Mikael Backlund, the closest thing the Calgary Flames have to a captain, denied the narrative of doubt.
Leave that to fans who live and die daily on the outcomes of each game, the practice lines. Patience isn’t common when it comes to Canadian hockey markets.
Those who fuel the franchise through their purchased tickets, jerseys and copious volumes of food and beverage at the Saddledome are entitled to every opinion.
But inside the Calgary Flames locker-room, there’s a fine line between frustration and a lack of belief.
They’re frustrated they aren’t performing but also know they’re capable of much, much more.
“We have a good team here but we’ve got to show it, too,” Backlund said after Friday’s boo-inspiring 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
“We’re far from doubting ourselves. We know we can win games.”
Waking up in a tie with the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, the standings suggest there’s still time.
Positivity and patience mixed with a sense of urgency is a challenging cocktail to perfect for the players.
Those ‘P’ words have long passed the fans by.
The short-term goal for the Calgary Flames is another ‘P’ word. They want to be in a playoff position by Christmas. They have four games on the west coast on tap, settling into San Jose for two games before a back-to-back in Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Eight points are up for grabs. Running the table would be huge. The team has to believe that it’s possible. Even probable. But they still have to work for the wins.
The Flames frequently outshoot the opposition, but too often come away with nothing or little to show for it. They’re among the worst in goal production. It’s no coincidence that their shot quality numbers are abysmal. The high shot count is misleading because volume from outside the prime scoring positions means little when it’s not generating secondary opportunities at the very least.
“We’ve all gotta just look at ourselves in the mirror and be better,” Elias Lindholm said on Friday, admitting the five-game losing streak is frustrating. “It’s not there right now. There’s pucks around there, laying around there, but you’re not putting in that extra effort to get to the net and to beat their man one on one and stuff like that.
“I think, honestly, we’ve got to get back to the way we played a couple of games ago. Just keep it simple. Find an open guy, put lots of pucks to the net. Just go back to the basics and keep it simple. I think, now, we’re trying too much and it just doesn’t work.”
The defending Pacific Division champs underwent a huge change this summer with the loss of its two flashiest players in Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Jonathan Huberdeau is a star player with a proven track record. His circumstances have been more challenging than anticipated, but it’s a good bet he finds a way to produce more over the next 50 games than those that have passed.
Dillon Dube didn’t look out of place on the top line, assisting on both of Connor Mackey’s goals on Friday. Andrew Mangiapane has been underwhelming but he, too, shows signs of being near a breakout.
Nazem Kadri’s Cup hangover may mean a bit of a streaky season. But you know he’ll be at his competitive best as games become more and more critical.
The pieces are there. The performance will come.
That’s what the Calgary Flames must continue to believe.
“We haven’t given up here. We know we’re chasing it, for sure, we’re behind in the standings and we know we need to play better, win more games,” Backlund said.
“And we’re going to do it.”