Boring hockey key for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Let's face it, the Flames won't win too many games playing exciting hockey.

They can't.

Boring has to be beautiful over their final nine regular-season games to have any hope of making the playoffs.

They must accept it and don't have to apologize.

Robyn Regehr said it best when he relayed with honesty they wonít all be pretty on the heels of Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Itís too bad itís taken so long for them to accept that belief and actually put it into use.

If the Flames had truly bought into what head coach Brent Sutter was selling from the first day of the season, they wouldnít be staring at the mess which sits before them right now: Flickering playoff hopes with intense pressure to win almost every game and still hoping for some help.

For some reason, they werenít willing. Even after a red-hot November because they played the system almost exactly how Sutter was demanding.

They went 10-2-2 during a demanding second month of the season and started to carry that momentum into December, which reached a peak when they upended San Jose 2-1 Dec. 5.

Then the wheels fell off because the players stopped buying into the plan.

Instead of feeling complete with close, low-scoring wins, too many started to worry about personal stats.

Too many wanted more.

More ice time in scoring situations. More goals. More accolades.

The chase for more added up to less.

The sacrifice was wins, and instead of being in the hunt for the Northwest Division crown ó or even the Western Conference title ó the Flames are on the cusp of falling off the cliff.

Theyíre still hanging on with hope.

Only time, and a string of victories, will tell whether itís false hope.

Their best chance is doing more of the same we saw against the Ducks.

Itís the same plan which resulted in wins over Colorado and San Jose last week.

Be smart defensively to limit opportunities against.

Be aggressive on the forecheck to create chances, especially early.

And be patient knowing if they stick with the program, good things will happen.

All along Sutter said he wanted his team to learn to play a strong defensive game, and take advantage of the other teamís mistakes.

Sure, it meant low-scoring games, especially at the beginning, but he believed as the Flames improved their defensive play ó which was not up to snuff to be a contender ó the offensive chances would increase.

So would the goals.

Too many on the Flames werenít willing to wait for the process to happen.

The Flames donít have the skill to play the run-and-gun, fire-wagon hockey fans can pine over.

They could try against the NHLís lesser lights, but all that plan of attack would do over their final nine regular-season games is ensure tee times a whole lot sooner than they say.

If they remind themselves of that now, they stand a better chance of making the playoffs.

They already saw what happens when they donít believe in the plan.

The end result will be extreme disappointment for a crew which had high hopes for itself just a few months ago.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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