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HITTING NEW 'MARK'

Giordano sets career high for points in season in win over Coyotes

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

As someone who's forgotten more about defence than most will ever know, Al MacNeil is uniquely qualified to discuss the art of the position.

"The best ones," the former Flames coach nicknamed Chopper once explained, "play as if they're in a rocking chair.

"By that, I mean the game seems to come to them."

That being so, Mark Giordano could certainly pass for a guy blissfully swaying back and forth on a covered porch on a lazy, sun-drenched summer afternoon, hat tipped over his eyes, crickets chirping all around him.

In other words, in full rock.

"You don't get too many of those," kidded Giordano of a beauty deke goal that highlighted the Flames' 5-2 Monday dismissal of the interlopers from Arizona.

"That's why the celly was the way it was. The boys were giving it to me a little bit.

"But if you're going to get one like that, I'm going to make the celly count, for sure."

After setting up Derek Ryan's game-opening strike only 1:34 into the Family Day matinee, Giordano, sliding in off the left side, left in his wake the grasping back check attempt of Clayton Keller before deking Coyotes' goaltender Calvin Pickard from the 'Dome to Drumheller to stake his side to a 2-1 advantage.

Another fixture, another star turn. In this, his most remarkable season, Giordano continues to make the exceptional seem routine.
Monday's two points, BTW, pushes him to 57, a career high, and into a second-place tie among defencemen alongside Toronto's Morgan Reilly, seven shy of the pacesetting Brent Burns.

He now also holds the third-highest point total by a Calgary D-man over the last quarter century, only three behind second-placed Dion Phaneuf's '08-09 aggregate of 60. From there, you're required to trace all the way back to Al MacInnis and his 82 of '93-94.

Hey, the way No. 5's been riding a point-per-game clip all season so don't rule out the possibility.

"Every year I really work a lot on my shot in the summer, on getting pucks to the net," said the captain post-game. "In the new game it's a lot harder to drag the puck across the blueline and shoot. Everyone blocks everything. So you've got to one-time a lot of pucks.

"But again, we have such a good team, score so many goals, that a lot of guys' numbers are going to look really good this year.

"I'm also on a pretty good powerplay unit that snaps it around, too, don't forget. And it always feels good to contribute, get points offensively.

"But more importantly, where we are in the standings is huge. We want to keep pushing and get that top spot."

 

Video: "As the game went on, we got better and better."

 

If they do, the 35-year-old will, it goes without saying but bears repeating, be a major reason.

"To be honest, I don't think it's just this year," said goaltender Mike Smith. "I mean, this is my second year here, I'm not a seasoned vet with Gio but I've played against him enough to know what kind of player he is.

"Now I've got to know what kind of person he is away from the rink and what kind of leader he is.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve, leads more by example than by verbal communication but when he does talk, everyone's got their ears open.

"A very special player to have on your team.

"He's been a horse for this group all seasons long and deserves all the accolades he's been getting."

On Monday, owing to the absence of regular sidekick T.J. Brodie, Giordano found himself paired with rookie Rasmus Andersson.

"It's an honour to play with Gio," said Andersson afterwards. "And so simple. He just makes unbelievable plays all the time. He talks to you all the time. You know where he is all the time.

"And 99 percent of the time he makes the right play. Which is pretty amazing."

While Giordano may not wade into the Norris debate armed with Brent Burns' ZZ Top beard and goofily magnetic personality or Morgan Reilly's media saturation in T.O. or Kris Letang's ring-bling collection, his season ranks as the equal of anyone's.

"The way he plays," said Smith, "is a lot different than most guys who are up for the Norris Trophy.

"He's a grinder type player who has the skill to go along with it.

"And he he puts it out there every game. There's not one game where you can say G had an off night. It's always, always there.

"That's the sign of a true professional and leader.

"When I came from Arizona, watching Shane Doan and being able to learn from him was special. You come here and see a guy like Giordano who younger players can look at and emulate, watch how he prepares from practices and games. How he competes.

"Guys can take a look and say: 'I need to be more like him.' Cause if we had more players like G it'd be … amazing."

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