Flames powerless to score

Alex Tanguay of the Calgary Flames goes for the puck in front of Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas...

Alex Tanguay of the Calgary Flames goes for the puck in front of Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and Nate Prosser during NHL hockey action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:18 PM ET

Plenty of numbers can be discussed when talking about the Calgary Flames’ powerplay.

It went 0-for-6 Tuesday night during a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. It was 0-for-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, 0-for-3 against the Colorado Avalanche and 0-for-7 against the Minnesota Wild in the NHL team’s previous three games.

Fans and players alike are screaming, “Oh, for God’s sake.”

Frustrated Flames winger Alex Tanguay has another number to offer.

“My frustration is a nine out of 10,” Tanguay said after Wednesday’s practice at the Saddledome. “Just to be positive, I’m trying to keep it at that level.

“It’s been difficult. We’re struggling. We’re finding ways to lose games, as opposed to finding ways to win games.”

The powerless powerplay is one of the biggest reasons. So Flames head coach Brent Sutter and his staff spent the entire practice session working on it Wednesday.

In an effort to make the man-advantage units work for goals, they even sent out six skaters instead of the usual four on the penalty kill during the session.

“It forced us to move,” said Tanguay of the extra opponents lined up against the powerplay unit. “To me, it’s the biggest flaw we’ve had since the start of the year — we stand still in our position.”

Oh, but there are plenty of other things that haven’t been done well.

“It’s moving the puck quicker. It’s people moving, not standing. It’s getting more shots directed to the net — more shots from the back end,” said Sutter, who discussed the idea Wednesday morning with management. “I thought they did a good job with it. There’s more urgency at that point.

“It’s just something different. Other guys have tried it and used it. We discussed it this morning and thought it was a pretty good idea.”

They need it to pay off.

Things aren’t going well enough five-on-five for the Flames to overcome a powerplay that has scored just twice on home ice all season.

“His message was just hard work — outwork the penalty killers,” said Flames defenceman Mark Giordano, who often shares the blueline with Tanguay on the first powerplay unit.

“Bottom line is powerplay has to win you games in this league to get you points, and we haven’t done a good enough job of it yet.”

Giordano admits the team can be guilty of looking too often for captain Jarome Iginla for the one-timer to finish.

“Obviously, that’s who we want shooting the puck on our unit. But there’s certain times when other guys have to shoot the puck. We have to shoot the puck. Sometimes Iggy’s almost as effective being a decoy because they want to over-play on him.

“That’s on guys like me and Tangs up top to get pucks through and on net. We can’t force plays to (Iginla).”

As obvious as the struggles have been for the team to see, they can also see and often hear the restless fans when it comes to the powerplay.

“We hear ’em — I’d like to please them,” Tanguay said, with an addendum being that the team isn’t about to shoot when the lanes are blocked or the puck is bobbling in spite of fans’ pleas.

“We hear the ‘shoot,’ the ‘move the puck,’ the grunting when the puck goes back down to the other zone …

“They have the right to tell us what they think. Certainly, we know that once we start putting the puck in the back of the net we’ll hear their cheers also, so that’s the point we’re trying to get to.”

Plenty of goals went in during Wednesday’s practice — even when the odds and bodies were actually stacked against them.

Tanguay threw his arms open and looked up on one occasion.

“We all looked at the sky and said, ‘Please give us one of those in a game,’” Tanguay said with a laugh. “I hope He was listening.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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