Calgary Flames plan to build off latest win and ‘not let off the gas’7 min read
It’s one game won to break the ugly slump.
But how do the Calgary Flames make it two and counting?
The first step, they feel, is to not get too far of themselves — a one-game-at-a time thing — and instead build off Saturday night’s 3-2 edge of the visiting Winnipeg Jets that snapped a seven-game winless string.
“We battled,” said Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom of the Hockey Night In Canada performance at Scotiabank Saddledome. “It was clear that we’re sick of losing. But you’ve got to bring that every night to be successful.”
In particular, they have to bring that team success, which was manufactured Saturday from individual efforts across the board in the victory.
That was especially the case in a shut-down third period against the Jets, definitely boosted by the return of warrior Chris Tanev — billed as a ‘leader’ by Markstrom of not only the defensive corps but of the team.
“Yeah … they didn’t get many shots or chances at all in the third,” Markstrom said. “And I thought our penalty kill was unbelievable with a 3-on-5 kill. Tanny back in the lineup (helped) — he had two huge blocks during those two minutes late in the second and early in the third. Guys were sacrificing — you saw Naz (Kadri) with a huge block, as well, in the third. Not many shots came all the way to me.”
When they did, he was there in quite the return to form.
Markstrom, indeed, was remarkable when called upon, stopping 21 shots — including a doozy in the first period off Mark Scheifele, best described as a ferris-wheel manoeuvre.
“It’s desperation when you’re kind of late — it’s not ideal,” said the veteran goalie. “Kind of off the arm and glove, and then, I was feeling it when it was rolling. Luckily, it was our guy there to get the puck and clear it when I was laying on my stomach.
“But it’s about keeping the puck out of the net. There hasn’t been many of them this year.”
The 6-6-2 Flames hope there’s more, though — whether it’s lucky or not.
Because the near-misses and moral victories won’t cut it the NHL, especially in a Pacific Division that sports a few surprises this season. Included is the pesky Los Angeles Kings — a 10-6-1 crew that lines up as the Flames foes on Monday at the Dome. (6:30 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).
“This league is all about winning,” Markstrom said. “In a month, you don’t look back at the standings and say, ‘Oh, we could’ve had five more wins.’ It’s ‘We’re behind, and we’ve now got to catch up.’ We’ve got to reset here and improve our game, and it starts with me.”
It should help to get Jonathan Huberdeau back against the Kings.
The star winger who’s still trying to find his feet — and his scoring hands — with the Flames after arriving in the off-season has been out for a week with a swollen foot.
“Blocked a shot (in the overtime loss to the Islanders last Monday),” said Huberdeau, who was back practising Sunday with the club after missing the last two games of the quick three-game 0-2-1 road trip east when he was seen in a walking boot. “It just swelled up. It was hurt, but now, everything is fine. I’m going to have shot-blockers (on my skates) for the first time, now.
“It’s not easy (sitting out),” continued Huberdeau. “Obviously, I want to help the team. I thought my last game (last Monday night) was a little better — I think I was going in the right direction.
“I was just moving my feet a little bit more and trying to shoot. I think when I move my feet, I’m at my best. I’m not the fastest guy, but I like passing the puck, so I think when I’m moving my feet, it opens up more lanes.”
On Sunday, he was skating with the defensive-minded pair of Trevor Lewis and Mikael Backlund. That after Adam Ruzicka produced a goal and an assist one night earlier with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli, who have been Huberdeau’s linemates for the most part since his arrival to Calgary.
“They’re good — they’re veteran players and smart players,” said Huberdeau of Lewis and Backlund. “They read the game real well. And Lewie can score some nice goals, too — like (Saturday) night was great.”
Indeed, the grinder Lewis was a hero with the late-second-period game-winner.
A one-time Jets player himself, it was a slick score, as he took a pass from Backlund on a rush and went hard to the net alone off the right side before making a goal-scorer’s move to deke out solid netminder Connor Hellebuyck.
“Great play by Backs,” Lewis said. “I didn’t really have any room there, so I took it to the backhand and scored. It was a big goal and happy to see it go in.
“He’s a good goaltender, so I was just trying to find any space that I could.”
The Flames are happy that he did to help manufacture the slump-buster.
But one win won’t be of any significance to the club unless it’s a first step back to .500 and beyond.
“The key thing is you can’t let off the gas just because we won one game, you know?” added Lewis. “I think we’ve just got to use it as a stepping stone and build on that third period and build on that 60-minute (effort). I thought we put pressure on them, and we checked for our chances. And that’s how we’ve got to play for our chances.
“It’s how we’ve got to play to win.”
Flames winger Blake Coleman has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, for slew-footing Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois during Saturday’s game. The incident happened at 18:30 of the first period, when Coleman was assessed a minor penalty for tripping. The money goes to the players’ emergency assistance fund … Kevin Rooney was the odd-man out up front among Flams forwards at Sunday’s practice … The Flames broke out their ‘Blasty’ gear — but with practice jerseys — for Sunday’s session, as they get set to unveil their third uniforms against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 29 at the Dome — their first game back after this upcoming six-game road trip to the East Coast. “It’s always fun,” added Markstrom of the Blasty look. “As a goalie, I think it’s more fun than the players. You get new gear and a new mask and all that stuff. The mask is similar (to my regular one).”