SUN Hockey Pool

Defence remains Flames' gameplan

Calgary Flames' Craig Conroy, Dustin Boyd, Brandon Prust, and coach Brent Sutter, react to a loss. ...

Calgary Flames' Craig Conroy, Dustin Boyd, Brandon Prust, and coach Brent Sutter, react to a loss. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

CALGARY — The Calgary Flames have been scoring less than Richard Simmons at the Playboy mansion.

With goal scoring at a premium, fans have been screaming for a gameplan that will allow for more offence.

Don’t hold your breath.

Instead of coming up with ways to generate some opportunities in the offensive zone, the Flames will instead focus on defence.

More defence.

Better defence.

Perfect defence.

When the pucks aren’t going in the other net, said veteran Craig Conroy, the only answer is to keep it out of yours.

“That’s the way it is right now, so we have to come with that 1-0 mentality, give up even less chances and really bear down in our own zone,” Conroy said. “And no more neutral-zone turnovers.

It seems like that’s when you get in the most trouble.

“That has to be the mindset, that we’re going to win the game 1-0. We have to believe that and the only way to do that is to stay out of your own zone.”

The Flames have scored more than three goals just once (curiously, that was a 5-4 loss) in the last 13 games. They’ve scored 13 goals over the past nine games, when they’ve gone 1-7-1. To put it in perspective, that output matches Vancouver Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows, who has lit the lamp 13 times in his last nine outings.

But head coach Brent Sutter will not budge from a system that has been successful for him in the past.

There won’t be any wrinkles thrown in to create more space for captain Jarome Iginla, who hasn’t dented the mesh in 10 games.

Eric Nystrom, Freddie Sjostrom and Jay Bouwmeester are all riding 33-game goal-less droughts.

It looks like those streaks will continue to grow.

“The game is about two things,” Sutter said. “The game’s about defence and offence.

“But the one should never, ever come into question. And that’s defensive play. Never. Your defensive play should always be there.

“It doesn’t matter how much offence you have, or how much offence you don’t have, your defensive play should always be there.

“That’s something I learned as a young player going through major junior hockey and playing as many years as I did in the NHL. That was always demanded.”

Flames fans are starving for more goals. But to Sutter, strong defensive play is like the meat and potatoes. Offence is more like the dessert.

“It’s defence first in a sense that you have to be good in that area all the time,” Sutter said. “Offence is something you need to have some of it to win.

“But you don’t need a pile of offence to win games. You don’t need to have five or six goals to win hockey games.

“There’s not a lot of high-scoring games, so what does that tell you? The league is about playing well defensively and doing whatever you can on the offensive side to try to score enough goals to win.”


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