Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter has often called the NHL a 3-2 league. His team has been in three consecutive games that finished with that score heading into a Friday home clash with the New York Islanders.
The bad news for Sutter’s troops is his team is not having as much success as they need in those tight affairs, including a Tuesday road loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Flames have been part of a league-high 24 one-goal games, in which they have posted a disappointing 10-7-7 record. Hurting Calgary’s cause is a team-wide 8.7 percent shooting rate, ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, who are 30th and 32nd in the overall league standings.
As tough as it has been for the Flames to score goals, they believe better days are ahead.
“The last few weeks, we’ve been playing the way we want,” said center Nazem Kadri, who was selected to the All-Star Game on Thursday. “Obviously, we could have played a little bit better the last couple games, but sometimes that’s how it goes. You’ve got to regroup, reset and get ready to get a big win (on Friday).”
Along the way, the Flames are looking for another element in their game: emotion. The disappointment of dropping the game in Winnipeg could be much-needed fuel in that regard, with a few players believing they let slip away a game they should have won.
“That’s a good thing. Guys care in this room,” center Mikael Backlund said. “We know we can play better and it matters a lot to the guys in here and that’s a good thing. That’s how we’ve got to keep pushing each other. Use that energy, use that emotion.”
The Islanders arrive in Calgary with some frustration of their own. New York dropped a 4-2 game in Edmonton on Thursday, a final score much more flattering than the Islanders’ actual performance.
“We can’t expect to start off slow and spot the other team two, three, whatever goals a night to start,” New York defenseman Noah Dobson said. “When you’re playing from behind, it makes it even tougher against good teams.”
The Islanders trailed by two goals after a first period in which they were outshot 18-4. Sure, the Oilers were looking to redeem themselves after a couple of dismal games, but the Islanders were simply overmatched at the outset.
“We’re searching for answers on that,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said. “We have to find answers. We knew they were going to come out hard, that’s fine. We failed to make little plays. You have to make little plays to get pucks out of your zone when teams are coming at you hard, and we didn’t.”
As a result, the Islanders have lost two of three outings during their four-game road trip. The plan is to finish on a positive note — and a .500 mark on the trip.
“It’s just a matter of every single guy individually just having themselves ready to go and play the right way and the way that we play,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said.
On the positive side, New York’s Mathew Barzal continues to hold a hot hand. The forward, who started the season goalless through the first 18 games, has scored six times in a five-game streak.
Earlier Thursday, Islanders center Brock Nelson was named to his first All-Star Game. He has collected 15 goals and 23 assists in 40 games.
–Field Level Media