October 25, 2011
Flames have a goal: More goals
By Randy Sportak, QMI Agency
CALGARY - The Calgary Flames have a goal to end their playoff drought — two seasons and counting.
If they don’t actually start scoring goals, that futility run will hit three years.
As much as the Flames can feel they were the victim of bad puck luck in their 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators Saturday afternoon, that blanking was just the continuation of a trend.
The Flames (2-4-1) have scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their clashes this season. They’ve managed only six goals over the last four games, and haven’t scored in 119 minutes and seven seconds of action — all on home ice.
For a team which finished tied for seventh in offence last season and had minimal turnover among the forwards, it’s below expectations.
“It’s early in the year. I don’t think we’re too worried about that,” said winger Alex Tanguay after Tuesday’s practice at the Saddledome.
“If you objectively look at our lineup and the guys able to put the puck in the net, I don’t think goal scoring is going to be an issue. It is right now, and we’re going to have to rectify that, but we’re not going to worry whether we’re going to score goals or not. We know we are.”
Excuse the Flames faithful for wondering when that will happen heading into Wednesday’s clash with the Colorado Avalanche (8 p.m., Sportsnet Calgary). Not only is it up in the air when this club will muster more than three goals again, but also when it will happen in a series of games.
Granted, they’ve been shut down by a couple of the NHL’s best goaltenders in ther last two outings — Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and New York Rangers standout Henrik Lundqvist — but it’s been a team-wide drought for a couple of weeks.
“You’re bang on when you say that, but does that take away our confidence so we won’t be able to score? I don’t think so,” Tanguay countered. “Last year, we were top-10 in scoring. We have the same personnel, so it shouldn’t be an issue. A bunch of us have a lot more offensively, have to bring more, and we’re going to try and do it.”
It would help if the Flames powerplay — on a 1-for-15 swoon and with just four goals so far this season — would click.
But it goes beyond that.
This is a team missing out on open nets and golden chances, and whose best player, Jarome Iginla, has just two goals and three points.
Whatever it is, something important is missing.
“It’s a process, I think,” said centre Olli Jokinen. “As a team, try to get 30-plus shots a night and the goals will come. As a player, you should have a set goal of how many shots you want to take in the game. I aim for five shots a game.
“When you stay in that process, try to get those shots, there could be two or three games you don’t score, but then the goals will come. There’s no reason to get frustrated. Shoot and keep the game simple.”
For his part, head coach Brent Sutter is warning against worrying too much about just scoring goals.
Sutter insists his squad played solid games the past few outings, and believes if players start worrying only about scoring goals, they’ll revert to bad defensive habits.
“It’s most important for our overall team game to get in place first. Our offence will work off of that,” Sutter said.
“You’ve got to be so careful when you start talking offence, because, all of a sudden, you can become a freelance hockey team and think you’re going to create offence by being a high-risk team, but giving up 15 or 20 quality scoring chances a night. I don’t like our team and our chances if we get away from our structure.
“We saw what happened the first three or four games when we played like that.
“Maybe our powerplay hasn’t been as sharp as it’s needed to be the last couple of games, but we’re really not playing any different now than we were the last half of last season.
“We’re not scoring, but we’ve had chances and had opportunities.”