Sat, 21 May 2022

Wildly inconsistent Flames set to face Canucks

Field Level Media
29 Jan 2022, 10:19 GMT+10

Win big. Lose big.

The Calgary Flames are in the midst of an all-or-nothing trend as they prepare to play host to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

In their last five games, the Flames have won by scores of 5-1, 7-1 and 6-0, but also surrendered five goals in a pair of defeats, including a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

"The problem with us is we get too high and get too low, so finding that consistency is something we've got to work on," forward Matthew Tkachuk said.

In their defense, during the loss to the Blues, the Flames looked very much like a team that had played the night before at Columbus, and three games in four nights in three different cities. The Blues also appeared bent on redemption after a 7-1 defeat Monday at Calgary.

Facing a quality opponent with extra motivation is not easy at the best of times, let alone with fatigue a factor.

Flames coach Darryl Sutter admitted his players had some challenges but wouldn't pin all of the issues on weariness.

"We had chances on the power play, didn't score, missed the net, made individual mistakes from veteran players that cost us goals," Sutter said. "Give up three goals going into the third, quite honest, you're not going to win hockey games. Very simple."

The Flames will be one of the league's busier teams the rest of the regular season after a number of games were postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

"Finding that consistency is something we've got to work on," Tkachuk said. "And just be better and not do the mental mistakes that not only affect goals but affect zone time."

The Canucks arrive at Calgary after an impressive 5-1 victory Thursday at Winnipeg to kick off a four-game road swing. Since a management house cleaning that included the firing of coach Travis Green and the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks have an 11-4-3 record.

They are not only receiving quality performances from unlikely sources. Expected performers have delivered as well.

Fourth-string goaltender Spencer Martin recorded his first NHL victory against Winnipeg and has delivered a 1-0-2 record while the club's top three goalies are sidelined due to COVID protocol.

J.T. Miller, who leads the team with 44 points, recorded a hat trick in a four-point game last outing, giving him four goals and eight points in his last four games. Elias Pettersson, third on the team with 24 points, has five goals in the last six games after managing only six goals in the first 37 games of the season.

"We have a lot of guys that step up and our best players are different players on a nightly basis, which is a great thing to have," Miller said.

Martin has been an inspiration. His only previous NHL stint was three games in the 2016-17 season with the Colorado Avalanche, but has posted a 1.59 goals-against average and .958 save percentage to earn the team four points. No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko is close to a return, but Boudreau wouldn't tip his hand as to who he plans to start.

"We know we've got another goalie in the system that we can call up and have confidence in at any time," Boudreau said. "He has played great. But ... Demko and (Jaroslav) Halak have proven that they're great goaltenders, so it's not going to be a difficult decision.

"When it does happen and we do have the two goalies (return), we will know that we have a third waiting."

--Field Level Media

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