The Calgary Flames have work to do to get back into playoff position in the NHL, specifically in goal.
“I think we’ve given up too many goals against,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said Wednesday.
“Our save percentage is not where it needs to be. That’s clear. We’ve given up the second-fewest shots in the NHL, so we should have a better record.”
Calgary (27-21-13) was five points out of a playoff spot at the three-quarter mark of the regular season.
The Flames have given up a goal on the first shot of the game nine times this season.
Dan Vladar and Jacob Markstrom took turns doing that in each of Calgary’s recent back-to-back losses.
Despite outshooting the Boston Bruins 57-20 on Tuesday, the Flames emerged with a lone point from a 4-3 overtime loss and saw the distance between themselves and a Western Conference wild-card spot widen.
After giving up two goals on five shots, Vladar was pulled after one period for Markstrom.
Sutter gave Vladar more starts this season than last to reduce Markstrom’s workload, but also because the Czech backup has played better at times than Markstrom.
The head coach indicated Wednesday that Markstrom will get the bulk of the starts down the stretch.
Expect the Swede in Calgary’s net Thursday when the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town.
“We need Marky to get hot,” Sutter said. “Now he’s got to really put his foot on.”
Starting next season, the Flames will spend US$8.2 million on both goalies, whose combined save percentage this season is .885.
Opposing teams have scored on Markstrom eight times with their opening salvo.
“You don’t want it to happen, but when it happens you’ve just got to move on and stop the next one,” Markstrom said. “We’ve just got to come up with some saves.
“Shot one and two, or shot 40 or 41 or 30 or 31, it’s still two goals. You don’t want to start behind and chase the game. It’s obviously easier to play with a lead than behind.
“You have to stick to it. You’ve just got to work on details and work on the game and trust. The goalie position is so much more mental than a lot of people think. It’s the confidence level. You’ve got to start building it in the gym and start building it in practice.”
Vladar has allowed a goal on the second shot of the game twice this season and Markstrom once.
“We are trying to support each other even more,” Vladar said. “This season hasn’t been that great, but at the same time we still have a chance.
“I think we are working even harder than last year. I think that we both got even better than last year. We just don’t get the results yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to come. We are doing our best to prove it in those games.”
Mediocrity in net wasn’t anticipated to be a Calgary weakness this season.
And Calgary leading the league in OT losses (13) is a glass half-full, half-empty scenario.
They’ve salvaged a point, but let a second point get away more than any other NHL team.
Coming back from a two-goal deficit and taking a point off the Bruins, who are far and away the best team in the NHL, may be admirable.
That’s not enough to get Calgary to the post-season.
“Not in March,” Markstrom said. “We need to get points and get points now.
“When the results aren’t going your way, it’s really frustrating. We’ve got to snap out of it here. We’re hanging on. Not by much. We need to get those two points here.”
The Flames are in hockey limbo ahead of Friday’s trade deadline; too close to a playoff spot with not a lot of easily moved assets.
Sutter said he spoke with each Flame individually Wednesday “and we’re good. I still believe we win 21 in a row. That’s how I feel.”
He wasn’t wishing for any major alterations to his roster.
“Absolutely not,” the head coach said. “I’m quite happy right where we are with this group.”