TORONTO, ON -- After the Calgary Flames 3-2 loss in Toronto on Saturday night, normally reserved head coach Brent Sutter was very forthcoming with his emotions.
"Right now we have some guys that aren't engaged like they need to be, mentally into the game," he stated. "There's not enough urgency in their game. It's noticeable.
"It can't be accepted. It's unacceptable."
The Flames performance against the Maple Leafs was almost a mirror image of their first two losses this season. After gaining a lead, the club seemed to sit back, taking their foot off the metaphorical pedal.
They weren't chasing after loose pucks, they weren't battling with the same compete level their opponents had and, at times, they simply looked uninterested. According to Sutter, of that kind of complacency continues, the team cannot expect to win very many games.
"You've got to forget about the score and keep doing things the right way. It wasn't the way we like to play. We can't play that way. It's not what we're about as a team."
Pivot Olli Jokinen echoed the bench boss after the loss, looking distraught when questioned about the team's effort.
"We put ourselves in a hole. In this League, it's tough to catch up to teams. I know it's only four games but we've got to find a way to play better hockey."
While the Flames are 1-3-0, there have been bright spots in the last four games. There has been glimmers of the talent they showed the rest of the League in the second half of the 2010-11 campaign, when they clawed their way back into the equation with hard work and grit.
In their game against Montreal, they didn't get despondent when the Habs opened the scoring. Instead, their determination intensified. They wanted that victory and outworked the Canadiens to get those two points.
They also weren't trying make fancy plays and score highlight-reel goals. They simplified their game, shooting whenever the opportunity presented itself. They knew the more shots they put on Carey Price, the better.
However, in Toronto, they fell back into the habit of looking for the tic-tac-toe, pretty passes instead of just firing the puck at the goaltender.
"We decided we're going to make the perfect play again tonight at certain times," Sutter sighed. "Then you run into a wall and it breaks down. It's not like you need to be genius to figure it out. It's pretty easy to see. We've got to get in that mindset where it just becomes second nature to us."
Jokinen knows what his team is capable of - pointing directly to their mid-season turnaround last year - but feels every single player needs to take some time and reevaluate what they are bringing to the ice on a nightly basis.
"All you do is take a deep look in the mirror and look around yourself. What you can do better. Stay positive. That's the first step. To be a better team, you've got to take care of yourself and play better. Do things right. After that, things will take of (themselves)."
He did caution against full-blown panic, noting it was only four games into the season. It's easier to rectify mistakes now then two months down the road. The team has tried to scale that mountain before and know what a treacherous journey it can be.
"When things are tough, it's easy to start point fingers and be negative around here. We've got to move on and try to get a win.
"We have to learn from it and move on."
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