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Giordano earns the praise of teammates after another stellar performance

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

A good captain manages to somehow hold his nerve, along with the unstinting faith of the crew around him, in the teeth of any squall.

Well, there was plenty of choppy water, inclement weather and gale-force winds Wednesday inside the Scotiabank Saddledome.

For large parts of the evening, the local skipper and his crew found themselves lashed to the mast as the Colorado Avalanche whipped up a right old tempest in the offensive zone.

Outshot 35-16.

Out-chanced by a wide margin.

But in large part due to the unflappable calm of the man at the rudder, the Good Ship Flames somehow managed to find its way to safe haven in port without running aground on the rocks, 5-3, to post a sixth win in eight starts.

"That guy?'' nodded goaltender David Rittich, indicating the thicket of media surrounding Mark Giordano post-game. "I mean, nobody can say enough about him.

"One of the best players I've ever seen. One of the best leaders I've ever met.

"This guy can play in our zone, can play in their zone. He's the guy who can do … everything. Every single game, he's got five blocked shots.

"He's a huge, huge part of this group."

Wednesday provided just one more piece of irrefutable evidence in a mounting Giordano For The Norris campaign. Three more points, a +1 rating, a typical team-leading 26:11 of hard toil.

The three helpers moved him up to 43 points in as many starts, good for third spot among all defencemen. A plus-31 leads everyone at the position.

"He's so consistent," lauded winger Michael Frolik, who played with Norris winner Duncan Keith during his time in the Windy City. "He plays every game against the best lines. He's unbelievable on defence, can make plays. He's hard on the puck, good gap, long stick, always stick-on-puck.

"He's the leader. The captain. One of the best I've ever met.

"Especially this year. He's really driving the bus on the back end now. Even the points are going for him."

Giordano's three helpers moved him to 303 on his Calgary career and past an icon, Joe Nieuwendyk, into fifth on the franchise's all-time list. He's also within six starts of sliding by the greatest D-man to don the Flaming C, Al MacInnis (803), into third in regular-season games played and four points shy of overtaking Jim Peplinski's total of 424 points as a Flame and into the Top-10 in that category.

"Tonight," said Giordano, "was lucky. One off Fro there at the end of the third. Just trying to put pucks on net when I can. And I'm on a pretty good powerplay with pretty good players. So I'm trying to move the puck around, get it in their hands."

In a game like Wednesday's, where the boat's taking on water, threatening to capsize, the first person everyone looks to provide a life preserver is No. 5.

"I do take pride in that," the 35-year-old acknowledged. "Most nights I think Brodes and I are good. We give our team a really good chance to win. When we're not so good we usually don't get victories because we're playing against the other team's top line.

"If the other team's top players are feeling it, you're in trouble. That's our job: Shut them down. I think we had a tough test. Man, those guys (Colorado's top unit of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen) are good."

And the growing Norris noise?

"You see the stuff that gets written, the articles. But honestly, at the end of the day, I've been playing a long time and haven't gotten into that many playoff games. That's what I want more than anything.

"I feel good. I feel like I've got a lot of energy, for whatever reason. My legs feel good. I also don't think Brodes gets enough credit. He's an easy guy to play with because he's a one-man breakout.

"If I'm at the top of my game, helping both defensively and offensively, I just feel that stuff, awards and the like, will take care of itself."

David Rittich doesn't have a ballot on the shiny individual hardware the NHL doles out during the summer months, of course.

But if he did …

"Ach!" blurted the effervescent goaltender. "He's the one guy who should get it this year. And not just this year.

"I'm very proud to say I play with him, to be in the same locker room with him.

"He really deserves it."

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