Not mathematically out.
It’s tough to be too hard on the Calgary Flames after their latest lopsided loss as the players have long been dealing with the disappointment of ending yet another season with unfulfilled promise.
On Wednesday it showed.
Hammering home just how bad one of the North’s pre-season favourites have been, consider that minutes before the Flames faced off against the Winnipeg Jets, the Ottawa Senators jumped into a fifth-place tie with Calgary.
Yes, the same Senators that opened the season with two wins in their first 15 outings.
The same rebuilding club that boasts the league’s youngest roster.
The same team that was, in fact, the division’s free spot on the bingo card until the Calgary Flames started playing them.
It was then the upstart Senators actually used the Flames to turn their fortunes around.
Winnipeg did the same thing Wednesday, snapping a seven-game losing skid with a 4-0 gift from a Flames club that was overly generous with the puck, while short on engagement.
“All four of their goals we had the primary assist,” said coach Darryl Sutter, chuckling a few times post-game when talking about the egregious turnovers that were his club’s undoing on this night, and so many others this season.
“I don’t know if emotion has anything to do with turning the puck over. We passed the puck to them. Three were defencemen with very little experience. Guess that’s how they learn. I think there are some players that hold our team down.”
Another day, another swipe at blue-liners Nikita Nesterov and Juuso Valimaki, who have really struggled to live up to the standards Sutter puts on his backenders.
“Bottom line is this team was not desperate enough tonight and it was reflected in their performance,” he added.
The first of two Adam Lowry goals came a minute into the evening, followed by his encore courtesy of an ill-advised Nesterov pass up the guts on a power play that gave the Jets a rare, two-man breakaway while short-handed.
What Nesterov is doing on the power play is a discussion for another day.
“Yeah, it wasn’t the game we wanted,” said Mikael Backlund.
“I don’t think we were desperate enough to win tonight. We’ve got five games left and we have to leave it all out there.”
On Wednesday they didn’t, allowing the Jets to secure their playoff ticket on a milestone night that saw the second of two Blake Wheeler goals double as the veteran’s 800th point and Mark Scheifele’s 500th.
Who will get to keep that souvenir puck is a more intriguing mystery than when the Flames will officially be eliminated by a Montreal Canadiens team ten points up with five Flames games left.
“We‘re coming into this game with a must-win mentality,” said captain Mark Giordano, wearing the disappointment of this season on his face.
“You can’t give up those quality chances and expect to win. They scored two 5-on-5, a short-handed goal and a power-play goal – any time that happens you really don’t have much of a chance.”
Embarrassed by how many times they left Jacob Markstrom out to dry, the Flames players stood and tapped their sticks on the boards after the netminder stopped Andrew Copp on a last-minute penalty shot attempt.
The goalie, like the fans, deserve better