CALGARY, AB -- The belief that powered the Calgary Flames through so many different patches last season is wavering. And despite a 1-5-0 record and a franchise record in futility on home ice to start the season, it’s not completely extinguished.
But it’s not easily found at this point, either.
“When you lose your first four at home and you get spanked every game, it’s pretty tough to believe,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “At the same time, we’re pros. Last year we lost eight in a row and we still got back up. There are many stories around us that lead us to believe that, hey, let’s roll up our sleeves and do it. And this group can do it.
“I have no problem believing in them. Right now, we’re quitting a little bit too early. That second goal on the bench, it was just like someone took a pin and deflated the big balloon. That’s just not us. It’s not acceptable. We’re better than this and we’re stronger than this. Now we have to re-cultivate this.”
The pin Hartley referred to was a gaff from goaltender Karri Ramo, who couldn’t squeeze a harmless looking wrist shot from 31 feet from Alexander Ovechkin on Tuesday. With a loose rebound, and Ramo still searching for the rebound, Ovechkin tapped the puck over the goal line for his 900th career National Hockey League point. The goal put the Washington Capitals up 2-1. They went on to steamroll Calgary 6-2.
It was the type of miscue the Flames managed to rebound from with regularity in 2014-15.
It’s the type of miscue Calgary hasn’t managed to overcome in 2015-16.
“It’s hard when you lose games like we have been losing and how many we’ve lost,” alternate captain Kris Russell said. “It starts to snowball.
“It seems the harder you try the worse it gets. It’s not going to get easier. The thing that’s going to help us is our work ethic and commitment. We’ve got to show that each and every practice, each shift.
“We’ve talked about it. Talk is cheap. I believe in this group, I believe we can get out of this, but it starts with and effort. There’s bad things that happen in a game. I feel that we’re getting deflated too easily. That wasn’t a characteristic last year. Regardless we felt that in the third period we could win games and we have to get back to that.
“We used to play the fun way, the in your face attack way. If we do that, start doing the right things, and we start playing that way, we should see signs of success. At the same time, we have to work at it.”
It’s not unlike what the Flames were preaching during a tremendous slide last December.
Then 16-8-2, Calgary dropped eight consecutive contests, as Hartley mentioned.
They clawed out and recovered; survived.
“We’ve got to stay positive,” Russell said. “That’s up to the leaders in this group. We’ve got some young kids in here. I was in Columbus when I was young and we went through losing stretches. It’s tough when you’re young because it magnifies everything that you do. It’s a game of mistakes. Even when we were winning last year, we were making mistakes. It’s how we recover. It’s how we help each other and lift our teammates up. That’s the big thing. You’ve got to stick together. You’ve got to much each other and help each other.”
That’s the goal.
The reality is, though, that the Flames have yet to do that this year, and find themselves in an incredible hole just three weeks into the season.
“Last night, we got booed by our own fans for the first time in a long, long time and deservedly so,” Hartley said. “We’re letting our organization down, we’re letting our community down right now. This is a great place; this is a great barn. We had so much fun. We have to recapture that fun. That fun will not come easy. Yes teams are gearing up differently for us this year. It’s just normal, but on our side, we’ve not been good enough. We’ve not given ourselves a chance to be successful.
“We’re all born with different talents, but hard work is a choice. Here, it will not be a choice. If you want to have the choice to work hard or not work hard, well you’re not going to play. Right now, we would have a hard time to put 20 guys in the lineup. We need to get this. Hopefully today they are getting part of the message. We have plenty of trust in our guys. Human beings are hard to read, to figure out. Right now, its kind of mind boggling. At the same time, it’s our job, It’s my job to find solutions.”