It’s already behind us. We’re starting another very important segment. We have five home games, two road games. That’s where we’re at. We always look at seven games. Tomorrow night we’re starting against the Oilers. It’s another big game. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley’s attention isn’t back on Thursday’s 1-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild. It’s forward on the Edmonton Oilers.
A morning after the defeat -- Calgary’s first by way of shutout this season -- Hartley instead was harping on the start of another seven-game segment Saturday.
“Last night was the last game of another segment, Segment No. 7,” Hartley said. “We have five wins and two losses. It’s already behind us. We’re starting another very important segment. We have five home games, two road games. That’s where we’re at. We always look at seven games. Tomorrow night we’re starting against the Oilers. It’s another big game.”
The segment system has worked for Hartley’s crew. The Flames have won six of seven this season with the only blemish coming in Segment No. 5 as part of an eight-game losing streak which saw Calgary drop all seven contests.
Thanks in part to Hartley's division, the Flames have compiled a 26-20-3 record and currently hold the second of two wild-card positions in the Western Conference heading into NHL action Friday and in the middle of the playoff hunt.
“It kind of puts you in a playoff mindset all year when you break it down to seven games,” forward Paul Byron said. “Your goal is to win four and you win the series. For us, we’ve had the playoff mentality since Day 1 and it’s paid great dividends for us.
“It’s a dogfight right now and we’re in playoff mode. We just have to go out there and win as many seven-game series as we can.”
It’s the kind of response Hartley was hoping to illicit in implementing the regiment.
“I think it’s just about the short term goals so that they can focus short term,” he said. “The playoff mentality, that’s the mindset I want our guys to have. Does it have an effect on the players? I don’t really know. I think so. I hope so. For us as a coaching staff, every day we talk to them about it.
“I think it gives us a chance to park a segment, whether it was good or bad, and start a new one and tomorrow night we’re starting Segment No. 8. It seems to be working well. It keeps the guys fresh.”
A fresh segment could be just what Byron needs. The 25-year-old hasn’t scored since Nov. 20 -- a span of 28 games. It hasn’t been without chances, though.
Byron’s latest opportunity came with 7:15 remaining in regulation against the Wild, streaking in on a breakaway before being denied by Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
“Obviously a 1-0 game, you want to be the guy who brings your team back into the game,” said Byron, who had five goals through the first 21 games of the season. “When you have the opportunity to you want to seize it. It’s just something I try to keep working on every day. Eventually one’s going to go in. I know one of them is going to go in.”
The stop has highlighted a consistent struggle for the 5-foot-7 forward.
He’s had plenty of unsuccessful bids to get off the schneid.
“I can’t really tell you how I feel,” he said. “It’s never happened to me in my life before. I used to be pretty good on breakaways and for whatever reason this year they’re not going in. The key is just trying to take the positive out of it, that I’m getting them, and try not to mentally take myself down. If you think you’re not going to score you’re not. I think it’s just a matter of time before one of them finally goes in.”
It’s the mindset Hartley is hoping Byron can keep.
“Right now Paul Byron’s situation is similar to us going to Anaheim,” started Hartley, highlighting the fact the Flames haven’t won at Honda Center in over a decade. “Listening to (media) we shouldn’t even go there. We should fax the two points or text the two points -- it’s a new era -- and stay over here. Same thing with Paulie. He’s getting breakaways. Some guys play 10 years in the NHL and they never have a chance to get one breakaway.
“This guy gets breakaways because he has speed and my job, I’ll support him all the way. This young man is a great person. He works hard. Last night, it hurt him. A 1-0 game, he knew that he could put us right back in the game and as long as I see effort, as long as I see people caring, I’ll always be in their corner.”
Hartley can currently be found in the corner of Jonas Hiller, too. The goaltender has allowed just two goals on 50 shots since returning from the All-Star break.
“[Hiller] is giving us a chance to win,” Hartley said. “Last night, it was probably the best goaltending battle we’ve seen all year. The two goalies were real sharp. Pucks were in front of them. They had perfect rebound control. It was a good game and it’s unfortunate.”
Hiller's run follows another impressive streak from fellow netminder Joni Ortio, who rattled off four wins during a five-game span, listing a 1.98 goals against average and .931 save percentage in the process.
Hiller’s been outstanding in carrying the workload since.
“When you’re in net, that’s your stage. Don’t give it away,” Hartley said. “It’s always the same message that we give the players also. It’s your jersey; make sure it doesn’t get stolen. The best way is to get on the ice and perform.”