SUN Hockey Pool

Flames suffer road thrashing

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Much as Flames players and their fans want to forget it, that was a beating to remember.

The 9-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Monday was one of the most embarrassing losses the NHL franchise has ever suffered.

Anyone rooting for the Flaming C in the one-sided pummelling at HP Pavilion was scouring for the nearest exit by the end of the first period.

Anyone who hung in there until after the ninth goal will be haunted by the enthusiastic chants echoing through the sold-out arena.

"We want 10!" reverberated to the rafters in the dying minutes after Dany Heatley scored his second of the game to help the Sharks creep dangerously close to double digits.

Players might want to erase it from their minds, but the best thing they can do is store to the memory banks the sting in their guts as they listened to the Sharks faithful taunting and celebrating as the Flames limped to the final buzzer and then glided off the ice shaking their low-hung heads.

Use it for future motivation to ensure it never happens again. At least not this season. Inevitably, painful losses like that will be suffered.

For the Flames, it's the second this season. A disastrous 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at the Saddledome in November now takes a backseat to the Bloodbath at the Shark Tank.

What about last year?

Remember that season-opening assault in Vancouver? A 6-0 loss to a division rival is no way to begin a campaign.

Identical 6-1 scores in Chicago and San Jose followed in November before the Flames really turned things around.

There have been worse scores further back in Flames history -- especially on the road (see chart on Page 3). The Detroit Red Wings pounded the 1981 version 12-4 in an early-season meeting at Joe Louis Arena. There was that forgettable performance in Vancouver in March 1992, when the Canucks blanked the Flames 11-0.

What makes Monday's dismantling at the hands of the Sharks so much worse than most of these thrashings is the fact the Flames are expected to contend for the division and make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

The first period could have served as a wakeup call, with the Sharks earning three goals on 17 shots. But the Flames remained in their sleepy state.

Dominated on every level, the Flames gave in to the wishes of the crowd as easily as they coughed up scoring chances, starting with the free pizza promotion that comes with four goals scored at Sharks home games.

Then they were treated to a team record. The Sharks had eight different goal scorers to set the new single-game mark.

Just six Flames finished with even ratings. The rest ranged from minus-1 to a hideous minus-5. That kind of play won't help them against the Blackhawks Thursday at home.

Calgarians must be keeping their fingers crossed that result won't bump Monday's mess further down the queue of historic blowouts.

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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