SUN Hockey Pool

Happy days here again

STEVE MACFARLANE Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 AM ET

There’s an energy in the air of a winning locker-room that reeks of celebration.

So powerful, it masks the stench of freshly packed sweaty pads and gear.

The music is cranked up, although by the time the media is allowed in, the actual soundtrack for the celebratory cheers has turned into background noise.

There’s no specific victory song the Calgary Flames have been playing during a remarkable six-game winning streak that has helped turn their season around, but there is definitely a theme.

“It’s usually techno beats or something like that,” Flames defenceman Mark Giordano said Thursday night after a 4-2 win over the Thrashers in Atlanta.

The iPods plugged in typically belong to Mikael Backlund or Adam Pardy.

“Backs is Swedish, so he’s got some good Euro techno-beats,” Giordano continued. “Pards has got some good ones, too.

“It’s great. We’re having fun. We’re having fun in practice, we’re having fun before games, on the plane …

“The old cliche — winning makes it fun.”

Winning a half-dozen consecutive contests and claiming points in 10 of their last 11 games has rocketed the Flames into the thick of the NHL’s Western Conference playoff hunt.

They woke up in their own beds Friday morning to see themselves in a three-way tie for ninth but just three points out of fourth — which would mean home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.

Playoffs? The thought of even making it sure looked unlikely before Christmas, and their charge does have a bit of a miraculous feel to it.

“It’s a good feeling, winning,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, whose job was widely believed to be hanging by a thread in December. “But it’s a better feeling even seeing the way the guys are doing it as far as their solid team play and everyone taking the responsibility and accountability to do it the right way.

“It’s a group that’s focused. It’s a group that believes that we can get to where we want to. We’ve stayed together inside, considering everything that’s gone on outside.

“We’re not looking too far ahead.”

Looking back at how things have changed offers a real contradiction in capability.

Consider the fact they had won more than two games in a row just once all season prior to the Christmas break.

“I think a lot of people underestimated our team,” Giordano said. “We’ve been a good team all year. At the start, yeah, we were in games we maybe should have had a better fate. We feel like we have a strong team, and now is a perfect time to go on a roll and try to move up in the standings.”

The movement has been painstakingly slow considering their stats. The team technically sat in 11th place Friday morning by virtue of other teams’ games in hand and the fact the Flames have won a league-high seven games in shootouts, which don’t count if a tiebreaker comes down to victories at the end of the season.

But just a couple more wins could propel them into a playoff spot for the first time since Oct. 30.

Maybe the biggest test this team will have to face the rest of the way will be how it responds when the winning streak finally ends. How they bounce back from a loss or two is a question still on many a doubters’ minds.

“Can’t think like that for now,” Giordano said. “For now, let’s just keep going. Hopefully, we keep winning games. When that day comes (that we lose), we’ll cross that bridge.”

The bridge kind of crumbled underneath them when they last returned home from a long road trip. After earning points in five straight games and winning two out of four during an eastern swing last month, they were roasted 6-0 by the Minnesota Wild upon their return home.

Embarrassing as that was, the team did use that stinker to spark their current streak.

“We’ve got a long way back home,” Flames winger Alex Tanguay said before boarding their charter from Atlanta to Calgary late Thursday.

“Last time we had a long flight like this, the game after was Minnesota — and we had a hard time. So we’ve got to make sure we get

ourselves ready for Saturday night (against the visiting Los

Angeles Kings).”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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