Iginla the difference down the stretch

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:30 PM ET

No matter how this schizophrenic season ends up for the Calgary Flames, one thing that cannot be overlooked is just how brilliant Jarome Iginla has been of late.

Carrying the club on his shoulders the last three months, only one player in hockey has been better since Christmas: Hart Trophy frontrunner Corey Perry.

As part of a run that saw him hit the 1,000-point mark in dramatic fashion, Iginla now has 14 goals and nine assists in his last 16 games.

He scored two goals in three of the club’s last four wins, totalling nine points in all and was named the NHL’s second star of the week Monday.

He’s done it without a regular centreman and he’s done it at a time when his club needed him most.

Despite a slow start that had many writing off the captain at age 33 and suggesting he be traded, the ultra-fit Iginla is sixth in NHL scoring and is proving he still has several productive years left.

One would hope his heroics and poise will put an end to the foolish trade talk that has dogged him for years.

It won’t. But even his harshest critics have to acknowledge what Iginla has done to keep the Flames hopes alive the last few months is miraculous, solidifying his status as one of the game’s true superstars.

Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a Flames club wondering what will disappear first: The snow or their playoff chances. (Or if either will disappear at all).

West Coast dreaming

The schedule makers knew a season-ending tilt between Vancouver and Calgary would likely make for compelling drama no matter what the scenario.

And while plenty has to go right for the Flames and wrong for everyone else to make Saturday’s Dome date a meaningful game, the hosts could very well put the Canucks in a delicious dilemma.

On one hand, the Presidents’ Trophy winners would love to rest several of their star players as they gear up for their first-round opponent.

On the other hand, that opponent might just be Calgary should the stars align and the Flames win the game.

Wouldn’t the Canucks cherish the possibility of stepping on the throats of their most hated rivals and putting an end to the possibility the two could have a rematch of the first round in 2004 when Calgary shocked the ’Nucks?

Flames fans are sure hoping their team’s playoff hopes will survive long enough to find out.

Parting gifts

Flames fans who feel their club is getting nothing but bad breaks down the stretch should know how fortuitous the club was late Sunday night when the Anaheim Ducks had not one but two goals called back in the dying minutes of their 4-3 loss to Dallas. In both cases, the gutsy officials made the right call, costing the Ducks at least one of the two points Anaheim could’ve used to end the Flames playoff hopes … That said, all those suggesting the Stars did the Flames a favour have overlooked the fact that of the four teams fighting for the final two spots, Dallas is in a far better position than their 10th-place ranking suggests. Although three back of eighth-place Chicago with four games to play, the Stars not only have the easiest schedule left but they also would win a tiebreaker with Chicago by virtue of having one less shootout win. While the Hawks battle Montreal, Detroit (twice) and the surging Blues, the Stars face also-rans Columbus, Colorado (twice) and Minnesota ... Sunday’s win in Colorado marked the first time all season Miikka Kiprusoff stole the game for the Flames. In past years, the FlexiFinn was responsible for at least a handful of point-stealing gems but while competent this year, he’s been far from his dominating self. Not to blame Kiprusoff but had he played this season like he did last year, the Flames would have sewn up a playoff spot long ago. Fact is his GAA of 2.65 ranks him seventh in the NHL and his save percentage is a pedestrian .905, tying him with Martin Brodeur for 54th in the loop.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

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Eric Francis appears regularly

as a panellist on CBC’s

Hockey Night in Canada


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