Red-hot Iginla leads charge

With six points in his last two games, Flames forward Jarome Iginla has rocketed his way into the...

With six points in his last two games, Flames forward Jarome Iginla has rocketed his way into the NHL's top 10 in scoring. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency file photo)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

A playoff berth is far from a slam dunk for the Calgary Flames.

Their chances increase dramatically if their undisputed leader continues fronting the charge the way Jarome Iginla has done of late.

Consecutive three-point games — three goals and six points in clashes with St. Louis and Chicago this week — put the Flames captain into the top 10 of the NHL’s point and goal-scoring races. It has also given the team a shot in the arm.

With the season coming down to the crunch, their hopes of making the playoffs become more realistic with a red-hot Iginla lighting up the scoresheet.

Especially if he goes on a lengthy tear akin to all the impressive ones we’ve seen in past seasons.

Besides, we’ve seen the alternative and it conjures bad memories among the Flames faithful.

Remember the way last season finished for Iginla?

Rest assured, he would like to forget.

His lack of production while the team was fighting frantically to save a disappointing 2009-10 season was shocking.

As his team faded out of playoff contention, Iginla sputtered with just one goal and five points in the final 16 outings of the campaign. That spell included no goals in the final 11 games.

You could see the strain on his face while those playoff aspirations spiralled away.

You could see the frustration on the ice as game after game ended in disappointment, both for himself and the team.

Here we are again with a final push to make the post-season, and it appears Iginla is ready to write a different chapter.

Even though Iginla snapped a five-game goal-scoring drought with those performances against the Blues and Blackhawks, it’s not like he wasn’t contributing.

Iginla may have been held to a few assists in that spell, but his linemates — Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison — were playing their part.

The talent level around Iginla this season — especially Tanguay’s passing skills — bode well.

But it goes beyond just the goals and assists Iginla has been collecting.

In the past couple of games, Tanguay twice benefited by the kind of plays you expect to see from a true leader.

To start the scoring in St. Louis in that 6-0 romp, Iginla picked the pocket of Blues defenceman Barret Jackman and sent a perfect pass to his fellow winger to convert.

In Chicago, Iginla was at top gear while going down the wing, zipped around Duncan Keith — yes, the all-star, Canadian Olympian and reigning Norris Trophy winner — before again sending a pinpoint pass to Tanguay in the slot.

Plays like those are game changers.

As for his goals, those were things of beauty, too — hard shots that went right where they had to.

Now that he’s up to 28 tallies on the season, Iginla is on pace to become just the 10th player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in 10 straight seasons.

While Iginla must continue to play like a Pierre McGuire Monster, his teammates have to step up, as well.

Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff must continue to shine.

Rene Bourque must find the form which made him dominate the Heritage Classic, not be the same ineffective player seen all too often since early November. Maybe the two third-period goals he scored to spark a comeback attempt in Chicago will kickstart a resurgence.

Olli Jokinen must steer his game back to where it was a couple of weeks ago; David Moss and Curtis Glencross must continue to be the key contributors; and so on.

However, if Iginla can maintain his form of this week, those playoff chances become that much more of a reality.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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