SUN Hockey Pool

Flames off to Dismaland

Jarome Iginla and the Flames have struggled in Anaheim. The captain says they know they need a win...

Jarome Iginla and the Flames have struggled in Anaheim. The captain says they know they need a win there Sunday. (QMI Agency file photo)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 PM ET

The last time the Calgary Flames won a regular-season game in Anaheim, Roman Turek was the starting netminder, Krzysztof Oliwa was the Flames’ enforcer and Jarome Iginla didn’t play.

The rink was known back then as The Pond, Sergei Fedorov was the hosts’ lone goal-scorer and no one dared dream the Ducks would ever win a Stanley Cup.

While the Ducks indeed went on to be crowned in California, the Flames have since gone winless in 12 visits, stealing just three single points along the way.

It gets worse.

Prior to that 5-1 win Jan. 19, 2004 during which Craig Conroy had four assists the Flames hadn’t won near Disneyland since 1999 when Arnold Schwarzenegger hadn’t even contemplated becoming Governator.

You get the picture.

Not the kind of snapshot Flames fans like seeing as their club heads into the first of a three-game West Coast swing starting Sunday against a team that has flip-flopped with Calgary for the eighth and final playoff spot all week — a team just two points back with three games in hand.

Yet, when armed with all the stats concerning their efforts in Dismaland, Iginla came up with one conclusion.

“We’re due!” smiled Iginla who missed the game in 2004 with an ankle ailment that healed in plenty of time for the Flames to embark on their magical playoff run to the final.

“It’s going to change. It will. I’m honestly not that concerned about it. There are too may guys that haven’t been here as part of not winning there for us to worry about that. We’d rather be at the end of that streak than the start of it. We have to go into Anaheim with that attitude.”

And they have to leave with a win.

Or else, as many Flames fans are too quick to suggest, their playoff dreams are shot.

Not true. Not true at all, and Iginla knows it.

“No matter how this trip goes — and it’s huge — the final six will still be big,” said Iginla, whose club visits Los Angeles one day later, followed by a visit to San Jose.

“We all now how important the games are and the road trip is. It’s playoff hockey before the playoffs. It’s definitely a mini playoff and they’re a team we have to catch. The playoffs have already started for us.”

None of this is news to Flames fans who have endured two months of “must-win” matchups.

Clearly the Flames playoff hopes do not rest entirely on Sunday’s Ducks bill.

It’s their work as a whole these final three weeks that will determine if their monumental bounce back can end up with the unlikeliest of playoff berths.

With Anaheim two points back of the Flames and three games in hand, the Flames have six games left against teams below them in the standings, including a return engagement with Anaheim Mar. 30. Keep in mind an eighth-place tie does the Flames no good as they lose the tiebreaker by virtue of their eight shootout wins.

According to stats gurus on sportsclubstats.com, a 6-3 finish gives the Flames a 72.9% chance of making the playoffs.

Illustrating just how crucial every point is at this point a 5-3-1 record reduces their odds to 42%.

A 5-4-0 finish cuts that number in half to 21%.

You get the picture — every point is crucial, which is why the Flames don’t want to leave Anaheim with their third overtime loss to the Ducks this season.

As good as they’ve been since Christmas, the Flames have to be even better down this stretch despite missing top-line centre Brendan Morrison and his replacement David Moss.

Inspired of late by the play of comeback-player-of-the-year candidate Ray Emery, the Ducks have won the same amount of games as Calgary in their last 10: six.

The first of these two teams to six more wins is the only stat that matters anymore.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada


Videos

Photos