After third straight loss, Flames playoff chances take another hit

The Calgary Flames know what their two losses this weekend did to their playoff hopes.

It would be hard for them to ignore it.

Dropping games to the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres made their already-slim chances of qualifying for the post-season even worse.

They’re 12 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights, who are sitting in the second wild card position in the Western Conference, and they’ve only got 12 games left.

It doesn’t look good and after Sunday’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Sabres, the Flames acknowledged as much.

That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re just going to throw in the towel.

“We’re gonna keep going every game and these two games, we’ve been battling hard and competing,” said Flames captain Mikael Backlund. “Two tight games, just haven’t been executing and that’s what cost us.

“Just got to stick with it … not too many games left so we’ve got to go out and enjoy every game.”
Let’s pause here for just a second.

Because when Backlund mentioned enjoying every game, it was the second time he’d said it during his post-game media availability.

And it’s a message that clearly resonates with his teammates.

The Flames are trying to integrate new players and deal with the losses of Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev. It’s a really tough hand to be dealt, and it’s no surprise that it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

The Flames have lost six of their last eight games and three in a row.

Their playoff chances are slim-to-none.

So they’ve got to find a way to make the most of their remaining dozen games, regardless of what’s at stake.

And when Oliver Kylington was asked about his captain’s assertion that the Flames need to find a way to enjoy doing the work for these final 12 games, he doubled-down on Backlund’s message.

“I agree 100%,” Kylington said. “As individuals, everyone as individuals has to come to work and do their part and we build that chemistry together and we go out and play for each other.

“I agree with Backs. Doesn’t matter where we are in the standings and how everything looks. We have to go out and play for each other and that has to be there. Doesn’t matter what time of year it is.”

The results haven’t been good for the past couple of weeks, but to the Flames’ credit, they’ve kept fighting. They had a chance in the games against both the Sabres and Canucks, but late goals saw their opponents pull away.

It’s always more fun when you’re winning and in the playoff hunt. But the Flames need to find other reasons to give it their all and compete for one another.
“It doesn’t matter what position we’re in, we’ve got to play for the pride of the jersey and the organization and us,” said Flames winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored on Sunday night. “Try to enjoy these last games and play hard and play well and play as a team as we’ve been doing all year.”

Clearly, the Flames are disappointed with where they’re at in the standings.

But it’s equally obvious that they believe they can be better and don’t want to spend the final couple weeks of the season losing games.

Every team wants to be playing for the chance at post-season glory. But when that becomes as unlikely as it’s become for the Flames, you’ve got to find something else to fight for.

“We’re all competitors,” Kylington said. “We just have to remind ourselves that we’re here for each other and we want to make ourselves better and push each other. That starts in practice and that transcends the game. We can’t just not do that every day. We have to do that every day.”

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