Flames Win: Iginla and Special Teams Shining Bright
How’s that for a weekend of hockey for your Calgary Flames?
3 for 9 on the PP. 6 for 6 on the PK. Jarome Iginla scores his 30thgoal of the season on, no less, a penalty shot. Kipper’s save percentage was 92.06% over those two games, including 37 stops Friday night against the Jackets. But more important than any of these stats is the fact that the Flames won both of these tightly contested games against both teams that are in the perennial dog fight for a spot in the Western elite eight.
The win Sunday night means the Flames sweep the Predators in the season series, and improves their record against Central division teams to 12-5-2.
The Flames are now 17-4-4 in their last 25 games -- 38 points out of a possible 50. They said they were going to win two out of every three games – well, so far, they have been true to their word and then some.
Getting back to Iginla, he joined a very elite club tonight in scoring 30 goals in 10 straight seasons. He made a great point in his post game interview when he said he was blessed to be healthy for so long and able to accomplish such a feat. A lot of that “blessing”, I think, has to do with his fitness level as he makes sure that every year he is the fittest member on the team at training camp and throughout the season. There might not be a better all around player in the NHL, and I’m probably biased, but who can score, pass, lead and fight like Iginla has done for as many years as he has without getting hurt? I challenge you to find that player.
Did anyone else find it ironic that he scored his 30th on a penalty shot? Iginla, if he has done one thing poorly over his career, has been the breakaway/shootout/penalty shot. He never knows what to do it seems. He tried the strategy of coming it at Mach Zero speed and picking the corner. This rarely worked as the goalie would just come out and cut down the angle. He tried coming in a little faster and shooting, but more times than not he would trip over his own feet than actually hit the net. He has been completely left out of the Flames top 3, maybe even top 5 shootout participants. It’s just not his thing. But in saying that, tonight’s leg kick-head-bob-shimmy-shake-sleeper-move was a thing of beauty, and it might force Brent to move Jarome up the shootout depth chart next time the skills competition is needed to decide a game.
The Power Surge
For years I have ripped apart the Flames PP. Too many years of Preston/Playfair/Keenan running the man-advantage unit turned the Flames PP into something of a comedic side show. It was simply a two-minute run down of the clock – a way for the Flames to kill some time. The strategy of not practicing the power play, employed by Keenan, might have been the most nonsensical coaching strategy ever deployed in any sport, anywhere.
But now, it’s something to fear.
Over the last ten games the Flames have scored 11 times on 36 man-advantages – a 30.56% clip. That would rank first in the league by a large margin. The problems were many when the Flames PP struggled. Whether it was not being able to get past the neutral zone, being too static in the offensive zone, or simply not getting any sort of quality shot on net, it always seemed to, well, suck. Now, despite the odd time when the puck doesn’t get past the blue line, it seems the Flames have a system that is working, as it’s been a large factor in the Flames recent run of success.
Now, let’s not forget the power play’s friend, the penalty kill, off the list of things that need to be applauded. Over the last eight games the Flames have allowed ONE goal while being down a man. 19 for 20. That’s impressive.
When the lockout ended and the “New NHL” was established back in 2005, special teams were to become an even more significant component of each game. The ability to have good special teams can make the difference between winning and losing – between living and dying!
It would seem as if the Flames finally got the memo.
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