Flames’ Tkachuk pushed to change playoff fortune out of disdain for losing

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Matthew Tkachuk has heard the whispers and knows the only way to end them is to change his team’s fortunes in the playoffs.

Winners of just one of their last 11 playoff games, the Calgary Flames are known as a team unfamiliar with the rigors of a game that grows into the playoffs.

One example was the five-game foreclosure of last year thanks to a booming Colorado Avalanche club.

That loss now serves as fuel for this year’s group.

“I’m sick of losing – sick of losing in those early laps,” said Tkachuk, without provocation.

“I know a lot of other guys are also tired of losing, wanting redemption after last year. It’s time for us to prove that we are an elite hockey team.

Well said.

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It is certainly time for this group to prove the growing list of skeptics wrong, or to say goodbye to some of the mainstays of the team.

Every player in this room knows that, which just adds pressure to a series with Winnipeg that is a draw on paper.

Winnipeg’s goaltenders and offensive firepower make him the little favorite in the eyes of many who believe their arrival in the Western Conference Finals two years ago gives them an advantage.

Tkachuk heard the same.

“Not many people say anything about us,” said Tkachuk, a voracious consumer of league-wide hockey information, analysis and opinion. “But we know if we play the right way you get that momentum and the playoffs are all about momentum.

“We just need to build momentum for as long as possible. I think our team was pretty good coming out of the break. I am very confident in this group and if we do the right things I hope we have a chance to prove people wrong.

Last year, as the surprise regular season champions in the West, they became favorites.

This year, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Flames.

Maybe we’ll get a taste of Tuesday when they face Edmonton, which Tkachuk says should be taken a lot more seriously than your typical exhibition game.

“We have to treat Tuesday like it’s a playoff game,” said Tkachuk.

“If we take an easy mindset and not a playoff mindset, kind of like we did the last couple of times before the playoffs, we let go of the gas right before, we’ll probably have a similar result.

“You look at teams that have won in the past and they win. We have to play the same way we want to play against Winnipeg. We have to compose and play a good tough physical game and take advantage of our opportunities and not give up a lot defensively.

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Carrying with a playoff intensity that the team is clearly trying to foster, Tkachuk showed a more relaxed side when asked about the bubble his club will enter in Edmonton on Sunday with six other teams.

“It’s not like there’s going to be any fights in the hotel,” he said when asked if he thought his club had been placed in a hotel separate from the Oilers by design.

“I saw a little the last two days of what they are going to offer us. I keep telling people that it reminds me of the youth hockey tournaments this summer.

“You’re at the hotel and you see people in elevators and restaurants and check other scores. It’s gonna be crazy. I think it’s up to us to make the most of it. I think they did a really good job.

He originally thought it would be “a hotel room, locker room, hotel room and ice rink,” with very little else to do while confined to the bubble.

It turns out that players will have so much more to do, thanks to a concerted effort by the league to provide players with endless options, including live concerts.

“That’s pretty cool… but then again, I’m not going to be running all day doing all of these activities… this is the playoffs.”

A time to dispel the idea that his team is doomed once again.



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