THE CANADIAN PRESS
CALGARY — Jarome Iginla took responsibility for not coming through in the clutch for the Calgary Flames.
With just one goal in Calgary’s last nine games, Iginla admitted that he hasn’t play well enough lately for the Flames, who failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season.
"I know that I wasn’t good enough, especially down the stretch," said the team captain, who nonetheless leads the Flames in scoring with 32 goals and 34 assists through 80 games.
"I know a lot of us wanted to be better than we were. Playing here, playing in Canada and being out (of the playoffs) for three years, it’s not going to be an easy off-season, but they haven’t been for the last few years either.
"It’s tough on everybody, but we put ourselves here and there’s absolutely nobody to blame but ourselves."
After going 6-1-1 to start the month of March, the Flames floundered the rest of the way with a 1-4-4 record. Calgary’s 3-2 overtime loss in Vancouver to the Canucks on Saturday officially ended any hope the Flames had at qualifying for the post-season.
"We put ourselves in the position nine games ago to have a shot," Iginla said. "We’ve been through a lot as a team as far as battling different things throughout the year. We had an opportunity and we didn’t make the most of it. We only look at ourselves and know that we didn’t get it done."
Fellow forward Olli Jokinen said every player on the Flames is disappointed with the team’s up-and-down play.
"I don’t think there’s a single player here who’s happy the way we played," said Jokinen, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"You can’t be happy if you don’t get in the playoffs. This is our job. We have to play for that logo in front of us. We have to show some pride. We still have two more games to go. We can’t stop playing now. That’s the biggest thing."
Calgary coach Brent Sutter also accepted blame for not being able to get the Flames into the playoffs.
"I feel totally responsible and I feel like I let a lot of people down," Sutter said. "You take the job on to get things done and to get it to where it needs to be. I feel totally responsible for that."
With two home games remaining on their schedule — on Thursday against the Canucks and on Saturday versus the Anaheim Ducks — Sutter said the Flames still have to play for self pride, the front of the jersey, Calgary’s ownership group and for the fans.
"It’s a tough time, but that being said, my job as a head coach is to make sure our team is ready to play these next two games to the best of our ability," Sutter said. "We have to make sure that we’re as good as we can be in those two games and playing up to the standards that are acceptable."
After what defenceman Cory Sarich described as a "mentally-taxing March," the Flames have set their sights on finishing the season strongly.
"As far as these last two games, we’re just going to play as hard as we can and try to win them both," said Sarich, while noting that it won’t be hard to get up Thursday’s game against the Canucks. "There’s not a lot of cheery feeling for those guys. Any time you can beat those guys, it’s a good feeling. They’re a good team and we want to beat them."
Forward Matt Stajan added that the players definitely want to play well in their last two games in front of the hometown faithful at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
"I think the fans here are great," Stajan said. "The fans care. When you’re winning it’s the greatest place to be. Obviously when you fall short, it’s not as fun and it’s disappointing. That’s on us. We played the games and we fell short. We’ve got to play these last two games and try and finish strong."
While he’s disappointed with his play down the stretch and the fact that the Flames will be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, Iginla said he still thinks that the organization has a lot of good things going for it.
"Everyone said that the cupboards were bare or we didn’t have anybody ready to step in," Iginla said. "You saw a lot of guys that did step in and gave us that shot to be there in that position in the last 10 games. I think it’s going in the right direction."