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Honest approach, focus on future keeps Flames winning

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This is how Darryl Sutter does it. The Calgary Flames head coach alluded a few days ago to the fact he’s good at keeping his players from feeling overly satisfied by their accomplishments. On Sunday, with his team on a nine-game winning streak, he was asked a little more about how.

“There’s more to it than hockey. It’s about being honest. I don’t have to watch a lot of video to evaluate players’ games,” Sutter said, getting to the crux of his coaching style. “The truth helps. A lot.

“Doesn’t mean you win, but it helps.”

In the case of the 2021-22 Calgary Flames, the honesty has been helping the team win.

One more victory against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday will tie a franchise high for consecutive games with the full two points.

When asked what he likes about what the team has done so far, Sutter briefly mentioned scoring suppression. Then he flipped the script and spent a few minutes on what the team needs to continue to do better.

A little insight into the ‘how’ of keeping his players focused on what’s next rather than what they’ve accomplished so far.

“We’ve kept the goals against down. That’s really important,” Sutter said, before the quick pivot. “It’s the only way we’ll make the playoffs.

“There’s games where we’ve given up too many quality opportunities, which we have to continue to work at cutting back. Most of it’s turnover related or structure related. Those areas we have to clean up.”

Offensively, the team has been ablaze during the streak, although they may have been guilty of believing they’d continue to score a handful of goals every time they hit the ice.

Flames guilty of forgetting how the hard goals are scored

“You start thinking you can play pretty and pass it into the net, you lose. You lose momentum, you lose possession, you lose zone time. That’s trickled in and out of our game,” Sutter said. “We’ve had to move guys around to straighten it out. That is a constant you have to have your finger on.”

Lines were shuffled slightly on Sunday, with Dillon Dube bumped for Milan Lucic on the Tyler Toffoli line, but the Calgary Flames head coach made sure to mention Dube wasn’t the only player in a competition for more consistency.

As for himself, Sutter says he doesn’t linger in the streak. His memory is quickly purged – or at least any emotional attachment to it.

“I’m game over, getting ready for the next game,” he said. “Very simple.”

There is plenty of chatter about the Flames given their recent success, but the players suggest they’re easily able to avoid it. Or, as Nikita Zadorov suggests, that the noise isn’t even penetrating his bubble.

“Not one person asked me anything on the streets,” he said with a grin. “We just come to the rink, we practice – we’re getting better – we go into the game and we’re playing our asses off pretty much. That’s all we do. Then you go home, sleep and recover, spend time with your family.

“It doesn’t affect me.”

Fellow Calgary Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington said the key is to enjoy the wins but remember the mindset that keeps producing them.

“You’re not better than your last game. We just have to have that mindset,” Kylington said. “It’s fun winning and we want to keep winning but we know what that takes and what we have to bring to be a winning team.”

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