THE STATS LINE
12-13-2 record [25th overall (in points percentage)]
2.48 goals-for per game [22nd overall]
2.85 goals-against per game [18th overall]
14.6% power-play success rate [24th overall]
82.0% penalty-kill success rate [18th overall]
44.2% in the face-off circle [30th overall]
THE WEEK THAT WAS
- December 1: The Flames drop a tight 4-3 shootout decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Calgary plays 50 strong minutes, letting up in the last five minutes with a 3-1 lead (and allowing the Jackets to tie the game).
- December 3: In a highly entertaining Hockey Night in Canada tilt, the Flames out-hustle the Edmonton Oilers by a 5-3 score. Olli Jokinen scored twice and captain Jarome Iginla had three assists.
- December 4: In the back-end of two games in two nights, the Flames drop a 5-1 game to Vancouver. Calgary plays a great first period and lead 1-0 after 20 minutes, but then the wheels fall off. Goaltender Henrik Karlsson leaves the game mid-way through the third period after a goal-mouth collision with teammate Tom Kostopoulos.
- December 6: The Flames beat the visiting Carolina Hurricanes in a wild and wooly 7-6 game. Jarome Iginla scored twice and Brendan Morrison (in the line-up only because Curtis Glencross had the flu) racked up four points, including a pair of goals. Iginla’s empty-netter in the third stood up as the winner.
FACE-OFFS, THE POWER-PLAY AND WINNING: IT’S ALL CONNECTED
The Flames continued their win-one, lose-one trend over the past few weeks, actually losing more than they won. The likely culprit? Their anemic power-play and shaky face-off success. How so? Just look at this past week.
- December 1: Flames power-play goes scoreless on five shots. Jokinen, Backlund, Horak & Stajan all average below 50% in the face-off dot. Flames lose! (In a shootout!)
- December 3: Power-play scores twice on six shots. Jokinen, Backlund, Horak & Stajan all average above 50% in the face-off dot. Flames win!
- December 4: Power-play goes scoreless on four shots. Jokinen, Backlund, Horak & Stajan all average below 50% in the face-off dot. Flames lose!
- December 6: Power-play scores once on one shot. Jokinen hits 50% on face-offs, Backlund & Stajan slightly below, Horak at 25%. Flames win!
In short? When the Flames don’t suck at face-offs, they tend to win. It also seems to be a sign of attention to detail that bleeds through into other areas of their game, like the power-play.
Flames centre Matt Stajan explained how the team’s face-off successes (or struggles) impact the whole game.
“I think right now a lot of it’s mental,” said Stajan. “We’re thinking about it too much. Obviously, all our centres are left-handed. If you watch games, you don’t blame anybody and we all got to be better, but there’s a lot of scramble draws. Probably half the draws are scramble draws and second chances at the puck. That’s the whole team’s got to buy in.”
THE ABBOTSFORD INVASION
The Calgary Flames have yet to hold their rookie dinner. As circumstances would be, it seems that the longer they wait, the more new faces arrive in their locker room. With various veterans either injured (David Moss, Henrik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, Anton Babchuk) or assigned to the American Hockey League (Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Raitis Ivanans), the team has seen many players called up to the NHL level.
At present, the Flames locker room hosts six NHLers on two-way contracts: Mikael Backlund, Roman Horak, T.J. Brodie, Derek Smith, Joe Piskula and now, Leland Irving. Brodie commented on seeing his old defense partner, Piskula, join him in the NHL.
“He’s a real good guy,” said Brodie. “We played together for all last year and the beginning of this year, pretty much. He helped me out. He’s reliable defensively, but fast enough that he can move the puck and skate and join the rush, too.”
As for Leland Irving, Brodie gave the netminder a lot of credit for his AHL performance and how it feels to see him in the bigs.
“It’s definitely nice,” said Brodie. “Last year he kept us in a lot of games and he’s the reason why we had such a good record last year. This year is the same thing. He’s playing really well and playing a lot down there, too. For someone to be in the AHL that long and finally get the chance, it’s really nice to see.”