THE STATS LINE
27-22-8 record [18th overall (in points percentage)]
2.39 goals-for per game [24th overall]
2.60 goals-against per game [13th overall]
17.3% power-play success rate [16th overall]
83.8% penalty-kill success rate [10th overall]
45.0% in the face-off circle [30th overall]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
- February 8: The Flames continued their Pacific Division swing with a 4-3 road victory in San Jose. Olli Jokinen had a hat trick and assisted on Calgary’s other goal. Prior to the road trip, Jokinen took his family to McDonald’s and had a Big Mac meal, prompting Flames fans to refer to his scoring feat as a Mac Trick.
- Flames 9: In the back-end of a back-to-back on the road, the Flames got a point. The culprit? Leland Irving, who made 33 saves in between the pipes for the Flames.
- February 11: Back from their trip out west, Calgary did the unthinkable. They beat the mighty Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in a shootout. Miikka Kiprusoff made 29 saves and Jarome Iginla scored the winner in the shootout.
- February 14: One year after their celebrated drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, the Flames celebrated Valentine’s Day with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Saddledome. Alex Tanguay had three points on the night and five different Flames scored in the game.
SEVEN OUT OF EIGHT POSSIBLE POINTS
Seven days ago, the Flames were outside of the playoff picture. And if you ignore the game results from the past week, it’s rather unlikely that Calgary would make many moves this week. After all, they had four games in seven days, including back-to-back games on the road in tough barns (San Jose and Phoenix).
The power-play? It only scored once this week. The penalty-kill? Gave up two goals, snapping a lengthy shut-out streak down a man. And to top it all off, the Flames lost even more regulars, as centremen Mikael Backlund and Blair Jones went out with injuries.
But the secret for the Flames may be the fact that the team is without so many regulars and is keenly aware of how little room for error there is. The veterans want to return to the playoffs and the rookies want to stay with the big club for as long as humanly possible. The result is a bizarre consistency to the line-up, the likes of which wasn’t even seen when the team had more regulars in the line-up.
So while the team had a very good week, nobody seems satisfied unless they can translate it into continued success and a post-season berth.
The team’s attitude may best be summed up by back-up netminder Leland Irving. When asked about his excellent performance in Phoenix, stopping 33 shots and earning the team a point via overtime loss, Irving demurred and reiterated the importance of helping the team get wins.
At this time of year, winning isn’t the thing that matters most: it’s the only thing that matters.
THE HEAT COME TO CALGARY (BUT WERE ALREADY THERE)
For the second straight season, the Abbotsford Heat paid a visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome to host the Oklahoma City Barons in a special AHL edition of the Battle of Alberta. Also for the second straight season, the Heat came up short against the Barons, losing 4-0.
The Heat headed into the game in the midst of a slump (losing 8 of the previous 10 games), in part due to the fact that the team is missing many of its best players to injury and call-ups to Calgary. Abbotsford regulars not in their line-up included captain Quintin Laing (injured), forwards Greg Nemisz (injured), Krys Kolanos (recall), Lance Bouma (recall), T.J. Brodie (recall) and starting goalie Leland Irving (recall). Following the game, the team lost blueliner Brian Connelly (injury) and forwards Paul Byron and Roman Horak (both recalled to Calgary).
Speaking after the game in Calgary, Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward explained that the latest segment of the season has been a trying one for his hockey club.
“I think this stretch here, for the first time we’ve lost our heart,” said Ward. “You don’t have Bouma in there right now. You don’t have Kolanos. You don’t have Laing. We’re missing some of our heart guys and some size… We’re putting some people in that are fighting to keep themselves in a position to play on the team and stay with the team, but we’re not in synch.”
Some would argue that, hey, that’s the point of an AHL team. Their job is to be depleted in favour of keeping the NHL club afloat. But it seems that Ward isn’t content to let that be the team’s fate entirely, noting that his goal is to get his team into the post-season.
“We want to become a program, a destination where people want to develop and play,” explained Ward. “And there’s little steps that we’re making towards that. Even during this stretch there’s guys developing and getting better. That’s what we have to do. At the end of the day, we need to win along the way because we’re a better group of coaches and a better organization if we put this team in the playoffs because it makes people better, but at the end of the day we also have to develop.”
- Calgary’s win over San Jose was Miikka Kiprusoff’s 300th career win.
- Calgary’s game against Vancouver was broadcaster Peter Maher’s 3000th NHL broadcast. Maher began doing radio commentary for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1977 and moved to Calgary to do Flames games in 1980. He’s done every single Flames game since their arrival in Alberta. Maher was honoured with the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award in 2008.
- The Flames announced this week that Hall of Famer Al MacInnis will have his numbered honoured before Calgary’s February 27 game against the St. Louis Blues. MacInnis’ #2 will be raised to the rafters, but still available for future players to wear.
The Flames have now amassed approximately 254 man-games lost this season. Two more regulars went down this week, bringing the current total to six on the sidelines.
- F Blair Jones (ankle) injured against Phoenix blocking a shot in overtime during a penalty kill. The Flames recalled Roman Horak from Abbotsford to fill in.
- F Mikael Backlund (shoulder) injured against Vancouver during a tussle with Andrew Alberts. The Flames recalled Paul Byron from Abbotsford to fill in and shifted Mike Cammalleri from left wing to centre to compensate for Backlund’s loss. Krys Kolanos also began taking shifts at centre.
- F Lee Stempniak (ankle), F Curtis Glencross (knee), F David Moss (ankle) and D Derek Smith (ankle) all remain out. Smith is the closest of the six injured regulars to returning, noting at the Flames Superskills Competition on the weekend that he was “a couple weeks” out. His stall has reappeared in the Flames locker room.
DISPATCHES FROM THE FARM
- AHL: Abbotsford has had a rough few weeks, going 1-4-0 thus far in February and 2-8-0 in their last 10 games. Flames back-up Henrik Karlsson, on a conditioning loan, has not looked great and has lost both of his rehab starts thus far. In an effort to replace the offense that went to Calgary when Krys Kolanos was recalled, the Heat have signed forward Hugh Jessiman to a contract. He’s already scored 20 goals this season with Lake Erie, where he was playing on a try-out.
- WHL: Brandon forward Michael Ferland had 7 points this week. Kootenay’s Max Reinhart had 3 points. Kootenay’s Joey Leach had 4 points, as did Portland’s Sven Baertschi. Despite missing a fair amount of games due to injuries and the World Juniors, Baertschi has 70 points (in just 36 games). Portland clinched a playoff spot this week, as well.
- NCAA: It was a big week for Boston College, as the team won the 60th annual Beanpot Tournament in a 3-2 overtime thriller over arch-rival Boston University. Flames prospect Bill Arnold lasered a shot from the high slot into the BU net with six seconds left in OT to give the Eagles the win. Fellow Flame prospect (and freshman) Johnny Gaudreau was named tournament MVP.