Talk is cheap

Brent Sutter's Calgary Flames need to improve their work ethic to get their game -- and wins -- up...

Brent Sutter's Calgary Flames need to improve their work ethic to get their game -- and wins -- up in the NHL standings. (Stuart Dryden/Calgary Sun)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:00 PM ET

CALGARY - Leave it to Calgary Flames winger Alex Tanguay, one of the team’s best talkers, to be the one who suggests talk is cheap.

He knows the team is desperate to string together some wins — they’ve managed only one ‘streak’ of back-to-back victories so far this season — and that the fans are equally rabid for it.

They’re saying all the right things, yet for every step forward they’ve taken, it seems they take two more backward — and right before the dreaded U.S. Thanksgiving (Nov. 24) standings review.

“We’re certainly not in the situation where we can afford to throw away more points,” Tanguay said Thursday.

“We’ve done all the talking we can do, and we have since the start of the year. I guess we have to go put our work boots on and go to work.”

With 15 points through their first 17 games this season, the Flames were sitting 14th in the NHL’s Western Conference standings prior to Thursday night’s NHL action.

Although they were just four points behind the eighth-place San Jose Sharks and another pair out of a seeding that would host a first-round matchup in the post-season this spring, they need to begin climbing the standings sooner than later or they risk leaving themselves short the way they did last season when their best hockey wasn’t played until late December.

“You can’t get too far behind. Last year, I don’t think we waited to turn it around. It maybe took us a little more time than we wanted it to,” said Flames centre Matt Stajan. “We know that it’s hard to play catch-up.

“The time is now. We’ve got to start climbing the standings and make sure we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we’re chasing right down to the end of the season.”

There’s a positive vibe in the locker-room in spite of all the negativity that swirls around them outside.

When the U.S. Thanksgiving statistic is brought up — which suggests historically that very few teams that aren’t in a playoff spot by that date manage to qualify months later — Stajan points to the world of baseball for a recent example of a team that everybody had counted out making an impact.

“There’s stats like that in every sport. I’d like to see the stat in baseball that the (St. Louis) Cardinals were going to make the playoffs and win the World Series,” Stajan said.

“It’s professional sports. Things happen. You can put odds against everything.

“At the end of the day, we’ve just got to focus on our next game and build off that. If you win, you get on a bit of a streak and win some games in a row and you can find yourselves right back in the hunt.

“That’s what we need to do. It starts with our next game.”

That comes Friday at the Saddledome against the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960).

If not because of their situation in the standings, there should be an urgency based on the fact they lost to the Blackhawks in Chicago just a week ago.

“It has to,” Tanguay said of the desperation coming naturally at this time of year. “If it doesn’t, you’re not in the right line of work. We all know what we have to do, and we’re trying to get to that level.

“We still feel that if you look at the standings, if you put four or five wins together, then we’ll get right back in the mix and right back in contention.”

And as usual, they say all the right things about believing, even when so many others don’t.

“We’re definitely trying to stay positive in here,” Stajan said. “As a team, we’ve got to make sure we rally with each other here. You could easily see what’s being said with us outside the dressing room, but that doesn’t matter. We know in this room we have what it takes, and we know what we need to do. That’s all that matters.

“We have to believe in ourselves. It doesn’t matter what so-and-so is saying on TV or on the radio. It’s what we believe in here and making sure we do it.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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