CALGARY – What was supposed to be a playoff chase has turned into a funeral march.
A slow, painful procession moving the Calgary Flames closer to Connor Bedard than the top 8.
A 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild Saturday was the Flames’ fifth straight loss.
They’ve won one of their last seven at home, prompting a whittled down group of fans who remained for the final two minutes of their latest loss to rain a steady stream of boos down upon the host club.
“I’d boo too,” said Darryl Sutter, before adding an odd qualifier.
“I don’t think they were booing the team.”
Well, pray tell, who were they booing?
“Our top players have got to be better players, that’s for sure,” he said.
They all need to be better.
And for the record, they were all being booed.
On this night the offence obviously let Jacob Markstrom down, which marks an interesting turn of events in the last two games.
In an eventless game that was 1-0 heading into the third, Markstrom was solid, turning aside 30 shots to keep the game close.
The Flames offence was listless, allowing yet another backup goaltender to leave town with a puffed chest and two points.
This time his name was Filip Gustavsson, who has 57 NHL starts to his name.
A lack of energy was the big talking point amongst the players after the game, mirrored by the stoic, faraway stare on the face of Milan Lucic.
“It was kind of flat on our end from start to finish,” said Lucic, seething.
“At this point of the year, especially, you should be excited and have a lot of energy to play every single night. That’s on us as individuals and us as a team.”
Asked if he blamed the fans for booing, he was quick to answer.
“No,” he said.
“They probably felt the same energy – or lack of energy – that we played with.”
Up until Saturday, to say they’ve given up would be inaccurate, as the team had played some pretty good hockey in their previous four losses.
It would be impossible to blame the fans for their reaction, as frustration has been building for several months.
They’ve waited all year long for this team to deal with a summer of change, get acclimated and live up to expectations they, and everyone else, had for this veteran group.
But at this point, there’s little reason to believe this team is capable of digging out of the massive hole it languishes in.
Earlier in the evening the Winnipeg Jets beat Edmonton to surge seven ahead of the Flames.
That turned the Flames focus onto catching Colorado for the final wild card berth.
Yep, the Flames now need the outrageously deep and talented defending champions to fold to have a marginal shot at bridging the six-point gap between them.
The odds are better Sutter will take all the media out for dinner.
“Mediocre, honestly,” was Rasmus Andersson’s assessment of their latest face plant.
“It’s 1-0 going into the third and we’ve got to find a push, get some energy, get going, play in the o-zone with the puck and make plays. But we’re not.”
Instead, it was the Wild that carried the play, outshooting the Flames 13-12 in the final frame, outscoring them 2-0.
Cue the boos.
“You understand it,” said Andersson of the fans’ displeasure.
“Passionate fan base. It’s obviously tough for us. You understand it.
“We haven’t been very good lately.
“Everyone on the team just has to look at ourselves in the mirror. We can’t blame anyone else.”
You won’t read here and of the cursory quotes from players suggesting they haven’t given up and still believe they can pull off a miracle.
They have to say that.
They’re paid millions to say so.
Despite all the preseason debate over whether the revamped club may actually be better, the Flames simply aren’t good enough, even on many of their best nights.
Their longest winning streak is three games, which happened three months ago.
They haven’t won two consecutively in almost six weeks.
The only shocking thing about the boos, is that they haven’t come earlier.