Scoring by the numbers

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

As this afternoon's NHL trade deadline approaches, there is one thing on the minds of many Calgary Flames supporters.

Goals.

They want more.

Whether or not GM/head coach Darryl Sutter ultimately can make a reasonable deal for offensive help -- which is what die-hard fans pretending they are in the boss's shoes have been window shopping for over the last couple of months -- is considered pivotal to many outside the Flames dressing room.

Inside those walls, nobody is panicking. The players would love to score more goals but their team is on pace for its highest total since the 1997-98 season, when the Flames potted 217. For the record, they'll reach 216 at their current pace of about 2.64 goals per game (161 over their first 61 contests this season).

So why all the emphasis on the lack of goal scoring by the Flames this year?

"I just think sometimes, when you start talking about something, it just kind of builds up. Kind of a snowball effect," said winger Shean Donovan. "Any time there's a one-goal game or only two goals, then people are always talking."

Might it also have something to do with the fact the Flames are no longer NHL underdogs and are now expected to dominate more opponents after their run to the Stanley Cup final?

"Expectations this year, for sure, are different," said defenceman Andrew Ference. "Some of the games we've lost this year have been by a very slim margin -- maybe where we had a lot of scoring chances and didn't bury them. People say, 'Nobody can put it in the net.'

"At the end of the day, really, there's not too many guys in this room who care if we win 2-1 every single game. That doesn't bother anybody."

Flames winger Chuck Kobasew, the team's third-highest goal scorer with 16 this season, agrees perception has a lot to do with the negative talk.

"I think everyone's expectations are higher this year. They want us to score more goals," said Kobasew. "It's something that we know in the locker-room what we're trying to do and it's not like it's a secret that we haven't figured that out yet."

League-wide scoring is up about half a goal per game over the 2003-04 numbers, at a pace of slightly more than three in the wake of the NHL's new rules and guidelines.

The Flames' increased output is just one-fifth of a goal higher per game than two years ago.

"That's something we're all working on," said Kobasew. "If everyone in here had a couple more goals, we'd be right up there."

The good news is the Flames have 35 wins, on pace to post the most since their Stanley Cup-winning season in 1988-89. They're also second only to the Ottawa Senators in goals-against, allowing 2.38 per game.


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