Flames keeping the faith

STEVE MACFARLANE, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:01 PM ET

The theme worked for Canadians at the Olympics last month, but ‘I believe’ isn’t something you’re going to hear from many fans of the Calgary Flames right now.

With 19 games left in the regular-season, they’re being written off as playoff contenders by a large contingent of hockey followers.

Fans at the Saddledome flocked to the exits the second the 50/50 draw was completed during the third period of the Flames’ embarrassing 4-0 loss Wednesday night to the Minnesota Wild.

And who could blame them? As an expensive night out, you pay to see goals scored and points earned, and the Flames managed neither in the divisional matchup. They didn’t even compete.

Another effort — or lack of it — like that and they can kiss their already slimming playoff hopes goodbye.

That was part of the message delivered by the coaching staff during a 10-minute talk held on the ice in a corner far from the watching media members Thursday morning before practice.

“The guys, we had a talk today. Hopefully, it got through and we’re going to have our best game of the year next game,” said Craig Conroy, who’s itching to get back into the lineup and prove he can contribute for a team that has struggled getting wins since the calendar flipped to 2010.

“There was a lot of different stuff (mentioned). Bottom line was, awful (Wednesday) night, unacceptable, and we have to regroup. We can’t do anything about it. It’s too late. But we do have an opportunity with 19 games left.

“We have to seize it.”

Typically, a playoff team needs between 93 and

96 points to make the post-season in the Western Conference. The Flames have 69 with 19 games left, which means they have to win about 65% of their remaining games to have a shot.

No easy task when you consider their opponents over the next couple of weeks alone are the New Jersey Devils, another meeting with the Wild, and dates with the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.

“We put ourselves in a postition where we have to win every night,” summed up Flames assistant coach Dave Lowry.

Conroy knows what the fans are thinking.

“We’re done,” he said in his best imitation of a panicked fan.

They don’t believe that to be true. But the odds are beginning to look like they’re stacked against the Flames.

Of the handful of teams battling for the last seeding in the Western Conference, the Flames might be the most inconsistent.

They’re also undoubtedly the squad that’s seen the biggest facelift.

Chemistry is critical if they intend on going on a winning streak to rise in the standings. But they look like a team in the middle of a training camp right now.

“There’s a lot of new guys and new faces in here, but we need to pull it together in a hurry here,” said defenceman Robyn Regehr. “All that matters right now is winning games. That should be the only thing we’re thinking about.”

Taking a page out of Team Canada’s playbook, the Flames will cling to the Olympic theme the rest of the way.

“Believe,” Conroy said. “You have to believe you’re gonna do it.”

Just don’t expect everyone else in the city to have the same faith.


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