A COMPLETE EFFORT
After Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley offered up a candid, curt evaluation of his team’s performance through the first five games of the season.
“We need better efforts. For me, our major weakness right now is our lack of compete.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout the locker room following the Hockey Night in Canada drubbing at the hands of their Northern Alberta rivals.
Consistency. Compete level. Complacency.
Words uttered among players describing the start of their 2015-16 campaign.
“There is two things we can do about it: piss and moan about or we can go to work,” Kris Russell stated after Saturday’s loss.
“But we’ve been saying that for awhile. We’ve got to quit talking. We’ve got to prove something here.”
This upcoming week’s docket of games will be quite the test for a crew set on turning things around and getting back on track in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The 3-1-0 Washington Capitals make their lone stop at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night, followed by a visit from the 3-2-0 Detroit Red Wings on Friday evening. The Flames then head out on a three-game road swing that starts with the New York Rangers on Sunday.
It doesn’t get any easier.
“A lot of us have to be a lot better, starting with myself,” summed up captain Mark Giordano, who is pointless and minus-5 in the first five games this season. “For whatever reason, we’re not generating like we usually do. We’re not putting enough pucks to the net, bottom line, and getting the ugly ones.
“We’ve got to be better. No excuses.”
SETTLING IN THE SECOND
Second periods have been a big issue for Calgary early on in the year.
Through the first five games of their season, they have been outscored 8-2 and outshot 54-27 in the middle frame and are coming off a rough outing against the Edmonton Oilers that saw them muster just five shots on Cam Talbot in the second period.
“I think we just have to shoot more,” Giordano said. “I think we’re guilty sometimes of looking for that extra pass or that extra play. We just have to put pucks to the net. I thought we did a lot of good things [Friday in Winnipeg], they had a few power plays in the second and I think that’s why that period was a bit more lopsided. The third went back-and-fourth but I think we’re guilty of not getting pucks to the net.”
The Flames had great success mounting third period comebacks last year but that is something they’ve been preaching to avoid this season. Having great jump in the first period is a start – which the Flames have had most games thus far – but sitting back on their heels in the middle stanza has cost them greatly.
If they don’t want to let themselves fall behind before the third period even begins, they must find a way to carry that energy and spark from the first frame into the final 40 minutes.
SHUFFLING THE DECK
With Lance Bouma out indefinitely with a broken fibula, the coaching staff is working out their forward line combos and have even begun tinkering with the top line as they try to work out which combos will be the most successful.
David Jones, who leads the Flames with three goals on the year, took a few spins with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on Saturday night. Could we see the boys with someone other than Jiri Hudler this week?
Sam Bennett, expected to practice on Monday after missing Saturday’s game with an upper body injury, spent some time playing alongside Hudler in the pre-season and the two clicked in exhibition outings. Is that a combo Hartley tries out?
The coaching staff has plenty of options to work with thanks the versatility in their forward corps and Hartley has never been shy to switch up his lines so I expect we’ll see more than a couple combos throughout the course of the week.
PICKING UP THE POWER PLAY
The Flames have had 14 opportunities with the man advantage.
They have capitalized on just three.
The power play woes have been very apparent on home ice, where they have scored on two of their 10 chances.
A big issue has been the lack of shots with the man advantage – the Flames have just 18 shots on the power play this year, led by Hudler and Giordano’s three each. They’re making plays but aren’t able to funnel the puck on net.
After Friday’s loss in Winnipeg, Monahan spoke of getting back to the basics and simplifying plays– a game plan that could apply to the power play as well.
“I think in the offensive zone, we’re being a little too pretty. We’ve got to put more pucks on net and get to the net to put the puck in the net.”
Jonas Hiller has played in three games.
Karri Ramo has dressed for two.
Do we see Joni Ortio this week?
The 24-year-old has yet to see regular season action this year but with Hiller and Ramo both getting their shots in the blue paint, this could be the week he makes his 2015-16 debut.
Ortio, who was the Flames' sixth round selection in 2009, has been in good spirits and understands the importance of staying prepared as he awaits his chance.
“The only thing I can control is how I work and the effort I put in every day. Someone else will make the decisions.
“I’ve got no problems with this arrangement. We don’t know how long this is going to go on but for now, it might not be ideal, but it’s our situation and we’re making the best of it.”