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Getting greasy goals

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames may have found a formula for the stretch drive. Greasy goals.

In an impressive 5-3 win over New Jersey on Friday, four of the goals came from what is known as the tough area -- that area around the net that is guarded by big defencemen who cross-check, hack, push and do just about anything to prevent players from getting to.

Date   Opponent Result
Mar. 3
4-0 L
Mar. 5
5-3 W
Mar. 7
Mar. 9
Mar. 11
Mar. 14
Mar. 15
Mar. 17
Mar. 19
Mar. 21
Mar. 23
Mar. 25
Mar. 27
Mar. 28
Mar. 31
April 2
April 4
April 6
April 8
April 10
Daymond Langkow whacks in a rebound on his backhandfter some heavy lifting by linemate Chris Higgins; Eric Nystrom, with a terrific second effort, swatted in his own rebound from beside the net; Matt Stajan gets to the tough spot to fire home a rebound and then David Moss, planted in the crease, tucks in another. For good measure Curtis Glencross, swiping a puck at the Flames blueline from Ilya Kovalchuk streaked the length of the ice and beat Martin Broduer with a pure snapshot to the top corner for a shorthanded goal.

The players were told, in no uncertain terms, that to score, they had to get greasy and dirty.

"We need guys to pay a bigger price. Everyone wants to be a shooter and no one wants to get into the tough areas. We work hard in the offensive zone, but then we get passive because we don't go to that area. We want everything to be a 30 to 40 to 50 foot goal, instead of being a 10-footer or a five-foot goal. It's got to change. And obviously it's got to change quickly," head coach Brent Sutter said following a disappointing loss to Minnesota on Wednesday.

A mere 48 hours later it was done.

"We were assertive in that area. We were able to get pucks to the net," said Sutter following Friday's win. "You want to get into those areas and good things will happen."

"We drove the net. We got pucks there. We battled. We got second chances," said Nystrom. "Once they go in, you hope they keep going in."

Yep. And, if the Flames are going to mount that drive for a playoff spot, they need to keep this scoring thing going.

During Vancouver's fantastic 2010 Winter Olympics, the theme song was 'I Believe'. For the past two home games, the Calgary Flames honoured Canada's Olympians, hockey players, lugers, bobsledders, curlers, the works. Now it's time for the Flames themselves to say 'I believe.'

"We have to realize what works for us. Those are the types of goals we are going to score. Every line chipped in with a goal. You aren't going to lose many games when that happens," said Nystrom.

With 18 games remaining in the season the Flames are in for the fight of their lives to make the playoffs. The maximum number of points on the board for the Flames taking is 36. Certainly that would assure them a playoff spot. But it is unrealistic to win all 18 games down the stretch. A realistic target is somewhere between 23 and 25 points, which would put the Flames at 92 to 95 points.

"We're at the stage of the year where every game is critical," noted assistant coach Dave Lowry. "We've put ourselves in a position where we have to win every night."

Let's say something in the 12-win category is needed for the Flames to make the post-season. Is that doable? Certainly. It's just not super easy doable considering the Flames opponents and the fact that 12 of their final 18 games are on the road. There are, however, six games against teams in the same position and roughly the same point total as the Flames. There are three games versus Minnesota, incuding an afternoon game in the Twin Cities on Sunday, two against Detroit, including a game in Motown on Tuesday night and one versus Anaheim. They also have two games against Colorado and Vancouver, two teams ahead of them in the Northwest Division.

There are also some tough match-ups against top teams in the league including San Jose, Chicago and Washington, the latter two on the road.

Sutter pulled out that old, one-game-at-a-time line following Friday's win. "You worry about the task at hand, not the overall, because you can put a lot of weight on your shoulders

Friday's win, however, was over one of the top teams in the league. It's a boost of confidence for the team. A boost of energy for the offence. What is to stop the Flames from producing like they did in the first two months of the season when they were a 17-6-3 team? A run like that to finish the season is as likely as a run like that at the start of the season, correct? Certainly it is not impossible.

Sure, The Flames, who sat in ninth, one point behind Detroit, with 71 points heading into action Saturday night, will need to continue to get top-notch goaltending. And they will need to continue to score like they did Friday.

“We need everyone, every night, we can’t have any average players," said Sutter.

Friday was, obviously, a big victory at a critical juncture. A win that the Flames can build on -- make that have to build on.

"It's a huge boost for us. We've had some trouble putting the puck in the net. Goals come in bunches," said Glencross.

"We can build a lot of confidence off of what our offence did," said Nystom.

"I think guys are excited here. We did some good things before the (Olympic) break. We need to get right back on it and get going," said defenceman Cory Sarich. "I think it is a real team first attitude in here right now. It is guys who want to help improve the team. Just hearing guys talk, whether it is working ont he power pla or little things. Everything is for the betterment of this club and to get us some wins. That's the way it needs to be."

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