SUN Hockey Pool

Iginla leading Flames charge

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

CALGARY -- First, Jarome Iginla dropped the gloves.

Then, his helmet came off.

Just as quickly, the Calgary Flames captain doffed his elbow pads.

A little impersonation of Ned Braden’s infamous strip scene in Slap Shot?

No, Iginla wasn’t being the pacifist Braden was in the Hollywood homage to “old-time hockey.” It was to scrap the San Jose Sharks’ Ryane Clowe.

Make that, it was to win a scrap with Clowe.

“That’s not the first time I’ve taken off my elbow pads,” Iginla said. “Sometimes, they fall down and get in the way of your arms.”

Nothing got in the way of Iginla against the Sharks.

OK, Clowe’s face stopped his fists a few times, but when the captain dropped the gloves late in the second period of Friday’s 4-3 win over the Sharks, it sent a message — ultimately to both teams.

“He was running around, and it was starting to get chippy,” Iginla said the next day. “They were down 4-1, and we obviously ... don’t want to be pushed around. Fights are part of it, and you could tell he was looking for one.”

Debate all you want whether Iginla should be squaring off at any time. Even whether he should be doing it in a game while his team is up by three goals.

But that’s the kind of leadership the Flames need from their captain with 11 games remaining in the NHL regular season and a playoff spot hardly a certainty.

His leadership comes not necessarily by fighting but by being emotionally charged.

“It’s just awesome seeing that,” said Flames winger Eric Nystrom. “He just does it all. He can score goals. He can play physical. He can beat people up. The team obviously rallies behind that — when your leader is out there paying the price, especially in fights. That’s the ultimate sacrifice, and he did a great job energizing us. Iggy gets a little fired up, at times. He always answers the bell, and he did a great job against a tough guy.”

On top of winning the fight, Iginla opened the scoring, too.

The victory over the Sharks was ultimately a team win, but it’s obvious their fortunes improve when Iginla has his emotional meter on high.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Flames left winger Nigel Dawes. “You just saw it in his eyes going out there and in the fight — just the emotion that he brings to the team.”

The next step is for everyone else to mirror that raw emotion.

We’re not talking about mimicking the Hanson brothers or anything like that, but playing with that same fire.

It was on full display against the Sharks, and the end result was a victory with seemingly everybody contributing.

The first instinct at the thought of Iginla in the sin bin in a game against the Sharks — even if they’re on a losing ski — would be the Flames are in serious trouble.

What the Flames are displaying in games when they’re emotionally invested is they have the offence beyond Iginla.

“We obviously have really good top lines,” Dawes said. “And any time other guys can chip in, it really takes the pressure off those (first-line) guys.”

To make the playoffs, the Flames must have more of the same over the next few weeks.

That means a captain leading the charge with determination and the rest of the cast right alongside.


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