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FLAMES REWIND - 02.04.17

Clinching playoff spot was huge - but it's only the first step for team

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers / calgaryflames.com

The behind-the-scenes video painted it perfectly.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan, in a rare post-game appearance in the locker-room, addressed the group gathered around basking in a 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks that punched the group's ticket into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Just give me one second…I don't come in here often," started Gulutzan, parked in front of a SMART Board splashed with a 'CLINCHED' graphic.

"From the start of camp and rowing to Central Park and the dark days in October and November, I've never been more proud of a group of guys in my entire coaching career.

"Congratulations."

Playoff bound.

For the second time in three years.

Same destination.

Different expectation.

"I think it's a little different now," veteran center Matt Stajan said. "We expected to be here, in this spot, whereas a couple years ago maybe we surprised everybody.

"A lot of hard work has gone into this. We really turned it around after All-Star break.

"We should be proud of ourselves.

"Now we push. Now we go after what we really want."

Two years ago, a plucky, resilient group was a surprise entrant in the postseason dance.

The cardiac kids even managed to steal an opening round matchup against the Vancouver Canucks before falling in five to the Anaheim Ducks, ending a Cinderella-esque run.

Sam Bennett, who scored the empty-netter to seal the deal versus the Sharks, burst onto the scene that spring.

He's ready for another go.

"I'm loving it right now,'' said Bennett. "I'm having a lot of fun. This way you work hard in training camp, this is why you work hard in the summer: For this moment.

"For these playoffs."

He's a proud player.

And he has a proud coach.

"I said to the guys, and I meant it," Gulutzan declared. "Those guys, they pushed. I've never been as proud of a group, from the adversity were had at the start, just sticking with it, in my 17 years, 18 years of coaching.

"This is just a fantastic group of guys."

"Very proud of what they accomplished."

OVER THE BOARDS:

How about that throw down last Wednesday between Deryk Engelland and former Flames captain Jarome Iginla? If that is Iginla's last appearance at the 'Dome, he goes out in style: a Gordie Howe hat-trick and a first-star performance. …Flames prospect Matthew Phillips helped make history Sunday night. Unfortunately he was on the wrong end of it. Phillips, who scored 50 goals this season with the Victoria Royals, was eliminated from the WHL Playoffs in an epic five-overtime battle against the Everett Silvertips. The game, lasting an astounding 151:36, is the longest in CHL history. …This week's worthy read? Check out George Johnson's tale of Flames equipment manager Mark DePasquale. …Props to Chad Johnson , who was named the recipient of the Peter Maher Award earlier in the week. The nod, given annually, goes to the Flames player for co-operation with the media covering the team.

OVERTIME:

While Johnson netted some hardware, the Flames nominated two more potential recipients Thursday. Calgary has their representatives for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and NHL Foundation Player Award. Not surprisingly, captain Mark Giordano will be up for the Clancy, awarded to the player that best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy contribution in his community as voted on by his teammates. "It's almost exhausting what he does," Gulutzan said. "It's a credit to him. He lives his life at a high level on and off the ice. It's a great role model for our kids coming forward here to have him." Few in the league can rival Giordano's contributions on and off the ice. "He shows a great example every day," forward Mikael Backlund said. "On the ice, off the ice he works hard. He's just a great guy and a good person. He gets along with everyone and is there for everyone whenever it's needed. He's a role model outside of the rink for guys too." Backlund, fittingly, is the NHL Foundation Player Award nominee. "Great guy in the locker room," Gulutzan started. "Great professional. Great humanitarian. Excellent guy to have." Backlund is involved in the ALS Society of Alberta, Special Olympics and several other charities. "He's a leader on the ice and he's grown in the community," Giordano said. "He's been here for a long time. Watching him from a young age to where he is now he's come a long way."

 

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