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Flames picking up big wins over top teams in the West

by Andrew Halipchuk / Calgary Flames

We get up for every game. That’s our job; we should always be on top of our things and make sure that we are ready to play. We have 82 games, so we have 82 challenges to be ready mentally and physically. - Bob Hartley

CALGARY, AB -- When the Calgary Flames skated to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks on Monday, they added to their season total of wins over teams that have been deemed elite in the Western Conference.

In their first year of the rebuild, the upstart Flames have proven to be a thorn in the side of the top six teams in the NHL’s Western Conference, which includes the Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.

“What we are taking pride in now is trying to come out and beat those teams and prove that we can play with them,” Flames defenceman TJ Brodie said.

In the season series with San Jose, the Flames won two of five games, with one of their losses coming in overtime and another being decided by one goal in regulation.

“We’ve always had some success against San Jose,” Flames captain, Mark Giordano said. “I think we have done a good job against them by trying to skate and play with them, most of our games have been tight games for sure.”

The Flames host Anaheim on Wednesday for the final time this season. So far this year, the Ducks have defeated the Flames twice in Anaheim by scores of 3-2 and 5-2. But two weeks ago, Calgary handed the Ducks a loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome, scoring seven goals in the win.

This was the most goals allowed by the Ducks all season to date.

“Tomorrow night is going to be a good test,” Brian McGrattan said. “We beat them pretty good last time they were here, we know they are going to hungry to get back at us.”

In two weeks’ time the Kings, who sit third in the Pacific Division, will be playing their final game against the Flames this season. This year has been a road series for the Flames and Kings with the Flames winning the first two games of the season series in Los Angeles by scores of 3-2 and 2-1, while LA won the next pair of games at the Saddledome 2-0 and 3-2 respectively.

“I think it shows a lot to win or tie division series’ against teams that are probably going to be Stanley Cup contenders,” McGrattan said.

Calgary has been able to hold their own against top teams in the Central Division as well this season, needing overtime to defeat the Blues 4-3 in December, coming from behind and holding on to a 4-3 victory against the Avalanche, and beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks twice in overtime, 3-2 in Chicago and 5-4 at home.

“Our game plan is structured around us not being a high-end skilled team but us being sort of a blue collar team,” Giordano said. “We’ve done a good job of making it hard for those top players [in Chicago.]

“It frustrates them when you’re always on them and forcing backside pressure.”

The Flames were able to win the season series with the Blackhawks this year winning two of the three games played. Although they did lose the season series’ to both St. Louis and Colorado, one of the two losses to each team was decided by one goal.

Of the 12 losses to the elite teams in the West this year, seven of the games were lost by just one goal.

“Learning to play in those tight games is always an experience,” Brodie said. “The more experience you get, the better you get and the more you learn about the game.”

Playing in tight situations, after all, helps the process.

“We’re finding ways to compete,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “When you’re on the bench and you have a feeling that you have a chance to win, that is the most important part for this team right now.”

The Flames have also won games against four teams that are currently fighting for the last two wild card spots in the Western Conference. Defeating the Phoenix Coyotes twice, (Dec. 4 and Jan. 22) and each of the Winnipeg Jets (Nov. 18), Minnesota Wild (Feb. 1) and Dallas Stars (Mar. 14) once.

“We get up for every game,” Hartley said. “That’s our job; we should always be on top of our things and make sure that we are ready to play.

“We have 82 games, so we have 82 challenges to be ready mentally and physically.”

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