SUN Hockey Pool

Flames fall flat in Columbus

Columbus Blue Jackets' Curtis Sanford (C) and Derek MacKenzie (ice) block a shot by Calgary Flames'...

Columbus Blue Jackets' Curtis Sanford (C) and Derek MacKenzie (ice) block a shot by Calgary Flames' Matt Stajan (L) during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, November 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

COLUMBUS - Puzzling, indeed.

Forget math problems or trying to figure out how the pyramids were built or why so many people want to be like Paris Hilton.

The most difficult thing to wrap your head around right now if you’re a Calgary Flames fan — or a coach or a player, for that matter — is how the team can look so good against the NHL’s top team one evening and look so bad against the league’s worst a few nights later.

After a lengthy meeting behind closed doors Monday night at the Nationwide Arena following a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, even the Flames still can’t comprehend it.

“It’s like a bad disease that you’ve got to try to fight off and get through it and get a cure and get going,” said Sutter, his last words of the night being his most poignant. “That’s what we’re working with.”

They’re not the most promising of comments from a bench boss who has been dealing with the same problem for more than two years at the helm with a veteran group of NHLers.

Letting the Blue Jackets — the first team the Flames have faced this season with a worse record than their own — stake themselves to a three-goal lead was too much to overcome. There goes the confidence they built up with a big 5-2 victory Friday night against the mighty Chicago Blackhawks.

We’ll concede the Blue Jackets are probably more talented than their record indicates and that they got a strong performance from goaltender Curtis Sanford, but is it possible the Flames are even worse than their own sub-.500 record?

Sure looked like it as they stumbled out and fell two goals behind less than seven minutes into the contest — their first of four on the road this week.

Jeff Carter scored a pair, while Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash also tallied. The Flames answered with a Mark Giordano powerplay goal at the midway mark, but that was all they mustered.

“You go from being world-beaters one night against Chicago. Three days later, you’re playing the game like it’s not that important,” Sutter said.

“You just expect more. I guess that’s why we’re a team that wins one and loses one. We’re having a hard time holding that emotion, that intensity that you need to have to win hockey games in the National Hockey League.

“We’ve had some guys really struggle the first 19 games of the season. It’s like waiting for something good to happen instead of taking the initiative and making it happen. It’s about the team and team play.”

Individualism was one word Sutter used when trying to express the team’s troubles.

“It was surprising for me (Monday night) for this to happen. Not in the sense that we just lost the game, but it’s how we lost it — especially after coming off the night against Chicago,” Sutter said amid sighs and shakes of his head.

“At some point, it’s got to sink in. At some point, the individual has to take responsibility and say this isn’t good enough, it’s not acceptable … The only measure you have is through play. You can sit and say all the right things you want, but you’ve got to go out and do it and show it. We’re at that stage.

“Whatever words you want to use out there, it’s obviously something we have to work at.

“It’s so noticeable, it’s scary. But we’ve got to continue to push through. That’s my responsibility as a head coach — continue to work at it with this group and try to get them through to see it. When they do, that’s when they’ll start digging in.”

Two years and counting. Not a good sign.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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