As an emotionally-raw, heart-on-his-sleeve defender over a dozen NLL seasons, Curt Malawsky never cut corners, refused to shirk responsibility, religiously put the collective above the personal.

Never what you’d classify as an easy-way-out guy.

“The start,’’ began the Calgary Roughnecks’ coach Saturday night, eyes darting this way and that in restless frustration, “is 100 per cent on me.

“It’s my job as a coach to prepare these guys.

“The first quarter, the first half, we weren’t there. That’s my job and it’s happened too many times.

“The guys are battling, that compete they had in the second half, that’s what I expect. But at the start of the game, we’re not doing something right.

“That’s on me. A hundred per cent on my shoulders.”

A stretch of hallway away, a left and then a right turn, inside a deathly silent Roughnecks locker room, no one was buying where their boss was laying blame.

Another fatally poor start. Three losses on this four-game home stretch,capped by a 13-10 deflater to the Vancouver Stealth in front of 9,361 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.

Not good enough.

“Of course (Malawsky’s) going to say that,’’ said sniper Curtis Dickson. “But we’re grown men. We’re professionals. It’s on us to be able to come out off the bat and start a game on time.

“Unfortunately, like I said, we haven’t been doing that in the last few games here and it’s cost us in the win-loss column, so it’s something we’ve got to figure out.”

The ‘Necks surrendered the first five goals Saturday and trailed 10-4 at halftime before a spirited second-half rally fell short. It’s become a recurring theme.

“That’s Curt,’’ said Dane Dobbie of his coach’s emotional self-criticism. “I’ve been with him for 13 years now and when things are going bad, he’ll point the finger at himself.

“That’s why he’s a great leader.

“Everybody knows what’s going on right now. We’re not showing up, not showing up to play at the start. We’re the ones playing the game, not him.

“We went on a three-game run and now we’re on a three-game lapse. We’ve got to get back into this thing.”

The fiery Dobbie, who’d rather pass a kidney stone the size of a lacrosse ball than squander two points, sat in his stall, staring straight ahead. Like his boss, he takes losing personally.

“The guys,’’ said Malawsky, “are giving me everything they’ve got. They’re battling, they’re competing. Look at that passion. Wesley Berg fights at the end of the game.

“Guys care.

“It’s on me to make adjustments so we start games better. There’s not one guy in there who didn’t give his effort. Every single guy did.

“We don’t start games well? You want to point a finger? Everyone point a finger at me. It’s my team. It’s my job to get them together.”

Goalkeeper Frank Scigliano was another of the hired hands who begged to differ. He and Christian Del Bianco split time between the wickets.

“Our coach,’’ said Scigliano, “puts everything on his shoulder. He’s a warrior and a leader. I’d go to war for him any day. We just didn’t … compete. We came out in the second half and competed and that’s what happens. We tried to battle back but coming down from six down is hard.

“I let the boys down. It’s disappointing on my end. I’m supposed to be the starter here and it a s—-y feeling.

“These guys are battling hard. And I’m not making those saves. It’s frustrating, for sure.

“We’ve got to start on time. That’s the big for us. Myself included. Letting in five goals on 10 shots is not good enough. Not good enough at all.”

So now the Roughnecks, now 3-4, must delve deep and experiment with ways to get out of the blocks faster, more confidently.

“There’s lots of things we can do,’’ offered Malawsky. “We can change our practice time. We could change up pre-game stuff. We can change up video sessions.

“There’s tons of things. The guys know that. That’s one thing I’ve learned in 40-plus years in lacrosse – doing the same thing over and over, we all know that’s the definition of insanity.

“So we’ll make adjustments. We’ll make changes. And it has to start at the top. If anyone looks to make a difference, its gotta be.

“The start of these last couple games at home have been absolutely embarrassing.

“Hang it on me.”

Not gonna happen, said Dobbie.

“It’s up to all of us,’’ he declared with flat certainty. “No one guy or two guys are responsible just like one or two guys are not going to get us out of this.

“I have confidence in this group. The talent’s here. We’re going to work our way out of this.

“But it’s got to be all of us, together.”