Flames at the quarter pole
It's the 21-game mark for the Calgary Flames.
No, the first quarter hasn't been the kindest to the Flames, who are 8-11-2 following a 2-1 shootout loss Wednesday in New Jersey.
There are a number of factors that have put the Flames where they are, including injuries, too many mental mistakes according to coaches and a slow-starting Jarome Iginla.
And while the first quarter is done, that leaves three-quarters of a season ahead. And there are signs that the Flames are headed in the right direction. They bombed Chicago at home, lost a sqeaker in overtime to Detroit two nights later on the road, lost a one-goal game to the New York Rangers Monday where they probably deserved a better fate. And Iginla has caught fire with seven goals in his last five games.
If there is anything that can help the Flames it is scoring from the people that are supposed to score and that starts with Iginla. Is the recent offensive outburst a result of the Flames management group letting Iginla know he is not being traded despite the plethora of rumours floating around the Internet? Or was it simply the fact that Iginla figured something out? Bet on both playing a factor but the latter is bigger than the former. Just prior to going on his offensive run Iginla talked about having to shoot more, keep his feet moving and work harder.
"At times I think I have been thinking too much," he explained. "The habits have slipped a little bit, thinking a little too much about where I have to go and what I have to do and thinking I am going to be really good tonight and I am going to go and make things happen. I got away from the process. I've got to skate, compete, get to the net and get shots. However many go in, they go in. If they don't, they'll go in the next shift."
While the stats and the record don't flatter the Flames, there are positives, like Iginla finding his goal-touch, that are emerging.
"A quarter of the season is done and the next quarter has to be better than the last one," said Sutter.
The coaches have maintained that the Flames are making mental errors but in recent games, the errors have been reduced.
"We still have a ways to go," noted Flames assistant coach Dave Lowry on The Fan 960 prior to the New Jersey game Wednesday. "When we are skating and making the right decisions we give ourselves a chance to win."
Consider that the Flames have had 10 one-goal games but come away with just two wins in those instances. They have a 2-6-2 record in those games, a sign that they are close.
Centre Olli Jokinen, who came off a three-game suspension to play against the Devils Wednesday, feels the team is "right there."
Said Jokinen: "Nobody is going to say at the end that there are 10 games that you should have won. At the end they look at the results and ask if you are in the playoffs," Jokinen said on The Fan 960. "The good thing is that we are right there. We are capable of winning games. Everybody is saying the right things. We've got to go out and do it. It's about wins and getting results. We've got to start climbing up."
Indeed, the season is still young but it doesn't get easier. The old adage, 'No time like the present' is certainly applicable. Like the coach said, the second quarter has to be better.
Here are some of the key numbers from the first quarter:
21 games, 8-11-2 record, 18 points
8-8-1 versus West
5-5-1 at home
3-6-1 on the road
Three shorthanded goal for
Ranked 20th on the penalty kill
Ranked 19th on the power play
Alex Tanguay is seventh in the NHL in shooting percentage at 23.1 per cent
Rene Bourque leads the team with 10 goals
Miikka Kiprusoff is 7-10-1 with a respectable 2.79 GAA and a .905 save percentage