SNAPSHOTS: It’s official — the Calgary Flames are in a slump


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It feels like nothing is going right for the Calgary Flames.

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The losses are adding up. Tuesday’s 3-1 setback to the New York Rangers marked their third straight, a string of back-to-back-to-back bummers that leaves them with a 2-4-1 record so far in the fresh season.

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Rasmus Andersson lost his suspension appeal, meaning Calgary’s best defenceman will sit for two more.

That way that Adam Ruzicka exited in the opening period, with one arm dangling and a trainer in tow, it’s fair to wonder if the Flames have lost a third forward to a significant shoulder injury.

“Guys are frustrated,” said veteran voice-of-reason Blake Coleman after Tuesday’s defeat at the Saddledome. “It’s … I don’t want to use the word ‘embarrassing,’ but it’s a home game that we needed to come out and win, and we didn’t. I’m pissed off. I think a lot of guys are pissed off, and I hope everybody handles it the right way and uses that as motivation.

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“I can only focus on myself, but we have a lot of good players — a lot of good players — in this room. When we come together, we can be a really dangerous team. But we need to do that.”

And soon.

That was the consensus after this latest loss — not only among the dudes in the locker-room, but also from fans as they scraped off their vehicles outside the Saddledome, from those who stayed awake to dial the post-game call-in show on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.

Asked about the state of his squad, bench boss Ryan Huska offered this description: “Trying to find its way.”

“I didn’t expect it to be this early, nobody did,” said Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar of this fall funk. “But here we are. The only guys who are going to get us out of this rut are the 20 guys in this room. We have to work hard. I’ve said this all along — we’ve got the compete, we’ve got the effort in here, we’ve got the guys.

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“We’re just in a bit of a slump. It came early. I believe we can get out of it, but it’s going to take hard work and we have to put an end to it ASAP.”

Dillon Dube
Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube tries to deflect a shot in front of the New York Rangers net at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

The plan, of course, was to stop the skid at two. Didn’t happen.

Coleman scored just 75 seconds into Tuesday’s affair, squeezing a blocker-side shot past Igor Shesterkin, but the Blueshirts flipped the script with a pair of man-advantage markers in the middle frame.

With Matt Coronato seated in the sin-bin, Alexis Lafreniere drained a dandy deflection. Seven minutes later, after Nikita Zadorov was busted for holding, Artemi Panarin set up Chris Kreider for a gorgeous redirect.

Before the second intermission, old friend Erik Gustafsson had cleaned up a loose puck in the crease to give the out-of-towners a two-goal edge.

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“It’s just another game that we had a great start to and let get away,” Coleman groaned. “At the end of the day, losing has gotta keep you up at night. It’s easy to say, but I’m sick of losing. I think I can speak for the guys in our room that we’re sick of losing. It burns me up.

“I think, as a group, we just need to have way more fire. Too flat in the second period, let the game get out of hand. It’s just the same story so far. We have to figure this out real quick.”

Next up for the Flames is Thursday’s showdown with the St. Louis Blues at the Saddledome (7 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

The good news is the majority of Pacific Division teams are sputtering early — that certainly doesn’t include the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights — but the locals realize they can’t afford to let the losses mount.

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“I don’t know if I’m concerned, just upset,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “I know we have a good hockey team in here. I believe in all the guys that we’re going to turn this around and we’re going to win games again. We all know in here we can be better.

“We have to stick together. You find out a lot about your group when things are tough and about individuals, too, when things aren’t going your way. We have to roll up our sleeves here. Next game is the biggest game of the year. We have to come out of this and start winning some games. It starts with the next game.”

Adam Ruzicka
Calgary Flames forward Adam Ruzicka is tended to after being hit along the boards during a game against the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

AROUND THE BOARDS

There was no post-game update on Ruzicka’s status. The second-line left-winger suffered an apparent arm/shoulder injury on a first-period jolt from Jimmy Vesey, who should have been whistled for boarding. If Ruzicka is going to miss a stretch, Adam Klapka or Connor Zary are the top candidates for a recall from the minors. Klapka has scored four goals in as many appearances this fall with the Wranglers, while Zary is tied for the AHL lead with eight assists. The 22-year-old Zary has mostly skated as a centre throughout his career, but he’s currently working the flank with the farm team … Coleman’s first-period marker doubled as a milestone moment. He now has 200 career points, although he was hardly in a mood to celebrate. “I can be better in a lot of ways for this team, and I’m going to find ways to be better,” declared Coleman, who registered a team-high four shots on net against the Rangers. “I had chances that I feel like I should have put away in this game. And had I finished those chances, we would’ve been in a better spot as a team. At the end of the day, you can control what you can control and I’d like to make some more plays, create some more offence, block a few more shots. Things like that, I feel like I can improve on. And I think if each guy takes on that onus, we’re going to be a better team and we’re going to dig ourselves right out of this.” … Weegar, who skated Tuesday alongside Noah Hanifin on the top pairing, also vowed to do more. “You have to look at yourself and be the guy to step up,” he stressed. “I can take that personally and I can bear down on the chances and create more energy. Sometimes, I’m the energy guy, and I feel like I haven’t been creating as much energy on the bench or on the ice. It’s creating that buzz. It’s getting guys going. I think I can be better at that.”

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OFF THE GLASS

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refused to budge on Andersson’s appeal, ruling that the workhorse blue-liner must serve his full four-game suspension as punishment for Friday’s right-before-the-buzzer elbow on Patrik Laine of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That means Andersson will not be available for Sunday’s Heritage Classic matchup with the Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium … Stat that jumped off Tuesday’s game-sheet — Elias Lindholm logged 23:04 of ice time, the heaviest workload by a Flames forward in any game so far this season. Backlund was not far behind at 21:20 … Midway through the third, Jonathan Huberdeau had a clean look at a big chunk of the 4×6, but he wasn’t able to elevate the shot and Rangers stalwart Shesterkin flashed his left pad for arguably the best of his 23 stops … Jacob Markstrom delivered 17 saves in the home crease, none better than a beauty blocker on Mika Zibanejad … After watching six in a row as a healthy scratch, depth forward Dryden Hunt logged his first appearance in the Flaming C. He was credited with a pair of hits.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

On X: @WesGilbertson

MacKenzie Weeger, Chris Kreider
Calgary Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weeger and New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider collide at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Jim Wells /Postmedia

Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to calgaryflames@postmedia.com

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