Flames keep battling in face of adversity with playoffs further out of reach

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There’s another game Sunday.

The Buffalo Sabres are coming to town for a contest at the Saddledome.

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If you’re the Calgary Flames, you might as well focus on that one.

You might as well take things one game at a time and focus on what’s in front of you. The Flames are in a situation where those clichés apply.

Because if the alternative is looking at the standings after Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, that’s not going to do you a whole lot of good.

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There’s no shame in losing to a team like the Canucks. They’re tied for the most points in the entire NHL, after all. Most teams lose to them.

And the Flames can’t have many regrets about the way they played, either. The Canucks were the better team, but objectively speaking, that’s going to be true most nights when these two teams square off. The Flames fought hard and were in it until they weren’t. It wasn’t an awful performance.

“These are games you want to find a way to win,” Flames head coach Ryan Huska told reporters in Vancouver. “We got a late goal in the second period and you want to build on some of that momentum and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”

But the loss left them 12 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights, who are sitting in the Western Conference’s second wildcard position. The Flames have 13 games left to try to make up those points.

There’s still a chance, mathematically, but not much of one.

It doesn’t do the Flames much good to acknowledge that, though. They’ve vowed to keep fighting until the end and have mostly been good to their word, even as they’ve seen Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin traded away for younger players and prospects.

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Calgary Flames forward Blake Coleman battles Vancouver Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday, March 23, 2024. Photo by Derek Cain /Getty Images

Despite the adversity, they’ve continue to show up and compete. On the vast majority of nights, they’ve kept themselves in games and the effort hasn’t been an issue, even if they wound up on the losing end the way they did on Saturday in Vancouver.

There’s too much pride in the locker-room for these Flames to just call it a day and pack it in for their final 13 games.

So even if those matchups matter increasingly less in terms of the standings, it’s where they’re putting their focus.

“Just reset, opportunity to put two points in the bank,” said Flames centre Nazem Kadri when he was asked about his team’s mindset.

Technically, the next couple days do provide an opportunity for the Flames to pick up points.

Neither the Sabres nor Tuesday’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, are anywhere near a playoff spot. They’re beatable, even if it’s not ideal that the Flames had to hop on a late flight back to Calgary from Vancouver after Saturday night’s game and immediately start preparing to host the Sabres.

And after a loss to the Canucks that most hockey fans probably would have predicted but still stung anyway, that’s what the Flames were focusing on post-game.

Even if the playoffs are extremely unlikely at this point, the Flames still have work to do before the season ends. There are young players trying to learn how they fit into the system and a group of players that’s shown a willingness to play tenacious hockey all season.

So they’ll focus on the game ahead of them.

“Just recharge and be ready for tomorrow,” Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson told reporters in Vancouver. “We know it’s going to be a late night tonight. Get the rest you need and come ready to play tomorrow.”

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