Finally, the Calgary Flames have found some consistency.
Not in a good way, however.
In each of their last six losses the Flames have scored just one goal. No more, no less.
It’s a steadiness nobody is talking about, as the focus has been on defensive lapses, giveaways, bad starts, work ethic issues and, um, what were we talking about again?
Oh yeah, goals.
Buried in a mountain of criticism and finger pointing in Calgary is a scoring issue for a team that never envisioned struggling this way.
It’s particularly troubling when you’re housed in the NHL’s highest-scoring division.
Canada’s Group of Seven is averaging 6.4 goals a game, a rate the NHL hasn’t seen league-wide since 1993-94.
One goal a game isn’t going to cut it.
The top four teams in the North Division all sit top-seven in the NHL’s scoring ranks, while Calgary sits 17 places lower than Montreal, in 24th at 2.50 goals a game.
The Oilers and Leafs have scored over a goal more per game this year than a Flames club that has struggled recently against the likes of Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa, none of which are known as stellar defensive squads.
The four most significant goal scorers on the Flames roster all need to be better, as the man leading the way of late is Andrew Mangiapane, who has scored the third-most goals in the NHL in the month of February.
It speaks to the team’s depth issues up front – something that was supposed to be this team’s strength.
The third and fourth lines have struggled to find chemistry, and the net.
This is not a four-line hockey club, as the coach regularly trumpets.
This is a three-line team with a handful of extras bouncing in and out of the lineup.
Of late, everyone has been silent.
The Flames have eight goals in their last six outings, three of which were power play markers.
The constant shuffling of lines hasn’t helped, but that’s a chicken and egg debate.
The coach didn’t discount the possibility of starting Saturday’s game with last year’s familiar top six lineup, putting Lindholm back alongside Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, while Backlund centres Matthew Tkachuk and Mangiapane.
That’s how they finished on Thursday.
“In my opinion we’re not having the puck enough,” said captain Mark Giordano, whose club has been outscored significantly by every Canadian team in 5-on-5 this year.
“We’re getting a chance up the rush and then it’s out right away. For the last little bit, we’ve defended quite a bit. There’s really not much left in the neutral zone. You’ve got to get the puck behind their defence and build a shift from there. Once we build that mindset and get it in there, we’ll be fine.”
Their inability to generate up front has led to endless first period deficits, which ultimately leads to the team giving up on nights like Thursday’s 6-1 shellacking in Ottawa where the players essentially admitted afterwards they had run out of gas and hope after going down 4-1.
In past years the Flames were armed with the offence and belief they could come back.
Unsurprisingly, the fragility of this group was a big topic after Friday’s practice.
“I think we have a lot of highs and lows instead of staying even keel throughout the game,” Chris Tanev said.
“When we’re going good we feel like we’re on top of the world, and then the other team scores and we feel the world is ending. It’s something we definitely need to work on. It’s a mental thing obviously. We’ve got to talk to each other and be positive.”
And start scoring some goals.
NOTES: The Flames gave David Rittich the day off on Friday after playing four times in the last six nights. He’ll undoubtedly get his fourth-straight start on Saturday (11 a.m. MT) as Jacob Markstrom isn’t eligible to come off injured reserve until Sunday. Markstrom skated on his own on Friday as he fights to bounce back from an upper body injury.