November 2, 2011
Flames' top line having troubles
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Knowing what was coming in the wake of Tuesday night’s disheartening loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Alex Tanguay wasn’t about to add fuel to the fire he likely knew had been smouldering for days.
Although every NHL team is only as good as the sum of its parts, they all look to certain leaders for inspiration, a spark.
The Calgary Flames are still seeking theirs.
“I’ll let you guys do your job, but it’s easy to look and point fingers at this and that,” said Tanguay, one third of the team’s top line (along with Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrison), which so far this season hasn’t found any sort of rhythm or consistency and knows criticism is coming.
“It’s a team game, and not everybody is gonna play good every night, but you have to find ways to make it work.”
Nothing worked for the Flames during their 5-1 loss to the Canucks, on a night they needed their premier players to step up.
And just like a year ago, their captain has struggled to find his scoring touch through the first 10 games of the campaign.
With two goals and four points so far, Iginla is actually behind the similarly sluggish pace he started at last season, when he netted a pair and added a handful of assists for seven points over that same span.
But this year, the team is a couple of wins behind — they had six through 10 games last season — and there’s even more reason to be a little fearful this could be the year Iginla doesn’t snap out of it.
His training camp back problems, along with the fact he’s 34 years old and has 14 NHL seasons under his belt as one of the more physical players in the game, are obviously cause for concern.
Historically, he snaps out of it. Maybe it will just take a little longer when you consider the obstacles that increasingly factor against him ever year.
“When we don’t produce, and the team wins games, that’s kind of masked,” said the 36-year-old Morrison, who has played between Tanguay and Iginla for the majority of his half-dozen games this season after missing much of training camp and the pre-season recovering from knee surgery. “But when you lose games and don’t score, it comes to the forefront.
“It was evident in the (Canucks) game.”
It’s been evident for much of the first month of the season.
The chemistry the threesome seemed to enjoy throughout much of the second half of last season — before Morrison blew out his knee and had surgery — is clearly missing.
Tanguay’s meaningless last-minute marker Tuesday was just his second of the year, although his nine points pace the team.
Morrison still hasn’t posted a single point in his six games back.
Signs that may change were apparent for the first 10 minutes Tuesday night, but Morrison knows hitting a post wasn’t enough to keep head coach Brent Sutter from mixing and matching in search of any combination willing to play hard.
“You need results,” Morrison said. “So far, they haven’t been there.
“We got into the grinder with the lines halfway through the game, but I thought early on that (top) line was actually going along pretty well. In the first period, we actually had some offensive zone time, we controlled the puck a little bit. Even in the second, there we had a good chance early on.
“But we’re not scoring. That’s what matters.”
According to Tanguay, they have the confidence they will turn things around. Of course, he’s talking about the entire team.
It just applies a little more desperately to its stars.
“We know we’ve got the ability to do it — it’s just a matter of us executing a little bit better and making it work,” Tanguay said. “We’re getting antsy. We’re getting frustrated. We know we’ve all got better.
“It falls on us to be better individually. We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what we can do better.”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane