New guys not the problem as Flames suffer third straight lopsided loss

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This isn’t on the new guys.

Maybe the Calgary Flames need to be a little patient with the players they’ve acquired over the past couple weeks as they figure out the team’s systems and who they might have chemistry with.

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That’s probably inevitable. There will be a few growing pains, even if some of the Flames won’t say it out loud.

But as the Flames dropped their third straight game on Tuesday night, falling 6-2 to the Colorado Avalanche in their latest lopsided defeat, the new bodies weren’t the problem.

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At least not from head coach Ryan Huska’s vantage point.

“The new faces, I don’t think are the issue,” Huska said. “There’s guys on the ice who have been here a number of years, they still made mistakes over the last few games that they normally don’t make. For us, the teaching is something we have to do a little bit more of as we move forward.

“What’s made this team a good team is they’ve got some edge or pushback and the last two games that’s been missing and that’s something we have to get back.”

In their last three games, the Flames have been outscored 18-5. It’s been ugly.

Is it inevitable, though?

How mad can anyone be at this group of players? They fought tooth-and-nail to stay in the playoff hunt for most of the season, only to see Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Elias Lindholm all dealt away in the month-or-so before the NHL’s trade deadline last week.

That’s led to lineups like the one they put on the ice Tuesday.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche forward Yakov Trenin celebrates as a shot gets past Calgary Flames goalie Dan Vladar at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

Daniil Miromanov, Nikita Okhotiuk and Joel Hanley were all on the blueline, and all of them were acquired in the last eight days.

Were they a problem? Not really. The definitely weren’t the problem.

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Look at the scoresheet and it will tell you that both Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington were minus-3. They’ve both been around the Flames for years.

And this isn’t entirely on the defence, either. The Flames are definitely allowing too many goals right now, but that’s the responsibility of the entire group, not just the blueliners.

“It’s all over the zone,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “A couple goals were scored off their controlled breakout and I think all over the ice we’re not playing as a group right now, I don’t feel like we’re connected and we’ve got to fix that.”

How do you fix it at this point in the season? That’s an interesting question, and it’s worth noting that the Flames were dealt a tough hand against an elite opponent on Tuesday.

It’s not just trying to integrate so many new guys. Winger Connor Zary is nearing a return, but is still unavailable because of an injury. They had to pull Andrei Kuzmenko from the lineup late because of a personal matter. Andrew Mangiapane got sick and was scratched, and Jacob Markstrom is considered day-to-day.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
Calgary Flames forward Walker Duehr’s shot goes past Colorado Avalanche goalie Justus Annunen at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

The were shorthanded and that’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation.

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But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Maybe that could explain away one bad performance, but when it’s three in a row it starts to feel like there’s something else going on.

“We’re professionals, we’re supposed to go out there and do our jobs,” said Flames centre Nazem Kadri. “We haven’t been given the easiest circumstances this year but disappointing to lose in any fashion and tonight’s another example of that.”

The Flames will get back to work on Wednesday morning. They’ll review tape and practice and start preparing for the Vegas Golden Knights, who visit the Saddledome on Thursday.Hopefully, they can stop the bleeding quickly.

Losing can take its toll. Losing by a lot can be even more damaging.

“When you get to a stretch of games where you get it handed to you like we did in Carolina and the end of that Florida game, and things don’t really go your way and the other team carries the play you start thinking, ‘I don’t want to make a mistake,’ “ Huska said. “That’s not the mindset we need to play with. It’s about making sure we stay on the attack and making sure we stay with what makes us a good team and that’s playing as a group of five on the ice.”

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