February 24, 2012
Flames downed by the Dogs
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - A late goal from Olli Jokinen salvaged a point.
But not one member of the Calgary Flames was happy about the 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Not the players. Not the coaches. Certainly not the GM.
Nor should they be.
Not when they had a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes against the Coyotes, a Western Conference opponent they are chasing in the standings as they battle for a playoff spot.
“It’s jugular time,” said a disappointed Michael Cammalleri. “We’ve got to lock it down.”
Goals from Alex Tanguay and Matt Stajan in the first frame seemed to give the Flames all the momentum they’d need to pull up right behind the Coyotes and reclaim eighth spot in the conference with a victory.
But they fell apart in the second period, making too many mistakes and allowing the Coyotes to tie things up on goals from Daymond Langkow and Shane Doan.
That prompted GM Jay Feaster to suggest during an interview on the Sportsnet broadcast that the media in Calgary could be pretty busy Monday on trade deadline day if his team doesn’t show more urgency before then.
Whether it was a heat of the moment reaction, or a pre-plotted strategy to get more out of his players, Feaster doesn’t sound convinced his team is a real threat to make the playoffs.
The way they’ve played in their last few games sure seems to support that theory.
“Well, I’m not happy about the way we’ve played the last four games,” said head coach Brent Sutter.
“We play like that, we’re not gonna make playoffs — bottom line.”
Miikka Kiprusoff’s stellar play has covered up a lot of wrinkles.
“We’ve played one out of six periods in the last two games at home. We’ve got one point out of four. We have to sharpen up,” said Sutter, who was upset about the mistakes made in a crucial contest that followed an abysmal outing against the Edmonton Oilers a couple of nights earlier.
“It’s the National Hockey League. This is playoff hockey. It’s not something you intend to do,” he said of the stumble by Scott Hannan that led to Ray Whitney’s go-ahead goal in the third peirod. “It’s unfortunate and it happens — but not this time of year.
“It’s like the second goal. (Blake Comeau) has the puck on his stick. Nothing but time in your own zone and you throw the puck away. Four seconds later it’s in your net.
“We’ve got to be sharper.”
Or Feaster might sharpen his axe.
“We’re here to win games. Jay has a job to do, but we’re not happy either with just one point,” said Stajan. “There’s no excuses for the way we played the last 40 minutes.”
If Feaster is really thinking about selling off some assets — although no one is entirely sure who that might include — the Flames currently on the roster will be disappointed.
“That’s out of our control. We come to the rink, work hard and try to win hockey games,” Stajan said.
“Our group in there believes we can get to the playoffs and be a tough team to beat. We don’t control anything else. We have to play with more urgency and we can’t wait any longer.”
That part, they can all agree on.
“My job is to play hockey and not manage,” Cammalleri said.
“It doesn’t do me any good to worry about buying and selling. If that’s what was said, I’d like to be part of the solution to putting ourselves in a playoff spot so he doesn’t have to do that. There’s no question I’d like to win a Stanley Cup and I’d like to do it this year.”
“It certainly would be disappointing,” added Tanguay. “If that’s what they decide to do, that’s what they decide to do. But it’s totally out of our control.”
Actually, they’re the only ones who have control.
They simply have to play better.