The Heritage Classic is in the books.
Now comes the final quarter of the NHL season for the Calgary Flames.
With the euphoria of winning the marquee outdoor game at McMahon Stadium and all the pomp and circumstance around it now history, the day after was meant for refocusing and readying for Tuesday’s home clash with the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins.
“We went through three or four days out of our element with the whole thing surrounding the Heritage Classic game,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter, who gathered his troops Monday for a brief off-ice workout.
“This was a good day to come in and get our focus back for (Tuesday) ... to an indoor game again and be ready to play.”
Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens has the Flames sitting sixth in the Western Conference and riding a hot streak in which they’ve posted a 17-4-5 mark.
In short, they now control their own destiny.
But the Flames, who have lost just once in regulation in their last 14 games (11-1-2), can ill afford too many slip-ups. After all, five teams are two points behind them, and all have at least one game in hand.
Based on the quest for four points every three games, the Flames head into their final 21 outings with seven more segments.
A winning percentage akin to that goal would mean 98 points. That likely will secure a playoff spot, but the Flames are shooting for more.
“It’s nice to relax. It’s been very hectic the last few days, everything that surrounded the game,” said left-winger Alex Tanguay. “I think it’s important for us to get some rest today because we know what’s ahead of us. If you look in the standings, we’re in no position to take a game off. It’s certainly not going to be the case (Tuesday).”
The Bruins arrived in Calgary riding a two-game winning streak, but those are the lone victories in their last five outings. Moreover, the Bruins have a 3-7-2 record against Western Conference clubs.
Calgary is playing its final game against an Eastern Conference team and is looking to improve on its 9-5-3 mark against the other side.
Those are a couple of aspects in Calgary’s favour, but it won’t matter if they suffer a letdown after winning before 41,022 fans at McMahon.
“I think our team did a good job of staying even-keel on the weekend, with all the hype for that game,” Flames centre Matt Stajan said. “We knew two points were huge and got it. Now, we’ve got to get back at it, business as usual.
“We’ve got to keep winning, because everybody else keeps winning in our conference.”
The Flames and 29 other NHL teams are also in the final days leading up to the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
A couple of months ago, it seemed a sure thing the Flames would be sellers.
Their run has put acting GM Jay Feaster in a position where he must be a buyer, although he doesn’t want to sacrifice the future by dealing picks.
Feaster went into the job expecting to push for acquiring draft picks, but that may be difficult because he knows he can’t upset the apple cart.
“I’m not interested in taking out of the room, taking away from the chemistry of this group,” Feaster said. “We may just have to go into the draft and have what we have.”
One thing has changed, all the rumours surrounding the core players — Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and so forth — have quieted.
“I’m not getting phone calls, ‘Are you trading the big guys?’ That’s just not happening,” Feaster said. “I can tell you my colleagues respect the fact this club has played its way back into contention, and the guys in this room aren’t going to need to worry about changing addresses.”