The Flames have forged an identity over the past month or so with strict attention to detail in their own zone.
They have given up 19 goals in the past 11 games and have not surrendered more than three markers in a single match only once, a 4-1 setback to the Los Angeles Kings on January 14th, in that span.
"We are certainly playing better defensively now than we were earlier," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, "I think it's just more consistent now, it's a commitment you have to have from every single individual inside your dressing room."
During those same 11 games, the Flames have acquired points in all but three contests, proving that a defence-first brand of hockey is what this team needs to play to have success and make a run for a playoff position.
The other end of the spectrum is the scoring woes the team has faced while looking after their own end first.
The Flames have fired 26 goals since being up-ended 9-0 by the powerhouse Boston Bruins, averaging 2.36 goals-per-game since January 7th.
Sutter feels the offence will come.
"I think it goes hand-and-hand, good defensive structure and good defensive play means you're a better team offensively," he said, "There's so much talk about us not scoring but you don't hear a lot of people say we're not getting scoring chances, we've had quality scoring chances. the scoring chances are there, we just have to bear down on those opportunities."
If the Flames continue to hold teams to two goals or less as they have been, they should continue to see themselves climb the standings and stay in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
THE CAMMALLERI FACTOR
Michael Cammalleri has tallied twice since being acquired by the Calgary Flames on January 12th.
Both of those markers have come on the powerplay where the Flames have struggled for most of the season, especially in the confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Prior to the acquisition of Cammalleri, The Flames converted 25 of 147 opportunities giving them a 17 percent success rate. Since Cammalleri has joined the Flames, the team's powerplay has surged, scoring six times in 23 chances for 26 percent.
"The powerplay is very important for us right now. We're playing a lot of tight games and every point counts, he noted. "It seems like less penalties are being called so you really need to make your chances count."
"If you win the special teams game your percentage of winning the game goes way up. It's vitally important, especially in a league where it's getting harder and harder to score goals."
Although he only has a pair of goals and no assists, Cammalleri has been a key contributor in the new found fortunes and gives the Flames a much different look on the man-advantage.
He has great vision and his patience with the puck opens give the unit more scoring chances.
"Our powerplay has a lot of options. There are some dangerous players out there to distribute the puck to. I feel like when I get the puck there is four other guys out there that I want to get the puck to and I think they feel the same way."
"I think because of that we can be unpredictable and can move the puck around in unpredictable patterns. So it's been fun and we've been able to create lots of great chances and we've been able to convert some of them."
GOLDEN STATE SHOOTOUTS
The Flames have battled teams from California on three occasions this season and each time the meetings have gone to an extra stanza and eventually a shootout.
The last time the Flames suited up in the Shark Tank they put fourth one of their best road efforts of the campaign but failed to collect the extra point as the Sharks prevailed 2-1 in a shootout.
The only time the Flames have extracted an extra point was in Los Angeles on January 19th when Michael Cammalleri and Olli Jokinen both notched goals in the shootout while the Kings collected only a single goal from Mike Richards.
And of course there was the eight-round shootout marathon in Anaheim on Monday night which showcased sixteen shooters and only five goals, the final tally coming from former Flame Niklas Hagman which would prove to be the winner.
The Flames erased a two-goal deficit in the match to gain the chance to earn an extra point which can be a positive factor going into the game tonight against the Sharks.
Michael Cammalleri is still disappointed they didn't come out on top.
"I thought it was a really good forty minutes to finish, he quipped. "You win in the shootout you're probable taking about how great of a game we played."
"We did earn the one (point) but it would have been nice to get the two. You look at the standings and you move on quickly and realize that tonight is a night were we need two."
Author: Jason Johnson