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TALKING POINTS: Imperfect Flames still building brand

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They didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but the Calgary Flames played an entertaining game against their provincial rival on Hockey Night in Canada.

The 5-3 loss against a team that had lost seven straight games was another illustration of what the Flames have, what they lack, and how they need to play to become a team that makes the playoffs but also has a chance to get past the first round.

It came on the heels of one of their best efforts of the year – a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers – so it’s easy to understand why some people might have thought the result itself was a step back.

Not so, said head coach Darryl Sutter after the game.

“It’s not a step back,” Sutter said. “But we didn’t get any points, so it doesn’t feel like we took a step ahead.”

That’s the rub. The Calgary Flames are looking to advance. They’re building toward the all-star break as a milestone pit stop and Sutter laid out the metrics on Sunday.

“There’s platforms that we have to be in for us to stay in the playoff race or be a playoff team,” said the coach, who strategized all of this based on the personnel they’d be working with this season.

He has said repeatedly they don’t have the game-breaking, top-five player who can give them the extra half goal per game that some others have. So their process includes targets for every area of the game.

“Where we had to rank in terms of goals against and plus/minus, goals for and against, powerplay, penalty killing, save percentage … you had to strive to be in the top 15 in terms of goals for and powerplay,” Sutter said. “The other ones, we felt the best chance we had, we had to be in the top 10 – goals against, penalty killing, save percentage – in order to be in the playoff race at the end. We’re still doing that. That’s still important that we keep that focus.”

The next opportunity comes Monday against the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome. They’d like to avoid allowing multiple powerplay goals against while capitalizing more on their own opportunities.

Against the Oilers, the Calgary Flames counted their scoring chances at 28-16 despite the fact they lost. They fired 47 shots on goal and Mikko Koskinen had a strong game, but the Flames could have done more.

“Shot volume is something we stress but you have to expand on that and break it down a little more. Goalies have tendencies. (Koskinen) should have had to make more, better saves last night. There’s a lot of pucks that hit him,” Sutter said of the embattled Oilers netminder.

“Number one, you want shot volume. Number two, you want screens or flashes through there. But you also want second, third opportunities.

“We had a lot of opportunities. You should be winning those goals for sure.”

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