As the Flames gear up for the postseason, several members of the club are starting to feel the excitement as they’ve never been in a playoff game before. Leading scorer Michael Cammalleri is one of those players and he can only guess what it will be like.
“It’s faster, better hockey, more physical and more competitive. I know that,” he said with a grin.
“I just think it’ll be a higher brand of hockey than it’s been for me over the years. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’ll be a lot of fun so I can’t wait.”
The Flames fly out to the Windy City on Wednesday afternoon and Cammalleri was quick to say that while he lacks playoff experience, he knows that preparation is key in stringing together a success Cup run.
“That’s one of the biggest differences from the regular season - the preparation that goes in. You just prepare for one team and the players on the one team. They’re going to be familiar with the way we do things too,” Cammalleri said.
“That’s probably where it becomes a little bit of a chess game and at the same time, it probably evens itself. It becomes a matter of who executes better so it’s a pretty interesting dynamic there.”
Cammalleri has played 364 games in the NHL since being drafted by Los Angeles in the 2nd round, 49th overall, in the 2001. The sniper has accumulated 132 goals and 287 points. He's heading into his first round of playoff action with a career high in goals, 39, and points, 82.
Calgary hasn’t had much success over the youthful Blackhawks, going 0-3-1 in the regular season but that isn’t something Cammalleri is dwelling on.
“We look at it as ‘Hey, here’s a fresh start for us, it’s a whole new season’ so to speak so we’ll spin a positive any way we can and that’s a constructive way for us to go about our business,” he said. “I think that stuff’s a lot of rearview mirror stuff for us right now and we’re going to be real positive.”
When asked about how Calgary is going to adjust and prepare for Nikolai Khabibulin, who has a mere five losses to the Flames in 31 career meetings, Cammalleri said the Flames would be getting back to the basics.
“It’s funny you know, you get these goalie reports every game and there’s a couple things that consistent with every goalie; they don’t like traffic - I’ve yet to meet a goalie that likes to be screened – and they don’t like when you put your rebounds up high. They don’t like it when you get a lot of shots on them so it’s the same old story. We know he’s a good goalie but we’ve got to make good shots and get good traffic and put a lot of pucks on him.”
The winning record on Khabibulin’s part has earned the Flames the underdog tag.
“I don’t feel angered by it,” was the reply when asked about the label. “You take it in and there’s a reason why people have certain opinions. Maybe a couple years ago I would have allowed something like that to anger me but as you go on in the business you realize that people are going to have certain opinions and they’re entitled to that. The opinions that matter the most are the ones of the guys that you trust, your teammates, and if people want to call us that and give us the underdog tag then that’s fine. I don’t think we feel that way in this room and I don’t think we’re going to play that way.”
Another concern going into the postseason has been injuries. As the amount of bodies dwindled over the past couple of weeks, practices often looked like ghost towns but on Monday the Flames had plenty of bodies on the ice.
“We had like 35 guys out there today!” he laughed. “It went from feeling like no one was here and today I went to get on the bike before practice and the bikes were all full. You can’t even get on a bike in here so I think we’re plenty healthy. We’ve got enough bodies. It reminds me of when you go to war and the first guy with a gun gets shot down and you’ve got the next guy behind him.”
Calgary practiced the much-criticized power play during Monday morning’s skate and questions were thrown around about how the team was going to kick-start the special teams offense.
“The power play is a necessity,” he firmly answered, adding the Flames have high hopes for an offensive explosion. “Let’s go lead the playoffs in power play scoring as a team. How good would that be?”
He reiterated his belief that the power play will come back to life.
“You’re not going to win the Stanley Cup if you don’t score power play goals. Our answer to that is we’re going to score them. We will.”