Flames frustrated by 'awful' performance in loss to Ducks

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The losses are one thing.

But another defeat wasn’t what was bothering MacKenzie Weegar on Tuesday night.

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It was the performance that the Calgary Flames put out against the Anaheim Ducks.

Losing’s always going to hurt, but it’s generally a little less painful for a team if they played the way they set out to.

And on Tuesday night, the Flames fell well short of the standard they’re trying to set in their final stretch of games this season. Head coach Ryan Huska called it “awful.” Captain Mikael Backlund cut a frustrated figure as he spoke with the media post-game.

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And Weegar admitted that he couldn’t quite wrap his head around the Flames’ effort at the Saddledome.

“For the remainder of the year we just need to bounce back and start playing for one another,” the defenceman said. “I don’t care if we lose the next eight games, (we need to) come to battle and work for each other.”

It’s hard not to feel a little bit bad for the Flames veterans who are grinding through this challenging season.

They’ve been out of playoff contention for a while now and have seen some of their most important players traded away in-season so that the team could avoid losing them for nothing in free agency.

Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom defends againstAnaheim Ducks forward Brett Leason at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

For the most part, though, they’ve continued to work their tails off and there doesn’t seem to be the same darkness surrounding the locker-room that was plain for anybody to see towards the end of last season.

But there is frustration, and it’s not exclusively about the results.

The Flames have lost nine of their last 12 games, but it’s the inconsistency that really grates on the players.

How could they go out and play one of their better games of the season on Saturday night against the playoff-bound Los Angeles Kings and then fall so flat against the going-nowhere Ducks three nights later?

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“We just did it to a playoff team last game. I don’t know why it just flipped so quickly like that. It’s weird and I don’t get it,” Weegar said. “I think when we play our best, we’re structured. We execute the right way.

“As a forward or even as a d-man, if you do see there’s an opportunity to find a breakaway or stretch the zone a bit, make those D back off, of course you can take a page out of that. But for the most part, for 60 minutes you want to play that structured hockey.”

That’s going to be one of the focuses between now and April 18, when the Flames wrap up their regular season against the San Jose Sharks.

They do, of course, want to win some of their remaining eight games, but there has been constant conversation about setting standards and holding everyone to them, even if the playoffs are no longer a possibility.

What are those standards? Well, being prepared for puck-drop and putting in the hard work for a full 60 minutes are pretty high on the list of things the Flames want to establish as part of their identity.

Calgary Flames vs. Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames forward Andrei Kuzmenko celebrates a goal against Anaheim Ducks netminder Lukas Dostal at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

So while a meaningless Tuesday night game against another non-playoff team really isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, putting in a more complete effort matters to the Flames. It matters a lot.

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“All we can control is our performance and how we approach games and how we play,” Backlund said. “If we play the right way and play hard, the results are going to come, but all we can focus on is how we approach games and how we perform.”

And that’s exactly what the Flames do on Wednesday when they return to the practice ice before a quick trip to Winnipeg for a game against the Jets on Thursday night. They’ve got a Battle of Alberta at the Saddledome on Saturday and if there’s any game you’d expect it would be easy to get up for, it’s one with the Edmonton Oilers.

And then, they’ll have half-a-dozen games before the start of a long summer.

None of those matchups will count for anything in the playoff race, but the Flames still swear there are things they can accomplish. Namely, they can start establishing a culture where everyone is prepared to work relentlessly for the guy sitting in the stall next to them in the lockerroom.

“I mean, we’re just competitors at the end of the day,” Weegar said. “I find motivation every day to come play the greatest game in the world, you don’t take that for granted here. I don’t think anybody does.

“It’s those things that keep you coming back to the rink and wanting to play your best, it’s for the next guy beside you. We’ve come so far, so many relationships were built this season, and it’s that passion you bring to the rink every day.”

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