DRIVING THE POINT HOME
After suffering a 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, the Calgary Flames returned to the ice today at MasterCard Centre, the Maple Leafs practice facility in Toronto.
Flames coach Bob Hartley put the group through a long session which included a lot of instruction and plenty of skating. Although the Flames were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, Hartley is still trying to instill a top notch work ethic and a winning attitude.
“You don’t dwell on negatives. This is a great group,” Hartley said. “Today we had a great practice and tomorrow is another game. That’s the beauty of this league—I don’t know if I could coach CFL or NFL, one game a week—that’s a long time to live with a loss.
“In this league, you get back-to-back [games], you get two or three games a week so that’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
For Hartley, it’s all about the big picture. Consistently putting his team through tough practices—regardless of circumstance—is how he wants to build a winning culture.
“For us it’s not how long we practice it’s how well we practice,” Hartley said. “Today you saw a bunch that was focused—we were back on our toes, we were jumping. That’s the kind of practice that I believe if you do this on a consistent basis you automatically become a better team.”
The gradual improvement in effort and play this this season has Hartley satisfied for the most part, but he cautioned it can be a slippery slope.
“Credit goes to our players, they’ve done this. Our practice has improved tremendously from last year,” Hartley said. “We’re seeing some positive results from it, but it will not always work. Last night is a good example.”
Hartley and his staff have managed to squeeze blood from a rock with this team. But the coach feels that continuing to push, given where the club is in the standings, is what they need to do to get this team to the next level.
“We feel very comfortable with this group. This is a great group of guys and they’ve been through the wall for us,” Hartley said. “We’re going to keep pushing them we’re going to keep supporting them--it’s all a matter of learning. Let’s say that we have the same team next year—how can we be better? The recipe is very simple, it’s all on us. You should never count on help from the outside, you should always look at what you have.
“Good people [always] say—we’re going to find a way. I think that we found a way to get better this year, but it’s still not good enough.”
Flames captain Mark Giordano agreed that working hard in practice is what makes a team good when it comes time for games.
“We have hard practices and we work hard,” the captain said. “We take a lot of pride in it as players so for sure it’s changed. It’s directly changed the way we play [in games] so that’s been one of the big keys--the way you work outside of games but it’s carried into game.”
FOND MEMORIES OF TORONTO
Mark Giordano will never forget his first game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
It was October 14, 2006, and the Brampton, ON native had a large number of family and friends in the stands watching as he recorded the only two-goal performance of his career.
“Two goals, how can you forget? It was a special night for me,” Giordano recalled. “It was my first NHL goal—I’ll never forget that one for sure—in front of my friends and family.
“I logged a ton of minutes that night, I think it was seven-and-a-half or something.”
The Flames captain was always a Leafs fan growing up in Brampton and admitted he still pays close attention to the team whenever he has time.
“I was a huge Leafs fan growing up,” he said. The Doug Gilmour days--Dave Andreychuk, Wendel Clark. Whenever I get the chance I watch the Leafs if I can. Last year in the playoffs I was watching them.
Giordano and the Flames have a chance to add to the Leafs misery tomorrow. Toronto is currently mired in an eight game losing skid and fighting for their playoff lives.
“I’ve got a lot of buddies in Toronto that definitely want us to lose tomorrow and are rooting against us,” he said. “It will be nice if we can come out on top tomorrow [for some] bragging rights.”
"It would be nice to get another one, hopefully tomorrow. Two goals from the blueline isn’t that easy in this league, obviously. It was a special night and it was a lot of fun for sure."
- Mark Giordano on the only two-goal performance of his career - in Toronto
The Flames continue their five-game road swing on Tuesday in Toronto, taking on the Maple Leafs at 5:00 PM MST (SNET-W, FAN 960) before traveling to Florida for back-to-back matches against the Tampa Bay Lighting and Florida Panthers.
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