Flames plagued by familiar struggles vs. Blues as losing streak hits five games

Jordan Kyrou led the way on offence with a pair of goals and Pavel Buchnevich and Ivan Barbeshev added a goal and an assist each as the St. Louis Blues handed the Calgary Flames their fifth straight loss, winning 5-2.

CALGARY – Just 31 games into the season, and the question has to be asked:

Are things starting to get away from the Calgary Flames?

“No, it’s not getting away from us,” insisted Mikael Backlund, whose club has already pieced together five and seven-game losing skids before Christmas.

“We know we can still do a really good thing here.

“But we’ve got to pull together here and be a lot better.”

Better than they showed in a 5-2 loss to St. Louis Friday, where egregious giveaways, defensive lapses and a popgun offence continue to be the story.

“Execution wasn’t good enough tonight,” he continued.

“Secondary efforts, digging in to score. 

“Never gave up, gave up some goals. 

“But we haven’t given up here. 

“We know we’re chasing it, for sure.

“We’re behind in the standings. 

“We know we’ve got to play better, win more games, and we’re going to do it.”

The good news is the Flames went to bed tied for the west’s final wild card spot — a charitable landing for a club sitting 13-12-6.

However, their inability to find someone to step up offensively with any regularity continues to threaten their hopes of living up to the massive preseason expectations lumped on this revamped bunch.

Trailing the Blues 2-1 in the second period the Flames squandered three power play opportunities, including a 22-second 5-on-3.

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“Missed opportunities – we’re in there the whole time,” said Sutter.

“Again, that’s production.

“It was still a one goal game and you’ve still got to score that goal.”

This team hasn’t been able to, which is why Sutter moved Jonathan Huberdeau from Elias Lindholm’s line to Nazem Kadri’s as he searches so desperately to find chemistry on a team that went from having the best line in hockey to not having a definitive first line at all.

Thomas Greiss stopped all 15 shots he faced in that middle frame from a team that hasn’t been able to recover from the loss of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.

Despite outshooting the Blues 42-23, the only one able to finish on this night for the Flames was sixth defenceman Connor Mackey, who deserves full marks for jumping up into the offensive zone on both finishes.

However, just 78 seconds after his second of the year closed the gap to 3-2, he threw a pizza up the middle of the ice from behind his own net for an easy finish by Brandon Saad.

Game over.

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“The only defenceman in the league who can pass on his backhand up the middle of the ice from below the goal line is Cale Makar,” said Sutter.

“Just don’t do it.”

He did it, prompting Nikita Zadorov to put his arm around Mackey on the bench to console the youngster trying desperately to prove he deserves to stay in the NHL.

Flames fans are the ones in need of consoling these days, as their club continues to stumble.

Unlike earlier in the year when the losing skid hit seven, these five losses aren’t on their goaltender.

These ones revolve largely around an anemic offence, complicated by mental mistakes in their own zone.   

We have a good team here but we’ve got to show it too,” said Backlund.

“We’re far from where we’re starting to doubt ourselves. We know we can win games.

“But, at the same time, we know we’re a team that’s going to win by keeping it low, not giving up goals. 

“We know we’ll be (in) tight scoring and once in a while we get a big win.

“But, we know that we’ve got to play with a tight checking game, we’ve got to get back to that.”

Then came a telling response, when asked if that was different from last year.

“I don’t like to compare last year to this year – I mean we swapped out some big names,” said Backlund of a team struggling to recover from those losses.

“It’s a big change up. It’s a process. 

“This year we’re losing guys and we’re bringing new guys for sure.”

And they haven’t been able to have the sort of impact they were brought in to have.


Meanwhile, the two who left continue to light it up elsewhere, leaving the Flames reeling as they head to California for four games they need to win against division foes.

“It’s not there right now,” said Elias Lindholm, who was guilty of a rare turnover that led to the Blues’ opening goal just four minutes in.

“There’s pucks laying around there but we’re not putting in that extra effort to beat their man one on one and stuff like that. 

“I think we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and be better.

“Obviously tonight too many odd man rushes and too many turnovers.

“I made a bad play there and it starts with me, so be better.”  

Is frustration setting in?

“Of course, we lost (five) in a row – everyone is frustrated,” added Lindholm.

“You want to win and get into a playoff spot, but the way we played tonight we’re not going to get in there.”

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