THE STATS LINE
20-19-5 record [22nd overall (in points percentage)]
2.46 goals-for per game [26th overall]
2.84 goals-against per game [17th overall]
17.o% power-play success rate [18th overall]
82.2% penalty-kill success rate [16th overall]
45.0% in the face-off circle [30th overall]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
- January 5: In the last game of their 7-game road trip, the Flames play perhaps their most consistently bad game of the year. Worse yet, it comes against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Boston Bruins pound the Flames 9-0, chasing rookie Leland Irving from Calgary’s nets after 6 goals. Miikka Kiprusoff doesn’t fare much better, and only T.J. Brodie is even amongst the entire Flames line-up.
- January 7: Returning home, the Flames beat Minnesota 3-1. Rookie Lance Bouma scored his first career goal, Jarome Iginla his 500th and Curtis Glencross added another. Both teams were flat through 40 minutes, but the Flames woke up in the third and pulled away.
- January 10: The Flames surprise the New Jersey Devils, scoring four times in the first period (chasing the legendary Martin Brodeur from the visitor’s nets) en route to a 6-3 triumph. Jarome Iginla had his 10th career Gordie Howe Hat Trick, while Curtis Glencross had a career-high four points. In this battle of the league’s two worst face-off clubs, it turns out that face-offs meant very little to the game’s outcome.
ROAD WOES, HOME COOKING
Well, that kind of sucked.
The Flames completed a seven-game sojourn through Vancouver, Columbus, Long Island, Ottawa, Nashville, Washington and Boston. After starting off rather well with wins in the first two games, the bottom fell out. The Flames lost the last five games of their trip, earning just a single point, culminating with a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
On the other hand, the Flames returned home and performed very well in a pair of games against strong opponents – a 3-1 win over the Wild and a 6-3 win over the Devils.
Overall, the Flames continue to play very well at home (with a 12-5-2 record) and rather poorly on the road (8-14-3). Oddly, Calgary’s power-play is converting just 12% of chances at home, but 22% on the road, while they kill 85% of penalties at home but only 80% on the road. Life’s full of strange mysteries, and the perplexing reversal of fortunes for the Flames away from the Scotiabank Saddledome continues to be just that: perplexing.
THE RECALL WHEEL KEEPS ON TURNING
The Flames went through a flurry of roster moves this week. Winger Raitis Ivanans was recalled from Abbotsford after clearing re-entry waivers, played in Calgary’s “game” in Boston, and was promptly re-assigned back to Abbotsford. Ivanans’ roster spot was quickly filled, as the Flames acquired centre Blair Jones from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for minor-league defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. (Mikkelson was brought in off waivers from Carolina last season, but has been lost in a crowded Flames back-end that will likely become more complicated given the emergence of Derek Smith and T.J. Brodie and the impending returns of Brett Carson and Mark Giordano.)
Greg Nemisz was returned to Abbotsford after spending a couple weeks in Calgary. His spot was filled by Lance Bouma, who had spent time in Calgary last season. Joe Piskula, who was being used as the club’s seventh defender, was sent back to Abbotsford and Clay Wilson was brought up to Calgary. Brett Carson was assigned to Abbotsford on his second conditioning stint of the season. Carson will likely return to the Flames before their California road trip next week, while Rene Bourque will coincidentally come off his suspension at roughly the same time.
As the Flames began their four-game homestand on the weekend, no fewer than ten regulars were unavailable: G Henrik Karlsson (knee), D Brett Carson (upper body/AHL conditioning stint), D Mark Giordano (hamstring), D Derek Smith (ankle), D Scott Hannan (upper body), F Alex Tanguay (upper body), F Matt Stajan (ankle), F David Moss (ankle), F Brendan Morrison (upper body) and F Rene Bourque (suspension).
With all these guys out of the line-up, the team continues to perform largely as it did before. Flames head coach Brent Sutter noted that the performance of the younger players has been impressive, particularly in light of the torrent of injuries faced by his club.
“Obviously with our situation with our roster, it is what it is. It’s all part of the game,” shared Sutter. “We don’t use it as an excuse. We’re not making any excuses. Whoever gets thrown in has to do the job for us. These young guys have been put in there and it’s encouraging for them in the sense where there’s opportunity and they’re trying to take advantage of it and that’s a good thing. As a coach, I’m not afraid to throw them in there and see what they have.”
Looking up and down the roster, the Flames coach pointed out several younger players that are making key contributions for his club. Among his list were blueliners T.J. Brodie and the now-injured Derek Smith.
“Brodes, right from the get-go, has been a pretty steady guy for us,” said Sutter. “With Smitty, when Smitty got hurt on the Island, I think he was a very underrated defenseman. He was one of our top couple, three defensemen, and thank God he played the way he did when Gio went down because he went right into that hole and played extremely well for us. We miss him. That being said, Brodes has played well. Roman Horak has been here most of the year and again, he’s given us what we expected he would. Mikael Backlund’s starting to find his game now after being out and missing the first basically two months of the season. Our young guys are starting to come and that’s what we wanted.”
A bright spot on the horizon is the fact that Giordano, out since late November with a hamstring injury, is back skating and likely to re-join the Flames line-up imminently. Prior to Calgary’s game with New Jersey on Tuesday night, the veteran defender shared his thoughts on how quickly he’s recovered from his injury.
“Initially, I think all of thought that it was serious, but thought it could require surgery, which could be a while,” said Giordano. “As soon as we made the decision just to rehab it and it kept getting better and better, I started to feel that it wouldn’t be so long that I wasn’t going to miss most of the season. I did miss a good chunk, but now I’m excited to really get back into it and get the feel of the game again.”
LEGEND ON LEGEND
On Tuesday night the New Jersey Devils paid a visit to the Saddledome to play the Flames, fresh off an outing where captain Jarome Iginla scored his 500th NHL goal. Devils netminder Martin Brodeur is no stranger to Iginla or to milestones. He played with Iginla on three Olympic teams (among other instances) and is the NHL’s all-time leader in games-played, wins and shutouts. He shared his thoughts on Iginla’s milestone achievement.
“I think it’s a great honour for him to achieve that,” shared Brodeur. “I’m sure a lot of pressure was mounting on him to try to get it over with. It’s a pretty impressive feat to score 500 goals in this league.”
Having tackled a great deal of milestones in his career, Brodeur explained how pressure to capture these lofty feats can creep into a player’s head. The veteran goaltender explained that a lot of pressure can come from a fairly innocuous place – well-wishing teammates and friends anxious to celebrate the impending milestones.
“You try to keep it real and just do your thing,” reflected Brodeur. “They’re numbers and if don’t achieve them at one time people get anxious for you to get it done all the time, so that’s the kind of pressure you have to live with. It’s not really the pressure you put on yourself, [it’s the] surrounding people that want it so much and want to celebrate that with you and so you gotta really put everything out and do what you do and usually that’s the best way to approach when you’re getting these milestones close.”
DISPATCHES FROM THE FARM
- AHL: The Abbotsford Heat headed into their week with a 23-10-3 record, despite being short a half-dozen of their top players due to call-ups to Calgary. The team began a five-game road trip in Texas and Oklahoma with a 5-0 shutout win over the San Antonio Rampage, putting the Heat in a tie with the Hershey Bears for points percentage. Not bad for a team whose bottom six is now mostly populated with guys on AHL contracts and try-outs. Something really exciting is going on in the Fraser Valley right now.
- WHL: None of the Flames prospects were traded at the WHL’s trade deadline. Even better, the Brandon Wheat Kings snagged Buffalo Sabres prospect Kevin Sundher from the Victoria Royals, which means the Wheaties will ice a first line that includes Flames prospect Michael Ferland, Sundher and Team Canada stand-out Mark Stone.
- NCAA: Boston University has crept into a tie with Boston College for the lead in the Hockey East conference. The Eagles remain on top when it comes to overall play (including non-conference games). Boston College will play Northeastern University next weekend in Fenway Park.