Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters speaks candidly on team’s struggles: ‘We need more’

The Calgary Flames won Tuesday night’s clash with the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 thanks to two third-period goals and Matthew Tkachuk’s overtime winner, but head coach Bill Peters wasn’t happy with his defense’s performance.

“We weren’t very good,” Peters told reporters after the game. “And we weren’t moving the puck. We couldn’t pass the puck. Everything’s in the feet, everything is behind guys. When you look slow, it’s puck speed and it’s execution with the puck. There are guys open and we don’t see them. There are guys open and we put it behind them. It’s the National Hockey League, you gotta be able to make a pass.”

Peters tinkered with his blue line’s composition throughout the overtime effort Tuesday and said there would be “lots to talk about” with his group at Wednesday’s practice.

“We need more,” he said. “We need more out of some veteran guys.”

The Flames ran away with the Western Conference in 2018-19 with 107 points but remain in the thick of a tight Pacific Division playoff race so far this season. Through Nov. 5, Calgary’s 20 points (9-7-2 record) places the team in a tie with the Vegas Golden Knights for the West’s first wild-card spot. The Flames’ goals for (2.78 per game) and against (2.94) statistics have proven merely pedestrian so far.

After Wednesday’s practice, Peters lamented that his team’s starts have not been satisfactory. Through 18 games this year, Calgary has scored 10 goals in the first period. The league’s top first-period teams — Vegas and Boston — have scored double that or more. The Flames’ output increases in the later stages of the game; they’re one of the team’s top third-period teams (21 goals for). Three of Calgary’s four most recent victories have come thanks to third-period comebacks and overtime wins, but Peters had said after Tuesday’s victory he doesn’t want the team “hanging our hat” on playing desperate late in games.

“You’ve got to get prepared individually to start and that collectively gives us a chance to start on time and play everybody,” Peters said. “We’ve got to play more people — we have four guys on a recovery day that have played a lot of hockey, a lot of heavy lifting. So it’d be nice to spread that workload around and get more people involved.”

Four Calgary forwards skated fewer than 10 minutes Tuesday against the Coyotes. Elias Lindholm was deployed for nearly 24 minutes, a season-high. On the back end, four of the team’s six defensemen played over 20 minutes and team captain Mark Giordano skated almost 29 minutes total — over four minutes higher than his average so far this fall. It all comes down to Peters’ dissatisfaction with his roster as a whole.

“It’s a comfortable feeling when you know the guy to the left of you, the guy to the right of you, and the guy across from you is gonna go to work,” Peters told reporters when asked if his team is too comfortable. “It’s uncomfortable when you don’t know what [those players are] gonna do. That’s where we’re at. We know that, they know that. We have to change it. I have to change it.”

The second-year Calgary head coach acknowledged that in the long run, early-season adversity can help a team — but only if he and his players learn to respond to their troubles appropriately.

“If you identify [the adversity] and rectify it then you’re on your way,” Peters said. But if you don’t and you allow yourself to stay in the same environment and situation, then it’s going to be a long year.”

The Flames next play the New Jersey Devils at home on Nov. 7.

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