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Three Reasons To Worry About The Flames Losing Skid



Calgary Flames Jacob Markstrom

After a 5-1 start, the Calgary Flames have plummeted out of the playoff picture.

A seven-game losing streak will have that effect. The resulting record — a paltry 5-6-2.

And even though we already talked about reasons not to panic over the recent misfortune, you can’t ignore the seriousness of the slump, either.

Here are three reasons the Flames should worry about the skid.

The goals are scarce

We all know the Calgary Flames lost two 40-goal scorers when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk chose new teams.

But there are plenty of remaining sharpshooters who haven’t had very good starts.

Elias Lindholm (42), Andrew Mangiapane (35) and Dillon Dube (18) combined for 95 last season.

Together, they’re on pace for 44. Mangiapane hasn’t scored since Game 4. Dube potter one in the opener and hasn’t been much of a threat since.

Lindholm has four goals but has been a shell of his former self at even strength after forming one-third of the best five-on-five line in the NHL last season.

Chemistry has been slow to develop with newcomers like Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau. And Huberdeau out, the already thin wing positions are looking bleak.

It might be time to dig deeper for that NHL trade market.

Dube and Mangiapane both had stellar chances on open nets in the 3-1 loss in Boston. Both missed. So did Tyler Toffoli, who has been one of the more productive Calgary Flames wingers with five goals and a pair of game-winners.

“You’re thinking one out of three, right? Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said of those three critical misses on Thursday against the Bruins. “You’ve just got to finish, that’s all. You can’t break away from how we have to play. Without those high-end scorers, you’re going to have to play that way.

“Eventually you get rewarded for it.”

The goaltending has been inconsistent

We’re not going to pin all the losses on the goaltenders, but both Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar are sporting sub-.900 save percentages right now. That’s not what you expect from a tandem that nearly landed the Jennings last season for the stingiest of backstops.

In what has been an odd opening to the season, starter Markstrom has allowed the first shot on goal to get past him four times.

It’s a weird anomaly thing that almost definitely will not continue throughout the season. But it’s a talking point and has definitely added some pressure to the mix for Markstrom. He wasn’t able to come up with enough of the timely stops to help prevent the team from allowing comeback victories against them in the third period on a few occasions.

If the 32-year-old doesn’t get back closer to his .911 career average, the Calgary Flames are in trouble.

Vladar is a nice backup with lots of potential but is still largely unproven in just his second full season in the league.

The goalies can’t be faulted too much. Especially when you consider how poorly some of the defending has been in front of them in spurts.

But they both need to be better to help pull the Flames out of the fire here.

“The two things we have to get better at as a team, for sure, is save percentage and shooting percentage,” Sutter said Thursday night, suggesting it’s cost them at least a couple of wins.. “Probably in bottom 10, both of them.”

The coach doesn’t have as much time to teach

Sure, Sutter is the reigning Jack Adams winner. But last season’s coach of the year doesn’t have the same luxury he was afforded when he took over the Calgary Flames mid-season two years back.

Sutter used that time to lay out his plans, assess his players and ease them into his structure. Gaudreau and Tkachuk weren’t lighting it up in their first couple of months with the new bench boss. It wasn’t until after their return to the ice in the fall that this group really started to gel and thrive under Sutter’s leadership.

The new guys weren’t roleplayers this year. Huberdeau is expected to be the top playmaker. Weegar was looked at as the stud the Flames might be missing. Kadri is the cup winner with the nasty streak who can emotionally charge up his teammates with a big goal or a.big hit.

Bottom line:

The Calgary Flames are mired in a long and mentally exhausting losing skid. The longer it goes, the harder it is to climb out of mentally. Sutter wants them to channel their frustration into anger and motivation. Easier said than done.

The Flames don’t have the luxury of time, either. The Pacific Division is too tight to let a losing skid last too long.

“There’s ups and downs in a season, but now it’s about us and breaking the trend and just coming away and focus on one good game and just winning that game,” Mangiapane said post-game. “And then just build from there. We all have to focus and everyone bring their ‘A’ game come Saturday.”

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