SUN Hockey Pool

It's sink or swim for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Successful people learn from their own mistakes.

Very successful people learn from the mistakes of others.

The Calgary Flames are in a prime position to do both.

On the heels of back-to-back road wins in Minnesota and Detroit which put them back in a playoff spot — plus gives them a three-game winning streak for the first time since early January — the Flames have returned to a point where they’ve struggled.

It’s up to them to heed past lessons.

All season long, we’ve watched a Flames team wrestle with success.

In games, all too often they’ve blown leads.

Through the season, a whiff of having it all together has quickly led to steps backwards.

Now’s the time to find a killer instinct which has been lacking.

Their well-deserved

4-2 comeback win over the Red Wings Tuesday has the Flames riding momentum, not to mention ahead of Detroit for that all-important spot in the Western Conference’s elite eight. It’s an emotional lift, too, to see yourself above the Mason-Dixon line of the standings.

However, it’s not enough.

Certainly, it’s not time to take a deep breath and figure they have it all together.

Not if the Flames want to be a playoff team.

Certainly not if they expect to make any noise upon getting there.

All they have to do is look at those Red Wings for a quick reminder of what will happen should they take lightly Thursday night’s clash with the Ottawa Senators, or any other of the 16 games which remain on the regular-season slate.

The Wings, who are by no means the dominant and deep club of the past several seasons, looked like a team which figured it’s all going to come together without putting in the effort all the way to the finish line.

It certainly looked good for them after two periods of Tuesday’s game against Calgary at the Joe Louis Arena. They were ahead of the Flames in the standings and the game, but ended up watching in horror as the Flames rebounded with a one-sided final frame — especially after Miikka Kiprusoff’s clutch game-saving stop in the opening seconds.

The Wings dropped their guard for an instant, and no longer have the talent to flick on the switch when needed.

The Flames are in the same boat.

They can’t think because they’ve scored 14 goals in three games they’re back to being the high-octane squad we saw in October.

They can’t believe a playoff berth is their divine right because they’re one of a handful of squads who have been in the second-season in each of the past five seasons.

They have to remain with the program.

It would appear the Flames have started to strike the balance of playing defence but going for goals when an offensive chance presents itself.

(The key word is starting. Do it for two or three months and not just three games, and we’ll give more credence to the theory.)

“There’s a way we need to play,” said head coach Brent Sutter after the Detroit win.

“We’re playing that way and able to capitalize on opportunities.

“Our effort’s been there, but it’s keeping our guard up. We have to stay with it. Every game is such a big game.

“Every game is like a playoff game and we’ve got to enjoy playing them. That’s when you bring the most out of yourself as an individual and the most out of yourself as a hockey club.”

Only time will tell whether they revert to old ways or have learned from past mistakes.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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