SUN Hockey Pool

Flames searching for winning formula

Flames captain Jarome Iginla collides with Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland at the Scotiabank...

Flames captain Jarome Iginla collides with Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Oct. 8, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:32 PM ET

MONTREAL - Every parent eventually knows the feeling.

You spend days or months or even years trying to teach your child something.

Eventually, that eureka moment happens, and it appears the continuous message has sunk in.

However, just when you’re positive that lesson plan can be eliminated forever from the book, your dear child reverts back.

“Isn’t that an everyday process?” Alex Tanguay said with a knowing laugh.

Now, imagine what that’s like to go through that process with more than 20 grown adults.

That’s what it must be like for the Calgary Flames coaching staff these days.

As the Flames geared up for this season, the overwhelming feeling was they had an ace in the hole in their quest to get back into the Stanley Cup playoffs after two unsuccessful seasons.

Their strong finish to the 2010-11 campaign — a 28-11-9 run — was a sign everybody was on the same page.

The belief was that spree ensured this group of players fully understood what the coaching staff wanted to implement, saw the positive results and would carry it into this season.

It sure hasn’t happened.

Having dropped their first two games of the season with performances Tanguay referred to as “horrible” and “terrible,” the Flames head into Thursday night’s clash in Montreal against the Canadiens (5:30 p.m., Sportsnet) in search of their winning formula.

Could it be a case of a team assuming it would pick up where things ended last season?

“That’s hard to say,” defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said. “There are lots of problems, so you can’t say it’s exactly one issue.

“When we were playing well, we played simple. We were in the right positions, supporting each other, and when you do that, things happen for you. In the first two games, there were big stretches where that wasn’t the case. We made things harder for ourselves.

“Last season ended, what, six months ago? I think everybody’s been around enough to know every year is different. You can’t just expect to pick up where you left off.”

“I know I saw a group through training camp that worked hard and seemed to be focused on doing things right,” said associate coach Craig Hartsburg, who ran practice while head coach Brent Sutter was in Calgary helping present the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels’ bid for the Memorial Cup.

“It’s just been a stumble to start. We stumbled out of the gate. But tomorrow’s a new day, and everybody’s just got to come to the rink with the right attitude.”

With a couple of days between games, the Flames have had plenty of time for some soul searching.

At least everybody’s singing from the same hymn book.

To a man, they know their intensity and their work ethic weren’t up to snuff in both losses.

“I think if we look objectively at all the players on our team and the work we’ve put in over the first two games, we haven’t worked hard enough, and we haven’t worked smart enough in order to have the success we had late last year,” Tanguay said. “We know it’s possible. We know the talent in this dressing room is the same, if not better, than we had last year, so we feel confident about the opportunity and ability of our team to do it. To this point, we haven’t done it.

“Last year, the biggest thing of our game at Christmastime is we started playing our game with desperation. We had no choice. We had to win. I feel from looking at a lot of our faces today, a lot of us talked, we know we have to win now.”

One thing about an early season struggle is momentum can quickly turn the other way.

Right now, the Flames are looking for that possibility with games in Montreal and Toronto before returning to Calgary for a six-game homestand.

“These are big momentum games here, potentially,” captain Jarome Iginla said. “We can go back (to Calgary) .500 and have a good road trip.”

Rest assured if things don’t change quickly, Sutter may be forced to go into the old-school book of child-rearing.


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