Flames searching for a spark against Blues
CALGARY, Alberta -- Somewhere out there in hockey coach exile, Bob Hartley is quite possibly giggling to himself.
Fired after last season because management no longer could motivate the Calgary Flames, Hartley now watches from a safe distance as his old team stumbles out of the gate to start the 2016-17 season.
It's been left to new head coach Glen Gulutzan to find a way to light a fire under a team that is off to a 1-3-1 start and in danger of heading into a brutal stretch in their schedule already in a hole.
The Flames host the tough St. Louis Blues on Saturday night before they head out to play the Chicago Blackhawks and Blues again next week. Eleven of their next 12 games are against teams that made the playoffs last spring.
Calgary is coming off a 4-2 home-ice loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, which left Gulutzan standing in the same spot Hartley found himself after frustrating losses last season, being grilled during his post-game session in the media lounge.
It was clear that Gulutzan would have spent Friday's off day trying to figure out how to fix his lame power play, which was 0-for-6 and pedestrian.
"I don't think we're shooting the puck and winning battles enough," he said. "You can't shoot the puck if you don't win battles."
Gulutzan was then asked if frustration had already set in his dressing room.
"Just parts of our game are frustrating right now. What's frustrating me is the specialty teams. It was 3-2 until the last five-on-three. The Hurricanes were one-for-six on the power play and we were zero-for-six. That's the difference for me."
The Flames stumbled out of the gate under Hartley in October of 2015 and never recovered. They were 3-8-1 after the first month. After Thursday's loss, a similar start appears quite possible.
What's going on?
"We're trying to make plays that aren't there and we've got to just make those simple plays," said Flames center Sean Monahan, who signed a six-year, $40 million contract in August. "It almost feels like we're not on the same page. It's not working well right now and we've got to figure it out."
Flames general manager Brad Treliving went out and got two veteran goaltenders to try and solve a problem at that position, but through five games nothing has changed.
New No. 1 Brian Elliott is 0-3 and gave up three goals on his first 13 shots on Thursday. He was acquired from the Blues at the draft for a second round pick and conditional third round choice.
Gulutzan will have to decide whether to go with Elliott against his former team Saturday or switch to Chad Johnson, a free agent signing from Buffalo and a winner against those Sabres in his only start of the season on Tuesday.
"(Brian's) a pro. He will find whatever rhythm he needs. I don't know if he is lacking confidence or anything. I think the focal point is getting some run support for our goalie."
The Blues arrive in Calgary with a 3-1-1 record. They got off to a perfect start but lost in overtime in Vancouver on Tuesday and fell 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers in the Alberta capital on Thursday.