Calgary Flames drop in regular season finale, playoffs to follow

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WINNIPEG — In a campaign that featured so many defining moments for the Calgary Flames, it would have been fitting for the skipper to hit one of his own.

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Alas, Darryl Sutter’s 700th career regular season win will have to wait until the fall.

Sutter is aiming to become just the 11th head coach in NHL history to reach that lofty level, but he’ll be stuck on 699 for a bit longer following Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg, the last tune-up for the Flames ahead of their playoff push.

Now the fun really begins.

Forget 700. It’s about winning the best of seven. Four of them.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” Flames forward Blake Coleman said of Sutter. “He lights up when he talks about winning cups and winning games. You know, he wants to win every game. He wants to win 82 games a year. And when you have a guy like that motivating you and driving the bus, it’s no surprise he’s been so successful in this league. He’s tough, but he’s fair. He just really wants to win and he does his homework and he finds ways to give his team all kinds of advantages possible.

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“At the end of the day, this game is about the players, but it puts the ship in the right direction and that’s why it’s about to hit 700.”

That ship is now sailing into the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As of late Friday, the Flames were still waiting to find out which of the two generic Western Conference teams — the Nashville Predators or the Dallas Stars — they would face in the first round.

That’s for sure – Sutter will have them ready for Game 1.

The Flames have thrived under this hard-nosed, detail-oriented boss. They finished with a 50-21-11 record, with a pair of 100-point forwards and an entire 40-goal sniper line, with the fewest tallies allowed by any club in the Conference. West and with the top seed in the Pacific Division. .

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They suddenly became a popular choice as a Stanley Cup favorite. Sutter, who already has two championship rings, is a big reason why.

“Every day is a day of work and a day of hockey and a day to improve and learn,” assistant captain Chris Tanev said when asked about the impact of the man behind the bench. “We have to take this in the next few days and prepare to prepare for whoever it is that we are up against. »

To their credit, they didn’t let up on the gas after clinching first place in the Pacific last weekend.

On that late-season roadie, they rolled back to force overtime in Nashville and Minnesota. Friday was as much about avoiding injuries as anything. Mission accomplished there.

Matthew Tkachuk took advantage of an early breakaway for Calgary’s only count, while backup goaltender Dan Vladar played his ass in the visitor crease. He repelled a total of 40 punches.

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Blake Wheeler ripped a nasty one-timer past Vladar just before the first intermission and Mason Appleton collected a rebound from a kick save in the second. Brenden Dillon added a late empty net.

A loss in that insignificant game in Winnipeg doesn’t change what the hard-to-please Sutter admitted was “one hell of a regular season.”

“We just played 82 games and we got points in what…61? I would say they did a good job,” Sutter said before a late evening flight home from Winnipeg. “They did everything we wanted them to do this year. It was hard. You just ask them to take ownership of their preparation and take ownership of their performance, and they did a great job.

They will, of course, be judged on what happens next.

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With the structured, stingy system that Sutter insists on, with the way the stars have taken this check-first approach, and with the added experience added to the supporting cast, there are plenty of reasons to believe.

It’s not over 700 wins, not until October.

It’s about the race to 16, the amount required to sip the Stanley Cup.

“Wake up tomorrow, go to practice tomorrow, I think there’s going to be a lot of energy, a lot of buzz,” second-line center Mikael Backlund said after Friday’s setback. “Maybe tomorrow we’ll have the playoff gear and all that and just kind of turn the page and move on to focus on the playoffs.

“I’m really excited about this group. I have a very good feeling. »


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Left-winger Johnny Gaudreau finished his regular-season job with a plus-64 rating, the best mark in the NHL since a certain Wayne Gretzky in the mid-1980s and a new team record in Calgary. Joe Mullen set the franchise standard in 1988-89, posting a plus-54. Mullen played a key role that spring in leading the Flames to a championship parade… Sutter recently told reporters he has no plans to rest his star skaters as long as they stay in good health, and he stayed true to that word. He made just two roster changes in Winnipeg, with Adam Ruzicka replacing Ryan Carpenter as fourth-line center and Michael Stone replacing Erik Gudbranson on the third line. Gudbranson is thought to have battled a nagging injury… There were eight Flames who didn’t miss a single outing – for whatever reason – in the 82-game grind. Gaudreau is joined at this Ironman club by teammates Elias Lindholm and Tkachuk, fellow forwards Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Milan Lucic and defenders Rasmus Andersson and Tanev… Dillon Dube was recording his 200th career appearance at the highest level.

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