Remove it from the context of a six-game losing streak and it doesn’t look so bad.
On Wednesday night, the Calgary Flames took a step in the right direction after a run of discouraging games. Against a very good Dallas Stars team, the Flames stuck with it and fought until the end.
The performance still resulted in a 4-3 loss to the Stars, but when you compare it to recent defeats, even the most jaded fan would have to see some movement in the right direction from the group.
Even in the midst of his post-game disappointment, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar had to acknowledge the positives.
“I thought we came out hard in the first, they kind of pushed back but that’s the game of hockey,” Weegar said. “We’ve got to build on that, if there’s something positive out of that, there were some glimpses of a great hockey team out there. We’ve got to build on some great plays we made breaking out, neutral zone looked good and offensively I thought we generated more chances than normal.”
That’s not going to be enough for some people. Again, it was the Flames’ sixth-straight defeat and there’s no way of sugarcoating that. It’s really not what you want.
But if we accept that this is all part of a process and the Flames are trying to build and grow and improve, well, you wouldn’t be completely out-to-lunch if you pointed out that this struggling group looked the best it had in a while — and maybe all season.
That may not satiate those who are calling for blood, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
The third period, in particular, was encouraging.
After a rough second that saw the Flames give up three goals, they were down 4-2 heading into the final 20 minutes.
In that frame, Weegar pulled them to within one and they out-shot the Stars 22-5.
“In the third, we played like we had nothing to lose and that’s when we play well,” Rasmus Andersson said. “Dallas, they don’t back off, but they have everything to lose and we have nothing to lose. It’s a fine line with that aspect of the game.
“You have to bring that mentality throughout the game. You can’t have those dips, especially against a skilled team like Dallas.”
Nobody is suggesting that the Flames have suddenly figured it all out. The reported pause on contract negotiations with pending unrestricted free-agents isn’t going to be lifted because of an improved effort in a losing cause.
They’re still a struggling team with a 2-7-1 record that is allowing too many goals and isn’t scoring enough on their own.
But to completely ignore the improvement doesn’t do anyone any good, either.
They need more of the same and they need to stop their six-game slide.
Play like they did in the third period, though, and you can see a path to getting that done.
“I think if we play like that in the third period, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane said. “That’s the way we have to play. We were hard on pucks, hard on the forecheck, supporting each other in the d-zone, breaking out as five. We were doing the right things.
“Yes, it was maybe a little too late but next game we’ve got to come out and play like that the first period, play like that the second period and play like that the third period.”
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CHANGES (MAYBE) INCOMING
Matthew Coronato was the odd man out at Thursday’s practice.
After playing centre on the fourth line against the Stars, Coronato didn’t appear to be part of the Flames’ plans for Saturday night against the Seattle Kraken.
Dillon Dube was skating in that role on Thursday.
That’s not necessarily the end of the world for a rookie like Coronato, who is adapting to the professional game. In fact, it might be part of the process.
“It’s not a bad thing for a young player,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska said. “You see a lot of the younger guys who are high picks, to take a step back, you can even use Rasmus (Andersson) as an example when he was out for the four games. You’d talk to him after the games and he’d say ‘Man, you see the game so different when you’re watching it from up top.’
“It’s never a bad things, it’s just about taking it the right way if it were to happen.”
The Flames also put defenceman Jordan Oesterle on waivers on Thursday.
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to email@example.com