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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Brad Treliving

Flames GM discusses hot streak, improved play of goalie Brian Elliott, forward Mikael Backlund

by Dan Rosen @DRosenNHL / Senior Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving:

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Do you have a few minutes to talk about your team because things are pretty good right now and it's a story?

"Shhhh," Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said in response to that query Monday.

Fat chance on that.

As much as Treliving might want the Flames to fly under the radar, to go on without being noticed, they're making it very difficult for that to happen. Actually, they're flat-out making it impossible.

The Flames have won seven straight games, have points in nine in a row (8-0-1) and are 12-2-1 since coach Glen Gulutzan ripped into them and called them "pathetic" following a 5-1 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 24.

Calgary has moved into a tie with the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division with 76 points. The Ducks have a game in hand, which is why they're third and the Flames are in position to be the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Flames goalie Brian Elliott is 9-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in his past 12 appearances. He was 8-12-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .891 in his first 23, and he wasn't even in net for that listless effort against the Canadiens.

Video: NYI@CGY: Elliott shuts the pads on Strome's attempt

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves," Treliving said. "It sounds motherhoodish and clichéish, but as quick as these things can go one way they can go the other way. So we're keeping it real small picture. But I like the mix of our group. I like where they're at right now. You have to stay healthy and you've got to keep playing. We've got lots of hockey left."

Treliving, though, did have time to talk in depth about the Flames on Monday, about the signs he saw before Calgary got hot, about Gulutzan's blowup in Montreal, about Elliott, another player who has certainly answered the bell this season, and a newcomer who he hopes can do the same eventually.

Here are Five Questions with…Brad Treliving:

Did you see any signs maybe as you were coming out of the All-Star break, or better yet going into it, that would lead you to believe this kind of run was possible?

"I mean, I'm not going to sit here and say we thought we were going to see this, but we did see a couple things. I really believed in our group. Chemistry and mix often get overlooked. I think those are real critical things. It's a group that gets along and it's a group that likes each other. So that's No. 1. A lot of our data, the things that we study and look at and evaluate and analyze, was good, and it's been good for a longer stretch than just this little run. It's not just the traditional analytics; it's playing more of the game in the other team's zone than ours, sort of our completion percentage. Just our execution of the things we want to do was better. We felt we're doing some good things. Our shooting percentage was down and our save percentage was low. So we looked at it and saw our special teams play, our 5-on-5 play, those numbers have been good for a fairly decent amount of time so if we can execute and get our goaltenders and our team defending at a level I think we're capable of I think we'll be able to have some success. That's sort of what has happened."

Your coach after a 5-1 loss at Montreal on Jan. 24 laid into the team pretty good, even calling them "pathetic," and I use that word in quotes because he said it. Since that rant your record is 12-2-1. Do you think that was just emotion on his part or do you think part of that was tactical too?

"I think it was emotion, but it's been played up that he was this wild, crazy man. As much as it was emotion and rawness I think there was a method to the madness. I think what it was more than anything else was like getting a wet towel snapped in your rear end. I think it was a wake up for our guys, like, 'Enough. Enough is enough.' There's been a turn from that. A lot of it too I think has been between the ears. I think we have a belief system now. On that trip we'd go down in games and we'd never recover. Now you don't ever want to get into a habit of it, but we've seen ourselves go down in games and now there is a believe system that is being built, or has been built, to where they trust each other and all is not lost if things go poorly to start. But I think that whole Montreal thing, no question there was frustration but I think it was a little bit of a wakeup call for our guys."

Now none of this happens without your goaltender coming around and playing the way he's played. So what's the difference with Brian Elliott now compared to earlier in the season? Is it comfort level? Are the guys playing better in front of him? What is it?

"I think they're playing better and we're giving up less. When the goaltenders were sort of up and down at the beginning we were giving up a lot, and not just in quantity but quality. We've tightened up in front of them. I think they're also exhaling a little bit. Brian, he's feeling more comfortable. He's like any player, he's gotten on a role, he's feeling better about himself, he's feeling more comfortable with the guys in front of him and the guys in front of him are feeling more comfortable. Again, it's that belief system and it goes on and on and on. He's playing well so he's more confident, and he's more confident so he keeps playing well. No question that's been the single biggest thing. It's the same with any team. You win with goaltending. You can talk about this and that, if the puck is not hitting the goalie you don't have a chance. He's making saves."

Another guy who has had a real strong season is Mikael Backlund, who is leading the team in points with 47. Did you see this coming from him, the production, the all-around game? I've seen some discussion about him being a Selke Trophy candidate even.

Video: DET@CGY: Backlund hammers the puck home for OT winner

"I think [he should be]. I think so. He's been really good. What I've noticed since I've been with him, and it's just three years, is he's one of those guys who came into the League as an offensive guy, took some time to find his way but has turned into a reliable guy. He's first over the boards in every situation. I think we went six games in a row where he never got an offensive zone faceoff. Six games. That's a lot. So we bury him defensively. He sees the other team's top lines. He's the first over the boards in penalty kill, 6-on-5, power play, 4-on-3, 3-on-3 -- he's turned into an every situation type player. Above all that the maturity I've seen in the time I've been here is he's now one of the guys at the front of the bus taking responsibility for wins and losses. What I mean by that is it's not just about his game, his game is now secondary to really dragging the group along and being the guy at the front of the bus to say, 'I'm going to take a real responsibility about getting two points on each given night.' But he's a very rare player that gets tapped on every situation and is producing."

Curtis Lazar has not played in the two games since you acquired him Wednesday. Is he going to be a player for your team this season or is he a reclamation project?

"No, he's a player. I said to him the difference now with Curtis is he's no longer a prospect, he's a player. And there is a difference in the League about a former first-round prospect to you got to be one of the 700 in the League. He's trying to be one of the 700 in the League. We like him a lot and we always have. I think he's got great character. Hockey sense and competitiveness are two areas we really value and he's got them both. We've got to build him back up, get him confident again. We think he's going to be a good player for us."

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