If there is still hope within the Calgary Flames locker-room, it sure wasn’t evident on Monday night.
Failing to make up ground in the NHL playoff race, with an opportunity to move within one or two points of the Winnipeg Jets for the final wildcard in the Western Conference, the Flames players facing the media in Los Angeles had glassy eyes, hushed tones and no excuses.
It looked like a team resigned to its fate on the ice pretty early on as the Kings pummelled their visitors 8-2 — the most egregious score of the season for the Calgary Flames.
And probably could have been worse.
“That was a brutal game. There’s nothing more to say, really,” defenceman Rasmus Andersson said post-game as the team prepared to head to Anaheim for Tuesday’s follow-up.
“This one obviously hurts.”
When asked to pinpoint what broke down in the first period, which saw the Flames fall behind 4-0 in a span of about seven-and-a-half minutes, Andersson covered almost every aspect of the game.
Defensive zone, playing with the puck, without the puck, struggling in the neutral zone, on the forecheck, defending breakouts.
“I was terrible tonight and I’ve got to be better,” he said.
Carl Grundstrom, Drew Doughty, Gabe Vilardi, and Viktor Arvidsson gave the Kings everything they’d need on the night. Tyler Toffoli scored in the third for a brief 4-1 deficit, but Adrian Kempe scored twice in the second frame to make it 6-1 at the second intermission.
It’s the last we’d see of Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Noah Hanifin made it 6-2 around the midway mark of the third, but there were no misgivings of some glorious comeback on the night.
Probably none for the season, either. Not with Nazem Kadri looking like a spectator, Jonathan Huberdeau struggling to make many of the plays he found so much easier in Florida, and both reportedly at odds with head coach Darryl Sutter this season.
On many nights, the Flames are hanging around, looking for a heartbreaking way to lose a one-goal contest.
Sportsnet flashed a graphic that was truly jaw dropping when it comes to the razor-thin margin of error the team has been playing with. They have an NHL high 41 games decided by a goal, with 26 of them ending in losses (also a league high). Fifteen losses in overtime or the shootout … yep, yet another league leading category. They’ve hit the most posts (77 and counting), and are the only team yet to manage a third-period comeback.
Oh, and they have a whopping 21 losses when outshooting opponents by at least 10 points — which is the most in NHL history.
On this night, there was little doubt. The heartbreak came early. The only questions were when would Sutter pull Markstrom and is there any chance Dan Vladar plays in Anaheim on Tuesday.
There are some of the more pressing variety, too, like has this team stopped playing for its coach?
Will they start focusing on young guys like college standout Matthew Coronato?
And, is it next year yet?
Even Calgary Flames coach Sutter, who usually finds something to spin for the media types who talk a lot of doom and gloom, could offer nothing as a silver lining.
“No,” he said. “Flush it. Let’s go.”