Every win that we have right now is life. We can’t afford to have too many more losses. It’s getting down to that point where we have to start gaining some ground. - Joe Colborne
CALGARY, AB -- New life. Fresh air.
Whichever cliché used to paint the picture, a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday has given the Calgary Flames the opportunity once again attempt to ascend up the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings.
“Every win that we have right now is life,” said forward Joe Colborne, who had a goal and an assist and was named the game’s first star versus Vancouver. “We can’t afford to have too many more losses. It’s getting down to that point where we have to start gaining some ground. It’s not like we have one team to get past. There are a few teams we have to leapfrog. Even if you get help on a night or two, there are going to be teams winning. You’ve got to keep stringing them together. It definitely gives us a bit of a positive outlook going into the weekend.”
The outlook is near dire.
The Flames, sixth in the Pacific, awoke Saturday trailing the third-place San Jose Sharks by 12 points. Calgary pulled to within nine points of the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the West.
The Flames also hold three games in hand over the Avalanche, but need to jump three teams -- the Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild -- before putting the focus on Colorado.
“I think that’s the challenge, is to get within striking distance now,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “That’s got to be our goal. Because it’s pretty tight, if you win three or four games in a row, you jump a couple teams. You look at the standings. We have some games in hand on some teams. We’ve got to cash in on them. We’ve just got to worry about game-in and game-out and now we’ve got to grind out wins.”
There’s a hill to climb. And it’s not small.
Calgary’s two-game road trip marks stops against the top two teams in the Pacific: The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
The Flames are 7-10-2 against their own division this season.
“Our job now as players is every game has to be desperation, trying to find that way to win,” Giordano said. “It’s tough. It’s tough because when you do lose one, it does feel a lot harder. I think we have to keep that mindset, just game-in and game-out, when things don’t go right or we lose one down the stretch here, we’ve got to come back the next night because there’s not much room for error right now.”
The jaunt starts Sunday at Honda Center in Anaheim.
Calgary hasn’t taken two points in a regular-season game in Anaheim since a 5-1 victory on Jan. 19, 2004 -- a span of 21 games.
Zero wins. Sixteen losses. Five ties.
They’re 1-20-10 in their last 31 regular-season visits, too.
“It’s been…I don’t think we need to talk about the whole history and stuff,” forward David Jones said. “We approach it like another game, but it would certainly be a huge win.
“At this point, you look where we’re at, division or not really we can’t afford to lose games. We need to think about winning every game. We always do, but it’s really getting close to do or die now. The division makes it that much more important. We need to keep winning.”
Disneyland hasn’t been so happy.
“I think we’ve tried every approach,” Giordano said. “It’s been one of those buildings where we haven’t had success, obviously. No better time, I guess, than to turn it around. If we can get this one in Anaheim, it goes a long way for momentum. That’s a reason why, too.”
Momentum that would help propel the Flames forward into Los Angeles on Tuesday, their second date of the two-game swing.
Because losses are few to spare.
“Especially with the way the Western Conference is, it’s so close,” Colborne said. “If any team goes through a stretch where they’re not really at the top of their game, you can have a three-four game losing streak like that. It doesn’t take much. We just need to hope for the best right now. But we’re still at the point where if we take care of our own business, we should be okay. That’s a tough task knowing we have some tough teams coming up. We’re going to have to be bringing our very best.”