Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Calgary Flames

CENTRES OF ATTENTION

Flames face formidable task in containing Crosby and Malkin

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

They are, in their way, of their era, Magic and Kareem, Mess and Gretz, Montana and Rice, the Iron Horse and the Bambino.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Pain and panic.

Death and dismemberment.

Currently Nos. 3 and 4 in the NHL's scoring pecking order, both within easy striking distance of the pacesetting Connor McDavid.

With an opportunity to tie a franchise record rewinding all the way back to 1978-79, to the franchise's days in Georgia, the Flames go in search of a Top-10 list this evening that even Letterman might envy.

In order: Nashville, Tampa, Florida, Carolina, L.A., Detroit, NY Islanders, Montreal and Winnipeg.

And who better to test their franchise-record-tying mettle against than the Stanley Cup titleholders from Pittsburgh and their matching-bookend glitterati superstars.

"Their ability to create something out of nothing, both of them, is the number-one danger,'' cautioned Flames' skipper Mark Giordano. "Crosby's the best player in the world, and there's a reason why. He works extremely hard out there, he does the little things right.

"You gotta play him tight, you gotta play him hard."

Video: Crosby on tonight's game in Calgary

Given the Flames owning last change at home, Mikael Backlund will get a snoot-full of either 66 or 71.

"It's always fun,'' said Backlund, "to play against the best guys in the world.

"Crosby's probably the smartest player in the league. He's always in the right place at the right time. So good with the puck.

"You just try and take away time and space. Similar to playing McDavid. Both good skaters, make sure you're on the right side of the puck.

"And Malkin's a big body, more skilled hands, I think.

"A challenge, definitely. A big challenge."

Crosby sees the 1-2 punch as virtually impossible to defend.

"Hopefully we make tough decisions as far as match-ups,'' he said following Pittsburgh's morning skate, customarily engulfed by TV cameras and voice recorders. "Hopefully both of us can benefit from that.

"Ultimately, when all the lines are rolling our depth really shows through. As match-ups go, that can hopefully provide a challenge."

In shoring up confidence (a quantity in ample supply at the moment), the Flames can not only draw upon on their exceptional run of present, but scroll a bit further back, to a 3-2 shootout win in Pittsburgh on Feb. 7 during which they held the lethal Crosby to a single assist.

An injured Malkin didn't play that game.

"We managed the puck really well there,'' stressed Giordano. "The other part was that we stayed above their speed.

"When you allow their D to get into the rush … they're forwards are already scary off the rush. It creates gap, it creates time and space. So stay above it, play simple and stay in their zone."

Not that even the best-laid plans are a guarantee.

"They're winners,'' said Flames' D Matt Bartkowski. "They've won before. They wanna win again.

"That'll translate into … anything.

"Crosby's just so hard pin down. And Malkin's massive. Big, strong. They're equally hard to handle. I don't know if there's a better 1-2 punch in the league and you can pretty much put anybody with them on lines so it gives them the top two lines in the league."

While Crosby gets most of the attention, Malkin is indisputably the game's top second banana.

"His size, his range, his strength,'' said Bartkowski. "He can move side-to-side as well as anyone. He's one of those guys who knows what's going to happen before it happens.

"There's a few of them in the league and they've got two."

But while the Pens - aiming to increase a six-game winning streak themselves tonight - and their mix-'n-match superstars

The Penguins themselves, aiming to increase a six-game winning streak, are wary of the threat the Flames now pose.

"They're a very good team,'' said boss Mike Sullivan, a three-year Flame through the early-to-mid '90s. "They're well coached. I know Gully's a good coach. They went some challenging times earlier in the season. This league is a good league and there's a fine line between winning and losing. Regardless of what team you are, you're going to go through some challenges.

"Calgary went through their fair share early. They've obviously found a way to have success lately."

Sid and Gene to clap in irons. The defending champs in the house.

And a franchise-record there to be equalled. From the Magnificent Seven, to the Gr8 to Cloud Nine to, hopefully, the Perfect 10.

That's the idea, anyway.

"It's a big game,'' agreed Giordano. "We don't talk about the streak much, to be honest, game -to-game. We try and focus on the game that night.

"But … seriously. Nobody's kidding anyone. It's there. It's been there.

"We're happy to be a part of it. You want to keep this rolling as long as you possibly can."

 

View More