BOSTON — Good on Brent Sutter to reward effort.
Unfortunately, the message he sent by doing it in Boston has come too late to sink through to those who obviously weren’t giving their all.
In the third period of Saturday afternoon’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the Flames head coach opted to keep sending out his fourth line of Eric Nystrom, Jamal Mayers and Brett Sutter during a five-minute powerplay.
The reason is simple: They deserved the opportunity.
“They weren’t our fourth line today. Far from it, and they weren’t our fourth line the other night, far from it,” Sutter said. “Our special teams haven’t been good.
“Our powerplay has been very average, at best, all year. We (struggle) on our powerplay because the other team outworks us, and then it falls into your five-on-five play when you don’t commit.
“Yeah, we had a five-minute powerplay and were down five goals, so I said, ‘You know what? Those guys deserved to be on the ice as much as anybody else on our bench.’
“That’s why I put them out.”
It was a reward for the one trio which appears to at least plan to go down swinging while the Flames head for official elimination from playoff contention.
It was a slap in the face to so many others, but you can’t help but wonder whether those who should be insulted will feel the sting.
Then again, should a lack of oomph be a shock this season? There’s an old saying that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
A little talent can be, too.
The Flames have talent, but as a whole, they’ve been guilty all season of thinking they have enough talent to win without effort. It’s cost them games. It’s going to cost them a trip to the playoffs.
During this make-or-break three-game road trip, the one trio which has been working from puck drop to the final buzzer is the fourth line.
“We don’t look at ourselves as a fourth line. We’ve been scoring at a good clip since the (Olympic) break. We want to be guys that contribute,” Nystrom said. “But (Saturday), we didn’t do enough.”
All 20 Flames players are in that boat — although backup goalie Vesa Toskala could be cut some slack since he stopped all six shots he faced in a relief appearance.
But at least the Nystrom-Mayers-Sutter trio is kicking and screaming.
“I want to make the playoffs,” Nystrom said. “Jamal, he wants to win in the worst way, and Brett’s a gutsy player.
“We’re trying to do our part the best that we can.
“We were pretty good at sustaining pressure five-on-five, but couldn’t put one in. Nobody could.
“It’s pretty frustrating.”
Frustrating for everybody, including coach Sutter.
Imagine what it’s like to have to sit players who are considered to have more talent but won’t use it.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m trying to stay positive, I need to stay positive, I have stayed positive, but we need more. Bottom line is we needed more from guys,” he said. “You wonder why the performance has been inconsistent all year, it’s because they don’t give enough. There has to be a higher work ethic, a higher commitment to the cause and a higher sense of urgency.
“Until a team realizes that, understands that, gets that, you get what you get.”