On the heels of a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Dallas Stars, Bob Hartley opted not to bag-skate his club.
He didn’t put them on the ice at all, in fact.
While Hartley still put his troops through meetings, video sessions and off-ice training, the Calgary Flames coach decided to keep them off the ice on Friday.
“I told the guys to relax, to flush a little bit to make sure tomorrow morning we’re coming back on our toes because there’s way too many mental mistakes in our game,” said Hartley, whose team have dropped five straight decisions. “I don’t think we saw this in training camp. I don’t think we saw this early on in the season and right now it’s creeping up.
“Sometimes we try to fix it by practicing, practicing, practicing. Mentally, physically to get a little break is going to be good for the boys.”
“I think that I see that our game is not there right now. Sometimes just re-boot a little bit, a chance to refocus.”
Whether or not his decision to take the team away from the rink will pay off Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers remains to be seen.
But Hartley knows that how his team responds in the Battle of Alberta will dictate whether or not he made the proper call.
“You have to make decisions,” he said. “What works, you don’t know. I’ll be able to tell you what we’ve done today, if it worked after tomorrow night’s game. Right now, we can all look and we can be all experts after around 10:30 tomorrow night. If it works, what a great call. If it didn’t work, well, (I) should’ve bagged them.”
Hartley’s banking on making the correct call.
Unplugging his team from the mental mistakes Calgary’s made in recent games could help the Flames release some of their building frustration.
“You need to let go of frustration,” Hartley said. “Obviously in our situation, frustration builds. That’s for sure. Confidence goes and when confidence goes, frustration settles in. That’s a fact of the human nature. I think that was part today to make sure (we) have fun, relax.
“There’s nothing that we can do about our past few games. We can only learn from them. We have a good group and I believe in those guys. Tomorrow we’re going to be back at it.”
There’s still plenty to build on, too, according to Ladislav Smid.
The newest Flames defenceman said he’s seen promise in the team's willingness to fight and refusal to quit when down.
“What I like about the last two games is that we tried to battle back in the third period,” Smid said. “There is a lot of will on this team and nobody is going to quit.
“It’s obviously hard when you lose but at the same time, you’ve got to keep the atmosphere and attitude positive. I think it’s going to be a key for the rest of the season.
SMID READY FOR FORMER ‘MATES
The game against Edmonton on Saturday will mark the first time Smid will face off against his former Oilers teammates after being acquired from the Oilers a week ago.
Needless to say, it's circled on his calendar.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It didn’t take long and we are already squaring off against my former team. I’m obviously excited.”
He hasn’t taken the time to chirp his former Edmonton friends just yet.
But it’s coming.
“For sure I’m going to chirp some guys right before the game,” Smid said. “I’m sure they’re going to be chirping me in the pre-game warm-up as well. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a little bit different for me.”
Hartley hasn’t tapped the former Edmonton blueliner for the scouting report on shutting down the high-flying Oilers just yet, but Smid wasn’t shy in offering up how to stop the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
“Just don’t let them play their skill game,” Smid said. “Just be physical on them, be hard on them and stick with our system. Get pucks out, get pucks in and just keep it simple.”
“We work hard so it’s a combination of just unplugging. A little refocus, regroup, think about your individual game today. Tomorrow we’re going to put all those little individual games and one big team game and we want to redeem ourselves. We need to get back on track.”
The Flames finish their three-game homestand when they host the Oilers on Saturday (8 p.m. MT, CBC) in the first installment of the 2013-14 edition of the Battle of Alberta.
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