While many experts didn’t include the Calgary Flames in discussions about Stanley Cup favorites this season, perhaps they should reconsider. After all, when talking about Calgary, it's impossible to ignore one of the primary reasons for the team’s success -- Jarome Iginla
Iginla currently leads the team with 81 points -- the sixth-highest total in the League -- and beyond that production demands accountability from his teammates, a point accented during a recent losing streak.
|Iginla sees similarities to 2004 |
|Jarome Iginla remembers what worked to get the Flames within one win of the 2004 Stanley Cup, and sees this season's team with the horses to capture that elusive 16th playoff victory. |
"I think there are some similarities to the team that went to the Final," Iginla said of the current squad. "We have a good mixture between youth and veteran guys. The young guys bring in some extra energy and excitement. We've really enjoyed playing together as a group and we've had some success during the year. I know in '04 I was pretty excited because we were on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in a long time and I think that carried over into the playoffs.
"This year has been an exciting year for us, too. We had a tough stretch earlier in the year, but we were able to rebound. Things are getting better and we've enjoyed that. I think we could potentially be a better team. We were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup and things fell into place there. At this point I think we're a deeper team. We've got scoring all the way through the lineup this year and our defense has been a big part of our success. Our defense does a great job of moving the puck up. I'm excited about our team this year."
This season, however, the pressure is on in Calgary and the Flames aren't taking teams by surprise.
"The expectations between this year and 2004 are totally different, there's no hiding it," Iginla said. "When we went into the playoffs in '04 we were just trying to upset teams. We were just trying to win that first round because we hadn't been in the playoffs for seven years. I don't think a lot of people were expecting us to go that far. As players, when you play you always think that you have a chance and you can win, but from the outside there wasn't that pressure. We think it's possible this year, but it's nice at the deadline when you get the confirmation from ownership and management that they believe in you and that we're going for it. We want to win the Stanley Cup. There're a lot of teams that feel the same way, but from our point of view we want to give ourselves the best position going into the playoffs and that's our goal."
-- Adam Schwartz
"I think we weren't as focused, determined or competitive as we had been previously and we have to get back to making sure our competiveness level is up," Iginla said. "We were feeling good about ourselves, but then we had a bad game in Carolina and it carried over into Atlanta and then we started pressing, thinking, 'We have to have this one, we have to have this one.' I don't think that's the way to play, I don't think that's the way we've had success as a team. I think we have to concentrate on ourselves, not who our opponent is, not where they are in the standings or anything like that.
"Over the course of the year we've been really good sticking to ourselves and bringing our determination and getting to the level where we want to be at. We have been good making sure that we are getting our shots."
The selfless Iginla, who credits a plethora of playmakers for his goal-scoring success, has a pretty lethal shot himself and has led the Flames in goal scoring for the past seven seasons. This season, he's second with 31 goals, three behind Mike Cammalleri
"Cammalleri has had a great year with us," Iginla said. "His release is as good as anybody I've played with. With his one-timer, you can put it anywhere near him and he can one-time a puck from any angle, anywhere. It's great you get the puck over there and it puts a lot of pressure on goalies. When a lot of guys wouldn't get the shot off, he does. He's also trying to be the double threat; he's a little bit of everything. If you get open I know that he's not always going to shoot it because he'll make some great plays. He's a smart hockey player and he's had a great year for us, but the thing that stands out most is his release and his one-timer; I haven't played with anybody that has a better one."
Cammalleri denies that there is an internal competition for Calgary's goal-scoring title.
"We're not looking at who is scoring more goals," Cammalleri said. "I think we both like to push each other. The more goals we score the better chance our team has to win. So we just try to push each other to climb as high as we can. I'm not worried about who has more goals."
Iginla agrees with his linemate and is more concerned with the team's success than his own.
"There isn't a competition to try and catch Cammalleri in goals," Iginla said. "I'd be very happy if we were rolling and he scored one more goal than me. It's about winning and scoring goals. It's about contributing goals. We don't talk about who has scored more; we'd both like to be on fire. To be honest, the media is who talks about who is scoring more goals between us. It's good for our team that we are on the same line. Being productive just means that our line is on fire."
The third member of Iginla and Cammalleri's line is the prize of the 2009 trade deadline, Olli Jokinen
. In his first six games with the Flames, Jokinen has 8 goals, including a hat trick March 14 in Toronto.
"I think the addition of him is really going to be good," said Iginla. "He's such a big, powerful center, but he's very fast, too. He's got good wheels and I think we've had some good chemistry and some give and go's. There are some things to build on and I think it's going to keep getting better and I'm excited about it."
As much as newcomers Iginla and Cammalleri -- acquired from the Kings at last June's draft -- have meant, Iginla remains the heartbeat of the franchise.
"He's just very good at the game," Cammalleri said of Iginla. "He's a strong guy, he's a motivated guy, he's a very competitive guy and he's someone that constantly works on his game. I think he has a lot of different facets to his game. He can pass, he can shoot, he's a very dynamic offensive player, he can hit, he can fight and he plays well in his own end. It's pretty special when you can combine all of those things."
Contact Adam Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Adam Schwartz | NHL.com Staff Writer