SUN Hockey Pool

Flames drop home tilt to Avs

Colorado Avalanches David Jones celebrates after scoring a goal on Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary...

Colorado Avalanches David Jones celebrates after scoring a goal on Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames during NHL hockey in Calgary, Alberta, Friday March 30, 2012. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:27 AM ET

CALGARY - Not only are the Calgary Flames now lying down in the grave they dug themselves, they look like they’ve been napping in it the last couple of weeks.

No longer is there talk of a miracle finish, of hope they can make the post-season.

Their official elimination from the playoffs is likely mere hours away.

The dirt will be piled on top of them this weekend.

After a 4-1 loss Friday night to the Colorado Avalanche, anyone who still seriously believed there was a chance the Flames would sneak into the post-season finally succumbed to reality.

Even Jarome Iginla.

“We know in the last eight games we weren’t as good as the other teams that are gonna go on and make the playoffs,” said the Flames captain after a second straight disappointing effort at the Saddledome.

And, no, the Flames won’t be one of them.

Knowing they needed to run the table down the stretch to have a shot at their first playoff series in three years, the Flames somehow put forth two of their biggest stinkers of the season against the Los Angeles Kings and the Avs.

At home, no less.

If jerseys didn’t cost so much, there likely would have been plenty more hitting the ice Friday after one angry fan tossed his out there in the final minutes of the Kings game a couple of nights earlier.

Despite outshooting the Avalanche — mostly due to some sporadic panicked scrambles or hail marys from any angle hoping something good might happen — the Flames had less finish than a fat high-diver.

They couldn’t score on the Shooter Tutor.

They couldn’t get lucky using Charlie Sheen’s little black book.

They played 139 minutes and 50 seconds without a goal before Iginla finally potted one on a six-on-four powerplay with 38 seconds left and the game out of reach.

But head coach Brent Sutter blamed his players for their lack of defence, and pointed a not-so-subtle finger at the media types for focusing on the lack of goals being scored over the last eight contests that ultimately decided their season.

“You guys bring it up a lot, it’s talked about a lot, it’s harped on all over. Everywhere, you hear about how the Flames aren’t scoring any goals,” Sutter said after a big sigh. “The reason why goals were tough to get here in seven of the last eight games is because we’ve been terrible defending.

“In clutch time, a good defence is still your best offence. I know it’s a cliche saying but it’s so true. A good defence is still, and always will be, your best offence. It’s just the way it is. The best teams have it. They defend well and they have the puck more.”

Nobody is mistaking the Flames for one of the best teams.

Frankly, they’re a mess of inconsistency. As frustrating to a coach as they are to the fans.

While their opponents have a bright future, boasting the youngest squad in the league, a favourite for the Calder Trophy in Gabriel Landeskog, and a strong cast of up-and-comers, the weeks and months ahead of the Flames are overcast with questions.

What to do with their pending unrestricted free agents, whether or not it’s time for a real change of core players — including the captain — and

how much of the three straight years without a playoff appearance has to do with the coach, whose contract expires this spring?

Answers likely won’t be coming anytime soon, with the team typically taking weeks to review and assess, but reading between the lines of the coach’s post-game discussion, it’s clear change must take place.

“It gets old after a while,” he said of the lack of commitment from players to buy in consistently to the style he believes winning teams adopt. “It hurts the hockey team. It really does. It hurts your team play. It affects you.

“I’m not one that points fingers to individuals. I won’t be. I’m not gonna be. I’ve never done that. Believe me, that stuff does get addressed inside the room behind closed doors. Either you like doing it or you don’t like doing it. If you don’t like doing it, it’s hurting the hockey team.”

Killed it, in fact.


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