CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames played three games on the road from Dec. 16 through Dec. 22 and while the results weren't there (0-2-1), there were a lot of positives to build off of.
On Tuesday, they fell 2-0 to the Boston Bruins. Captain Zdeno Chara scored both goals for his team while they were on the power play; a rare occurrence as of late as the Flames penalty killing has been rock solid over the last month. Even strength, the Flames were able to fend off the Bruins defensively but couldn't generate any sort of offence thanks to a first-star performance from Tuukka Rask. Swiss netminder Reto Berra made 29 saves in the setback.
"We played pretty good, especially in the first period," Berra said afterwards. "We had our chances and everything. Their goalie played really good. Yeah, it's tough. I think they scored both goals on the power play, and so we have to find a way to score some goals."
Last Thursday, the Flames were in Detroit and while they fell behind the Red Wings twice in the game, they showed resiliency and battled back to push the game into extra time. Daniel Alfredsson, who opened the scoring the first period, scored the game-winner in overtime. Mikael Backlund and Mike Cammalleri were reunited on a line and the move immediately paid dividends; the pair combined for three points in the 3-2 OT loss.
The Flames power play also got going in Detroit as Mark Giordano scored the equalizer with the man advantage.
"Our power play's needed to give our team momentum, whether we score or not," Cammalleri said in his post-game scrum. "We were finally able to tonight. That was [big]."
Calgary ended their nine-day road swing in Pittsburgh on Saturday and once again showed a lot resiliency. Their comeback fell short - they ended up dropping the game 4-3 in regulation - but were able to come back from two and three goal deficits. Karri Ramo, who started in four of the fives games on the road trip, made 19 saves in the loss.
"I liked some things about our game," Cammalleri noted. "The third period was strong, for sure. I thought we did a lot of good things and put some pressure on them and had some pretty close ones."
Here are CalgaryFlames.com's Three Stars Of The Week (Dec. 16-Dec. 22):
FIRST STAR - MIKAEL BACKLUND
QUICK NUMBERS: 1 goal, 11 shots on net, 21:13 average ice time in his last 3 games
The Swedish pivot has put a lot work into improving his all-around game - providing his team with a stable defensive presence and a strong backcheck while generating offence and putting up points - and that effort has been paying off lately. Head coach Bob Hartley has bumped up Backlund's responsibilities and after a particularly strong outing Detroit, the bench boss had some strong praise for the 24-year-old.
"Presently, he's probably our best forward," Hartley stated.
Backlund has also been tasked with skating against opponent's top lines this past week; he and Cammalleri were pitted against the Pavel Datsyuk line more than any other forwards in Detroit and the Sidney Crosby line in Pittsburgh.
SECOND STAR: MIKE CAMMALLERI
QUICK NUMBERS: 1 goal, 2 assists, 10 shots on net, over 50 per cent in the face-off circle in all 3 games last week
In his past two games, Cammalleri has rattled off three points - one goal and two assists - and has generated a plethora of chances for his team. He and Backlund have been dangerous in both even strength situations and on the power play, wreaking havoc in the offensive zone on a regular basis.
THIRD STAR: PAUL BYRON
QUICK NUMBERS: 1 goal, 3 shots on net, 16:56 average ice time in his last 3 games
The diminutive forward was called up in November in response to a rash of injuries suffered by Flames skaters but his strong play has prompted the coaching staff to increase his ice time and move him up the depth chart. Most recently, he has played alongside Backlund, Cammalleri, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler.
"I felt he had a great [training] camp, but we had lots of players and we decided maybe it was better for Paul to go back to Abbotsford and get some playing time," Hartley said last week. "Right now, he’s flying. He’s on the puck. He’s buzzing. He’s smart with the puck and he’s giving us great minutes on penalty killing.
"He’s finding a way to spend Christmas in Calgary."