CALGARY, AB -- There’s no such thing as the dog days of a National Hockey League season, suggested Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley.
Not when you’re on the outside looking in, anyway.
And there’s no lull, Hartley insists, with his Flames sitting five points back, and behind three teams, to get on the inside.
“For some people, they may think it’s the dog days but when you look at the standings, if you believe it’s the dog days you’re in the wrong business,” said Hartley, whose Flames sit five off the pace of the San Jose Sharks for third in the Pacific Division, and five points back of the Nashville Predators for the second of two wild card entries into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s as simple as this. This is playoffs. This is playoffs. There’s no way around it. You need to feel the wins, to feel the losses, to put them behind good or bad. The next morning you get up.”
There’s no time to dwell, good or bad.
There’s no time for lackluster efforts, either.
“If we can’t get motivated we’ll be out of it pretty quick here,” said captain Mark Giordano, whose Flames embark on a four-game road trip out East starting with the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
“I think we’ve played some good hockey. We’ve got to find a way to get wins. That’s the bottom line on this trip. We’ve said it at different points of our season, but this is a crucial part to getting in or not this year is if we can pile up some wins on this trip. You look today, we’re five points out. It’s not an easy hill to climb. Everyone’s getting points every night. It’s right there for us if we win our games.”
Calgary found itself in a near-identical position a year ago. On Jan. 17, 2015, the Flames sat on the outside looking in.
One point out of a wildcard.
Four back of third in the Pacific.
A three-month push pulled Calgary into their first playoff appearance since 2009.
Giordano is hoping his crew can put another one together.
“I think we had that relentless attitude,” Giordano said. “Not just go out there and play aggressive, not afraid to make mistakes and overwhelm teams. I think when we’re at our best, we’re so aggressive and the D are jumping, forwards are aggressive, teams are overwhelmed a bit with our forecheck. Hopefully we can get that going on this trip. We need a lot of points on this trip.”
The best way, suggests Hartley, is to lose the calendar.
It’s already crunch time.
“The teams that will be able to forget we’re in January, if we can move ourselves to an April, May, June mindset, that’s what we need,” Hartley said. “There’s no way around it.”