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Lacking Firepower, How Long Can Flames Remain Patient?

The Calgary Flames are among the league’s worst at scoring goals so far – especially at even strength. Will they get a spark from within or is outside help needed?



They were in a playoff spot on Thursday – one of the ‘ins’ of the American Thanksgiving benchmark.  But after losing in regulation in back-to-back matinees, the Calgary Flames are on the outside looking in after the holiday weekend. 

So your perspective on the Flames may be as abstract as whether you use Thursday or the quarter pole as your marker for the strangely accurate statistic suggesting that teams in a playoff spot on Turkey Day wind up there about 75 per cent of the time. 

For the sake of picking a side, I’m going with the in crowd. 

dAs inconsistent and frustrating as the Calgary Flames have been through 20 games so far, they’re a winning streak away from creating some separation. 

And although they’re inarguably missing another scoring piece, they’re talented enough to gain more goals — and wins — by committee. 

We may soon see an injection of energy from the American Hockey League’s Calgary Wranglers, where Matthew Phillips is lighting it up and Jakob Pelletier is on a 10-game point streak. 

But barring that, there are a few obvious underachievers who can and should be producing more on the current Flames roster. 

Andrew Mangiapane may soon see his face on local milk cartons (where the faces of missing kids were posted back in the day for you youngsters). We asked in the offseason whether Mangiapane is a 35 goal-scorer or someone who scored 35 goals last year. 

He’s currently on pace for a dozen. 

Is it possible for the 26-year-old who cashed in on a career season with a massive raise this summer to go on a scoring streak? Absolutely. His 7.5 shooting percentage is less than half of his career average. Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said at the end of the disappointing finale of their six-game that he could see signs of improvement from Mangiapane, who led all forwards in ice time on Saturday.  

“I think we said before the trip it was about the touches. Touch pucks more,” Sutter said. “He did it OK in the last couple of games at home now the last couple here on the road.”

With just three goals in 21 games, and one in his last 17 games, those touches are going to have to translate into goals to help the team earn some more wins. 

Likewise for his frequent linemate Nazem Kadri, who set lofty standards with his new team early on. The big free-agent signing scored four goals in his first six games, and seven in his first dozen. But he has none in his past five straight, and one in his last nine. 

Elias Lindholm, hounded by the same question as a 40-goal guy as the one about Mangiapane’s 35, was blanked on the road trip, too. 

Jonathan Huberdeau is an elite playmaker and his breakaway pass to Tyler Toffoli against the Hurricanes was a beauty. But in addition to his league-leading 85 assists, Huberdeau also scored 30 goals last season. 

He had one lone goal on the six-game roadie, and just two in the entire month of November. 

Toffoli? That breakaway snipe was his 200th NHL goal, but it was first and only of the trip. He’s got two in the last nine. 

And he’s been one of the team’s best with four goals this month. 

"I think we're getting some really good looks. It's a matter of finishing our opportunities,” Toffoli said. “We've been talking about it all season long, even when we were winning games, about capitalizing on our chances. 

"It's not easy. Our entire team, we need everybody going. I think – I've said it before – we've seen glimpses and periods at a time where we're very dominant and then for whatever reason, it's almost the complete opposite for periods at a time. Definitely something that we need to figure out. It's a big homestand going home."

It’s simply not enough offence to sustain a team that is winning and losing one-goal games more than half the time. 

But patience is probably key for a group that is collectively shooting way lower percentage wise than their averages. 

"We've got to stay patient here and trust and believe in each other,” said veteran Mikael Backlund. “We know we have a really good team and we know we've got to keep working on it and we'll eventually get to where we want to go to."

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