SUN Hockey Pool

Hero wanted on fly

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:58 PM ET

CHICAGO -- For the past week, the YouTube clip swirling around the city most has featured Jarome Iginla donning a superhero cape.

Right now, the Flames need their captain to play the part.

Not to foil any bank heist, rescue a giant dog in a tree or pull a car from a ravine -- as Iginla's depicted in the Hey There Iginla creation.

But as the text message sent to him, or rather his bobblehead, states: "We need your help -- Sincerely, the people of Calgary."

Now.

Or else the team's playoff run to the Stanley Cup will fall way, way short again.

The NHL playoffs are all about heroes. Often, it's the unsung players who have their day in the spotlight, be it as overtime marksmen or by going on a sudden scoring spree.

The opener of the Flames-Blackhawks series -- Chicago's 3-2 overtime win -- was proof that cliche spouted by coaches all too often really is correct: Your best players have to be your best players.

Chicago's top point producer through the regular season, Martin Havlat, delivered in the opener with a pair of goals, first tying the game late in regulation and then netting the winner 12 seconds into overtime.

Iginla was blanked.

Just as he was in all four regular-season meetings between the Flames and Hawks.

Calgary can't afford that any more.

Nobody expects Iginla to be faster than a speeding bullet or leap tall buildings in a single bound, but it's high time he carry through what is expected of one of the league's top players and akin to what he's done in the past.

His regular season was not up to the usual standards. Sure, the club can talk all they want about his assist total, a very good 54 helpers, but it's more about the lack of consistency.

All too often, Iginla through the campaign has not been the best player, with so many of those points coming in fits and spurts -- namely big games, such as the five-point outing against the Oilers on New Year's Eve.

Sure, it's a good sign the Flames have others capable of making the difference when the chips are down.

Unfortunately, it's appeared to be more a case of the leader not being up to snuff.

The playoffs are a chance to wash that away.

In his defence, Iginla's centre Olli Jokinen has struggled beyond anybody's wildest dreams since his torrid start with Calgary.

Jokinen didn't score once over the final 13 regular-season games and, other than a powerplay wraparound attempt early in the second period of Thursday's game, wasn't much of a factor or offensive catalyst.

Until Jokinen finds whatever spark to ignite his game and have him back to what he's capable of achieving, Iginla must carry the top line.

He's done it in the past and will be expected to do it right away.

Is it fair to put so much on his should ers? No.

Is it a fact of being a star player in a hockey crazed city? You bet.

Especially a city with big expectations.

Tonight, when they try to even their series before heading home, the Flames don't need Iginla to rack up nine goals and six assists in one outing. (Another achievement depicted in that video, along with 27 shots and 52 hits.)

They just need their captain to find the form that's made him so good and so popular.

Cape optional.


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