CALGARY – The death knell has been sounded for Calgary Flames’ playoff hopes this season.
A 2-1 loss to San Jose combined with Colorado’s 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver on Tuesday ensured the Flames (40-31-9) will miss the post-season for the first time since 2003. “We all feel like we failed and we did fail,” said sombre Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Had the Avs been held to one point by Vancouver in overtime, Calgary’s slim playoff aspirations would have survived another day. After the loss to San Jose, the Flames watched the Avs-Canucks games in the dressing room with faint hope – until Colorado’s Matt Duchene crushed it with the shootout winner.
The Flames close out their season hosting Minnesota on Thursday and the finale in Vancouver on Saturday. They reached the Stanley Cup final and lost to Tampa Bay in seven games in 2004 before the NHL’s locked-out season. The Flames then lost in the first round of playoffs the next four years.
Finishing out of the playoffs is a step backwards for a team looking for its first Stanley Cup win in 21 years.
Calgary’s performance Tuesday was indicative of their struggle to score goals, which has plagued them all season. Barring an offensive outburst in their final two meaningless games, they’ll finish in the bottom three in the NHL in goal production.
Tuesday’s game was Calgary in a nutshell: strong defence and goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff, but an anaemic power-play, a continuation of Iginla’s scoring drought, and a lack of secondary scoring from the forward lines.
Calgary went into the game with a 7-19-3 record when their opponent scored first, which San Jose did in the first and second periods to take a 2-0 lead. Rene Bourque’s goal early in the third halved the deficit and breathed some life into Calgary’s game. But despite outshooting the Sharks 39-26, the hosts did not score again.
Tuesday’s loss was the 25th game this season that Calgary was either shut out or held to one goal.
“We needed to find more goals in a lot of close games,” Iginla said. “We’ve been in too many 2-1 games. Those are the hardest where you think “just one shot”. It’s just one shot and we haven’t found it this year in the close ones. This one stings a lot.”
Iginla took questions from the media in the dressing room before Colorado had even clinched a playoff spot, while his teammates waited until that game was over. A grim-looking Flames president and CEO Ken King made his way through the dressing room before the players emerged.
The captain continued to take on blame he’d shouldered at Tuesday’s pre-game skate. The two-time winner of the NHL’s goalscoring race estimated he’d finish with about 70 points this season, which he said wasn’t enough.
Iginla has scored five goals in 18 games since assisting on Sidney Crosby’s goal to win the Olympic gold medal Feb. 28 in Vancouver.
But there was little offensive support behind the captain Tuesday or for much of the season. Three forwards acquired in trades Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 – Ales Kotalik, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman – have produced a combined nine goals between them since joining the team. Stajan was Iginla’s centre upon his arrival in the deal that sent defenceman Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs.
David Moss missed 13 straight games due to injury in January and February and he’ll fall short of his 20-goal output of last season. Daymond Langkow, a reliable producer of secondary scoring, has been out of the lineup with a back injury since March 23, but Calgary was healthier this season than a lot of NHL clubs.
“Expectations are a lot higher than this,” Moss said. “It was one of those years where you can look back on a lot of things where we could have got points, we should have got points and it just didn’t happen.”
Calgary led the Northwest Division on Jan. 5, but then plummeted on a nine-game losing streak. That put the Flames in a position where they couldn’t give Kiprusoff much rest post-Olympics. Backup Vesa Toskala, acquired at the March 3 trade deadline, played only two games while the Finnish starter reached the 71-game mark Tuesday.
But Calgary’s downfall was at the other end of the ice and not in their net. The former Vezina Trophy winner had a strong season.
“He’s had I think his best his season since the Vezina if not even winning the Vezina,” Iginla said of his goaltender. “In front of him, we couldn’t get enough offence. I didn’t produce to what I was hoping to and I know a lot of us feel that way. We needed to find more goals in a lot of close games.”
Calgary’s home record was 20-17-3 after Tuesday’s loss.
“We were in this position because of what happened before today,” said head coach Brent Sutter, who was hired by general manager and brother Darryl prior to the 2009-10 season. “When your home record is what it is, it’ll put you in a tough spot, which we were in.
“I’m disappointed for our fans (because of) the support they give this organization.”