The sports radio call-in shows were crackling after the Calgary Flames latest setback, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
Not only were fans phoning in to express their angst over the team blowing a two-goal lead against Minnesota; much of the talk had to do with the players coach Brent Sutter selected for the shootout – Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Blake Comeau.
Not getting to shoot were Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross or Olli Jokinen, the Flames’ top four scorers. That had fans second-guessing Sutter saying if the team was going to lose, at least go down with its big guns blazing. The problem is Calgary’s big guns have been misfiring of late – the team has scored only five goals in its last four games. And in one of those games, a 2-1 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Iginla was stopped on a breakaway.
To shake things up, Sutter tried four different shootout players against Minnesota but was left with the same results when Comeau, Calgary’s last chance, skated in too deep on Minnesota goalie Josh Harding and was shut down cold.
“We thought tonight, ‘Roll the dice and put it in some other people’s hands,’” assistant coach Craig Hartsburg told reporters after the game.
Iginla stuck with his coach’s decision.
“Whatever Brent sees at the time or wants to go with,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunity. I’ve had some good opportunities and haven’t been able to be above .500 in those. Whoever gets called, you’re doing your best to score there. We don’t look at any guys who missed there and think, ‘You let us down.’ We all let each other down.”
During this month, Calgary has won one of two overtime games and lost three times in shootouts. Those missed points have left the Flames, currently in 11th spot in the Western Conference, perilously close to missing the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Calgary now plays a home-and-home series against the Dallas Stars beginning Saturday in Texas.