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HOME-ICE ADVANTAGE

Michael Frolik says team will get a big boost from the C of Red

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

There was, admittedly, a point when the jitters took hold. 

An unforgettable flash of emotion when the belief, the fervor, and the goosebumps of playoff hockey hit like a Mack truck, causing every last hair to stand up and briefly paralyze the body. 

"Easy to say, harder to do," Michael Frolik, who made his playoff debut as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks back in the spring of 2011, said of managing the sweltering home atmosphere.

"I didn't know what to expect that first time. I'd heard the stories, watched the games on TV growing up, but until you've lived it, felt it… 

"Wow.

"Incredible.

"But it was hard, too. I was a young guy just trying not to screw up. I wanted that first shift to go perfectly. I wanted to score, make a difference. I wanted to do it all. And I'm sure some of our younger players are feeling the same going into this, too.

"It's the playoffs, right? It's natural for anyone to feel how the big the moment is. 

"The key - somehow - is to not let that moment get the better of you. 

"Be you. That's all you have to do."

 

 

Frolik went on to win a Cup two years later and in all, has 42 games of post-season experience under his belt entering the 2019 quest. 

He is, and yet barely into his 30s, one of the grizzled vets of a roster injected with youth.

Only James Neal has a longer playoff resume with 100 tilts in his nine seasons. 

Combined, everyone else has 135. 

"Everyone always talks about experience like it can make all the difference in a series," Frolik said. "Maybe. Maybe not. 

"I look at it this way: Maybe a few words can be shared between now and (Game 1), but we have a lot of experienced guys here, in different ways. We have a pretty young core, but even Johnny and Mony, they've been through it a bit already. Twice. 

"They didn't go deep, but they've played a few games, so they know what to expect, what the crowd is going to be like. Since then, look at what they've done. Johnny almost put up 100 points. Mony could have scored 40 this year and was a point-per-game guy. 

"That's a different kind of experience. 

"Then you look at what we did this year, as a team. We had a great season. We had to do it the hard way, at times. We came back and won games we trailed in. 

"That's a playoff mentality, if you ask me."

 

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It is, remember, a younger league now, anyway. But the ongoing debate about how to quantify the 'value' of playoff experience will never cease. 

Not until you go deep or win it all, of course. 

Frolik, though, is taking it upon himself to help the younger players along, knowing those first couple of games can be a shock the system.

"Everyone loves the home crowd," Frolik said. "There isn't a guy in this dressing room that doesn't use it to their advantage. 

"It's when things aren't going well - especially on the road - when you have to push through it. 

"Bad things happen. That's how the game works. But you can't change what you do. 

"We dealt with it pretty well during the season and hopefully we can carry it over to the playoffs. If something like that happens, you can't panic. You have to stick with it and work our way out of it.

"And you know what? We did exactly that all year. 

"Same group of guys doing it now."

 

Video: "We need to find a new gear, a new level."

 

The first step is taking care of business in Games 1 and 2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Flames put together one of the most impressive home records at 26-10-5 this year. 

With a sold-out crowd and thousands more flooding the Red Lot mere steps from the doors, the Flames are hoping to get the momentum on their side early and do their best not to relinquish it.

"We've talked a lot lately about that," Frolik said. "We worked so hard, all year, to get home ice. 

"We know the building's going to be loud and there'll be a lot of excitement in the room beforehand. 

"We want to use it the right way and give our fans something to cheer about.

"We do that, and look out."

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