

“They were.”

As much as the NHL is a results-oriented business, Sutter would have been OK had his team lost in Vancouver.

There wouldn’t be any shame losing a game in which you outshoot the opposition 40-21 and out-hit them by a 39-22 margin.

So long as they play up to expectations.

“The best way to phrase this is, and the players know because I’ve told them, I’ll be the first to tell them after a loss if they played well and deserved better. I’ll also be the first when they don’t play well to let them know, too,” Sutter said. “It works both ways. I believe that because I believe a coach has to be honest with his players.

“We’re all in this together. Obviously we want to win, but to win we need everyone. We need everyone standing together as a group.”

Night after night, too, which is what the Flames are still working towards.

“The thing is keeping on top of it,” said defenceman Cory Sarich. “It’s not letting it slide. You see us do it, and we’re effective.”

Until further notice, the questions remain whether they’ll let it slide again or have finally learned a lesson.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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