Heading into the week, everyone knew that both Monday and Wednesday’s games versus the Ottawa Senators were nearly must-wins. Of course, that is not technically the case, given that they still have over 20 games remaining, but coming into this mini-series, they were failing to take points from the Sens like every other team in the division has done with relative ease.
Their poor track record against the Sens continued, however, as they were defeated by a final score of 2-1. With that loss, they have a record of just 2-3-1 against Ottawa, a team that has just 11 total wins on the season. To make matters even worse for the Flames, they were playing against an injury-depleted Sens roster, as goalies Matt Murray, Marcus Hogberg, and Joey Daccord are all on injured reserve. As a result, 22-year-old Filip Gustavsson – who posted a very unimpressive 3.23 goals against average and .889 save percentage in 24 AHL games last season – was given his first-ever NHL start.
Given both his inexperience and struggles at the professional level, along with the struggling team in front of him, the Flames should have been able to pick him apart. Instead, they continued a season-long trend of uninspired play and made Gustavsson look like a seasoned vet.
Once again from the Flames, there was little to no emotion throughout the game from the majority of players, something we have seen far too often this season. Outside of Milan Lucic seen throwing his stick on the bench, it was not until the end of the game that we saw any frustration from this group, as defenceman Rasmus Andersson for some, unbeknown reason, chose to pick up the puck at the end of the game and skate away with it.
Given that it was Gustavsson’s first NHL win, multiple Sens players were trying to grab it to give to their young goaltender for his big accomplishment. While Andersson did end up dropping the puck before leaving the ice, the display was still quite childish. Sure, this isn’t the first time a player has stolen a game puck, but all this did was create yet another negative headline for a team that has far too many this season. Topping things off was Matthew Tkachuk, who has had a few questionable incidents of his own this season, firing the puck that Andersson chose to drop down the ice.
In one sense, you get where these two are coming from in terms of their frustration. Yesterday’s loss felt like the biggest blow yet to their playoff hopes, as they trail the Montreal Canadiens by four points for the final spot but have also played two more games. However, after the game is not the time anyone wants to see this frustration, and certainly not in the way it was shown either.
What everyone wants to see is that frustration is shown in the game in terms of passion and playing like you truly want to win. That passion is something clearly missing from this group this season. The hope was that replacing Geoff Ward with Darryl Sutter would help this team in terms of accountability, and for a short time, it appeared to work. However, this game, along with a few from last week, have made it seem like things are back to the same old.
Pull It Together
If there was a perfect word to describe how Flames fans feel this season, it would be ‘tired.’ Tired of the lack of effort. Tired of the inconsistency. Tired of the same excuses to the media each and every game. On paper, this group should be a playoff team. Brad Treliving has put together a solid roster, and they should be much better than they are.
Thankfully, there is still time left to turn things around, but they need to get their act together quickly. That starts with showing emotion throughout the course of the game, not just after.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.