SUN Hockey Pool

Lots of praise for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A month ago, the Flames were staring at a nasty November.

Instead, they made it a month to remember.

Sure, the Flames were sitting OK record-wise (7-4-1) after October was complete, but the danger signs were all over the place when the Halloween candy had been all doled out.

The schedule had 10 of the next 14 games on the road.

Captain Jarome Iginla was struggling. So was first-line centre Olli Jokinen.

Plus, everyone was wondering whether head coach Brent Sutter would continue with what appeared to be a chemistry experiment gone wrong by keeping Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr as defence partners.

After a franchise record tying start to the season with four wins, the Flames had become a middling club and were coming off home-ice defeats at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings.

Who’d have guessed they would rattle off a record like they did?

Thanks in big part to Iginla’s 20 points in those 14 games — which earned him the NHL’s first star of November — the Flames cobbled together an impressive 10-2-2 record.

Why the big deal?

It’s just the 11th time in franchise history the Flames won 10 times in a month.

If that’s not all, their point total — 22 — is the second highest for a month.

The standard of 23 points was set in March 1988 with an 11-4-1 run. This year marked the seventh time the team has finished with 22 points in a month.

Certainly, there are plenty of reasons.

Iginla receives the most credit around the league. That’s what happens when you score goals in nine of 14 games, including three game-winners, count 11 assists and net your ninth career hat-trick.

However, the credit unquestionably must go beyond Iginla.

You could argue Kiprusoff was even more valuable during the winning spree.

In the dozen games he played, Kiprusoff posted an 8-2-2 record with a 1.60 goals-against average, 94.7% save percentage and three shutouts. Only twice did he surrender more than two goals during actual game action, including the six goals allowed in two periods before receiving a mercy pull against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Flaming C faithful could handle just one dud per month from Kiprusoff.

Back-up netminder Curtis McElhinney won consecutive starts for the first time in his career, coming through with a strong game in Dallas, an overtime win, and then holding it together in a shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Offensively, Iginla was helped by Jokinen finding form akin to expectations with 14 points (3-11-14) during November, while Nigel Dawes had a 10-point month (4-6-10) and Daymond Langkow added nine points (5-4-9).

And then we have the defencemen.

Phaneuf (plus-5) and Regehr (plus-4) have become a steady top pairing, while Jay Bouwmeester (seven points, plus-8) has shown both the offensive and defensive form which made him such a sought-after commodity.

Now, though, November is in the past.

Wednesday night’s tilt against the host Phoenix Coyotes is the start of a 14-game slate in December which isn’t any easier.

The good news is after three games on the road — their trip also goes through San Jose and Los Angeles — the Flames play eight of 11 games at home.

Of those 14 games, eight are against teams currently holding playoff positions, while four of the games against non-playoff teams are versus Northwest Division rivals.

It won’t be easy for the Flames to make December a delight.

But they certainly have shown they can prevent it from being a disappointment.


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