As the Christmas holiday approached, it seemed like the Calgary Flames were among the few NHL teams who could be written off for the 2011 playoffs. The team was just a mess, resulting in the still-justified resignation of general manager Darryl Sutter.
Perhaps it was the increased sunny disposition that comes with removing a brooding presence or the team’s “two out of three wins” approach, but the Flames now find themselves in a solid spot amongst the Western Conference playoff pack.
As Dave Lozo writes, the Flames could be in a five-way tie for the fourth spot in the West if they beat the struggling Dallas Stars in a game that is about to begin. Lozo took the pulse of the Calgary lineup, as Jay Bouwmeester and Jarome Iginla state that consistency has been the key while Curtis Glencross thinks it’s in many ways a matter of getting bounces they weren’t getting before.
Yet later on Lozo spotlights what is likely the true catalyst for Calgary’s climb: the offensive breakthroughs of Iginla, Glencross and … (wait for it) Olli Jokinen.
The Flames have used a lethal offense during this 24-game stretch to rise into playoff contention. They’ve scored 82 goals during the hot streak, good for an average of 3.4 per game. Iginla has been one of the leaders with 11 goals and 13 assists during that span.
But as Iginla mentioned, the contributions have been coming from everywhere.
Olli Jokinen has 5 goals and 19 assists since Dec. 23 after posting a mere 7 goals and 10 assists in his first 32 games.
Forward Curtis Glencross, who had never scored more than 15 goals in a season, has 19 in 56 games. In his past 24 games, he has 12 goals and 6 assists and is in the midst of a five-game goal-scoring streak.
Much like Ilya Kovalchuk’s late season resurgence with the New Jersey Devils, Jokinen might be worthy of a partial apology. His game can be very one-dimensional and soft at times, but Jokinen is putting together the kind of offensive stretch that shows why teams were so eager to acquire him during his Florida Panthers days.
Of course, almost every contender in the West managed to produce a surge or two so far this season, so it really will be about consistency for Calgary. Can the team keep filling the net and earning standings points, or will they regress back to cellar dweller status? It’ll be interesting to watch, but I must admit, it’s stunning that they’ve even gotten this far.