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Inexperienced Flames 'all in' on push to playoffs

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I have no idea what the number’s going to be. With how tight everything is right now with who we’re racing with and all that, all I know is it is going to come down to the wire. Brandon Bollig

CALGARY, AB -- Brandon Bollig knows what it takes to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But he doesn’t know what it’s going to take.

Bollig, who spent parts of three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and has skated in 24 playoff games scattered over three runs, isn’t sure what point figure will safely place his Calgary Flames in this year’s playoffs.

“I have no idea what the number’s going to be,” he said after participating in an optional skate at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday. “With how tight everything is right now with who we’re racing with and all that, all I know is it is going to come down to the wire. It’s going to come down to the last game. We can’t afford to drop any points, especially games that we’re not working hard and we’re not creating chances, we’re not playing the right way.

“Odds are we’re not going to win every single game the rest of the season but we definitely have to go out and give ourselves the chance and that’s what it’s going to take.”

They’re safe, for now.

Entering action Sunday, Bollig’s Flames sit third in the Pacific Division with a two-point cushion on the Los Angeles Kings, who hold a game at hand, and a six-point edge on the Colorado Avalanche, who they’ll host Monday in Calgary.

The Vancouver Canucks, second in the Pacific, sit two up on the Flames and the Winnipeg Jets, keepers of the second of two wild card entries into the playoffs from the Western Conference, also hold a two-point advantage on Calgary. Both clubs also hold a game at hand over the Flames.

The playoff push is a feeling that Bollig isn’t necessarily used to this time of year.

“It’s definitely a different feeling,” he said. “Playing there (with Chicago), you knew pretty much going into every year you’re most likely going to be in the playoffs. They always had a good chance of going deep in the playoffs. It’s definitely a different feeling here trying to get to that point. It’s fun. It’s been a lot of fun, a different experience.”

Bollig isn’t the only member of the Flames unsure of what it’ll take points-wise to lift Calgary into the playoffs for the first time this decade.

Much like the winger, Joe Colborne can’t peg how many more points the Flames will need to pick up over the final stretch of the regular season to ensure Calgary can extend their year.

“I have no idea. I have no idea,” said Colborne, who has two career playoff games under his belt -- both as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, a first round exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins. “It’s going to take some more wins. With the way some other teams are playing right now it could take quite a few wins. Take care of our own stuff and if we worry about ourselves then we wont even have to worry about anyone else. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

Colborne and Bollig are two of just 13 members of Calgary’s active roster that have advanced to postseason play in their careers. Only five -- Bollig (24 games), Jiri Hudler (66), Mason Raymond (55), Dennis Wideman (44) and Jonas Hiller (26) have taken 14 or more playoff skates.

But with 10 games remaining in the regular season and their playoff fate to be determined over the next three weeks, the upstart, inexperienced Flames aren’t tightening up down the stretch.

Far from it, Bollig suggested.

“It hasn’t been stressful,” he said. “It’s definitely not relaxed. We’re all focused, but we’re having fun with it. This is the most fun time of year other than the actual postseason. Guys are loving it. It’s a lot of guys first times. The guys who have been in the league a while, if and when we make the postseason it’ll be their first crack at that. I think guys are really excited and guys are hungry in here.

“Our eyes are definitely on the prize and we’re definitely striving for that postseason and not just to make it, but to be successful in it.”

The confidence is nothing new. While it hasn’t always necessarily been there outside Calgary’s locker room, from within there’s been plenty.

And now, they’re all-in.

“We had a lot of confidence in ourselves right from the start,” Colborne said. “That starts with our coaches and management and works its way down from our veterans. It’s a fun room to be in and we’re not looking at it as being in a rebuild kind of thing.

“We’re looking at it as we’re a tough team to play against and I think a lot of teams are not looking forward to playing us in the first round if we can get there. If we get a chance to wear a team down over a long series we might be able to do some damage.

“We’ve been all-in for a while now. This is what you life for. This is the fun stuff and what makes us so exciting. It’s way more fun coming to the rink every day when the games mean something.”

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