Milan Lucic said a lot on Thursday. But you get the feeling the Calgary Flames winger left even more unspoken.
Like a guy who wanted to point fingers but would prefer to call an anonymous tip line.
Barring that miracle finish that fewer and fewer believe isn’t possible, the season is all but over. A 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights saw the Flames fall six points behind the tiebreaker-holding Winnipeg Jets and get leapfrogged by the Nashville Predators. Nine games are left on the season for the Calgary Flames – a team that has one two-game winning ‘streak’ and just a pair of wins at home over that same span. Not the kind of resume that screams ‘win out.’ Not the kind of team that gives you the sense they’re willing to put their faces in front of a slapshot for their locker-room neighbour.
“When it’s big games, we need guys to step up and be big players,” Lucic told reporters at the Saddledome post-game. “We didn’t have that tonight from everyone.”
Welcome to the 2022-23 Calgary Flames season. Aside from the marvellous seasons from Tyler Toffoli and Mikael Backlund, there have been a lot of disappointments. From Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri to Andrew Mangiapane, and a whole lot of players in between, not much has been clutch.
“I wish I had an answer for you,” Lucic said, searching for his words.
He shook his head and raised his eyebrows while talking about the fact they’re still the only team in the NHL that hasn’t won a single game coming from behind in the third period this season.
“It was there a lot last year,” Lucic said. “For whatever reason, it wasn’t — it hasn’t — been there once this year. It’s another frustrating stat to look at.”
Plenty of frustrating stats.
An NHL leading one-goal losses, to number of posts, to overtime and extra time losses. On Thursday, they added their 22nd loss — an NHL record — when outshooting an opponent by at least 10.
Lucic and the recently benched Kadri scored, but after falling behind 2-0 in the first period and then 3-1 early in the third, they were chasing the entire way.
Story of their season.
With plenty of chatter about the locker-room dynamics and head coach Darryl Sutter, the veteran Lucic was asked about players holding each other accountable when not getting enough out of some of them.
“Maybe not enough,” he said bluntly .”We’d probably be in a better position if we did a better job of that.”