CALGARY, AB -- There is no question the effort was there.
But execution-wise, the Calgary Flames struggled to find their rhythm in their first handful of games in the 2015-16 season.
A new head coach, new systems and new teammates necessitated an adjustment period but the Flames refused to fall back on any excuse. They were far from pleased with their performance in their opening six games and demanded more of themselves.
After a lengthy meeting on Sunday, going over every aspect of their play in their first group of games, the team departed for a back-to-back set of tilts in Chicago and St. Louis -- two locales the Flames have toiled in with limited success in the past.
A tough stretch of the schedule, no doubt.
But after their pre-trip meeting and getting together as a group for a team dinner in Chicago, they were buoyed by confidence heading into those contests.
And any pundit betting on the Flames failing in IIllinois and Missouri would have been dead wrong.
On Tuesday night, they hopped on a plane home with two wins, four points and a 3-4-1 record on the season.
A 3-2 shootout victory in the raucous United Center in Chicago and a commanding 4-1 win at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis were the Flames' two strongest performances of the season. Sticking with the system and working through their early-season mistakes paid off.
"I've said right from the beginning, I don't question their will to win. I don't question their want to win. But the manner in which we were going about it wasn't the right way. We're trying to get that straightened out and these are two good steps," head coach Glen Gulutzan opined on Tuesday night.
"This is a great locker room. It's a good group of guys. They care. They went for dinner there in Chicago and it's helping. The tighter we're going to be, the better it's going to get for us. We have to learn how to play in this league to win every night."
Captain Mark Giordano echoed his bench boss' sentiments.
"We sat down after the loss to St. Louis at home - the biggest thing was that we were going to play a north-south game, not turn over the puck as much. And we've got to give credit to our guys this road trip. To a man, we've bought in.
"The truth is we're getting more chances offensively because of it so we've got to stick with this game plan and move forward."
Gulutzan was very impressed with his squad's insistence on sticking to the system that have been implemented over the last couple of months. When things aren't going the way they would like, it would have been easy to deviate from the structure but the team had trust in the system and stuck to it.
"A concerted effort for the guys to play a brand of hockey that you can win every night (with)," was Gulutzan's assessment of his team's play on Monday and Tuesday. "That's limiting the turnovers and the chances and the firewagon style play. I thought we did a good job of that over the last two games against two good hockey clubs."
This past trip also featured Brian Elliott's best performances this season. The 31-year-old played in both games and made 54 saves on 57 shots.
"He was very good. He made all the stops. We were good in front of him too. I thought we kept a lot of stuff to the outside but he made some big saves, especially at the end when we needed some," Gulutzan raved.
Next up, the Flames host the Ottawa Senators on Friday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday. The goal is to carry over the progress they have made in recent skates and build off of that momentum.
"We were turning over the puck too much. We've cleaned that up here the last two games. It's one step and we've got to keep going," Giordano stated.