SUN Hockey Pool

Players must keep focus

RANDY SPORTAK, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

Thinking and believing are two different things.

The Calgary Flames have to ensure they know the difference.

The Flames can believe they’re going to make it over the hump and into the playoffs. The last thing they can do is think they’re going to make it. Not before they clinch a playoff berth, which is still a tall order.

Think of one of the closing scenes in The Perfect Storm. As the crew of the Andrea Gail attempted to make it over a massive wave, Mark Wahlberg’s character — Bobby Shatford — says with hope to the captain played by George Clooney, “Skip, we’re gonna make it.”

No such luck for the fishing crew. No such luck for the Flames if they even slightly let up right now.

“We’re not saying, ‘Skip, we’re gonna make it.’ We all 100% believe we’re going to make it,” said left winger Eric Nystrom. “That’s what it takes to make it. You have to have every person on board with the same mindset, to make it. If one guy doesn’t believe it, you never will. But if everybody buys in, when the playoffs start, we’ll be playing.”

That’s the right attitude to take heading into Friday night’s clash with the Colorado Avalanche. The Flames are two points back of the Avalanche for eighth place in the Western Conference standings and have a monstrous task ahead. Rattling off consecutive wins has only improved their chances.

Still, the Avs, who have a game in hand, currently have two more wins, which is the first tiebreaker, should the battle for a playoff spot come down to it.

Plus, the Avalanche have won the season series, the second tiebreaker. The Flames essentially have to finish ahead of their rivals, which means no letting off the gas pedal.

Even if they come up with a win in Denver, they’re far from out of the woods.

“It’s not like we’ve got 10 games or 15 games to make up two points. This is an urgent, urgent time,” Nystrom said. “When time decreases, urgency should increase.

“That’s my little formula.”

Which means trying to skirt an important line.

On one hand, they must gain the confidence which comes from winning. Even though it’s just a two-game winning streak they’re currently riding, the Flames are certainly in better spirits than they were before it.

However, they can’t be guilty of thinking they’re entitled to make the playoffs.

“If winning’s going to feel like losing all the time, then why are you doing it?” head coach Brent Sutter rhetorically asked. “You have to feel good when you have success, and yet you have to handle it the right way, too.

“Winning is contagious, and you’ve got to always feel good about when you win. At the same token, you’ve got to be level-headed, too. It’s making sure you handle it the right way.

“When you win, you enjoy it, because it needs to be enjoyed, but keep it in the right perspective and start getting ready for the next game.”

Which is just like a Game 7, the same case of every other game remaining on the schedule so long as they’re alive.

“After (losing 5-0 in) Boston, we talked about it and said we just needed to win one,” captain Jarome Iginla said. “Sure, we needed to win them all, but we couldn’t do that unless we’re were gonna win the first one.

“And we know there is still a lot in front of us to do.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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