November 19, 2011
Flames' latest win a work of heart
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
More impressive than the final score was the way the Calgary Flames got to it.
Beating the league’s best squad 5-2 Friday night at the Saddledome took a group effort Flames fans haven’t seen all season long.
As cliche as the term 60-minute effort is, that’s exactly what it took to put the Chicago Blackhawks down.
Building leads of 1-0, 3-1 and 4-2 en route to the upset victory, the Flames showed what can happen when they play hard and stick to the plan — against any opponent.
“We did a lot of really good things,” said winger Lee Stempniak, who opened the scoring with a sweet outside-in move on Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith and then snapping his shot into the top of the net. “Not turning pucks over, getting shots and getting real quality chances.”
You can include not giving up much against a team capable of ripping in a handful of goals on any given night.
Aside from the performance of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, the biggest reason the Blackhawks couldn’t slip a few more in on the hosts was because the Flames controlled the puck and continued to press even after building their biggest leads.
Previously, they’d routinely fall back into prevent defence, trying to protect a lead rather than increase it.
“For some reason, we take our foot off the gas a little bit and you get away basically from all the things that gave you the early lead,” Stempniak said. “We made a concerted effort to go out and keep our foot on the gas and keep forcing them to play in their end and really not let them build up speed and attack us.”
The result was a boost in their confidence ahead of an important four-game road swing during which they have an opportunity to string some wins together.
“All the losses, you look back, we kind of hurt ourselves,” centre Olli Jokinen said. “At the end of day, it’s about us, what we do and what we can do better.
“I think a lot of guys took a deep look in the mirror today and asked if they have done everything they can for this team to help win games. You can probably say every single guy probably had one of their better games. It’s not about scoring goals or getting points, it’s about winning games.
“Everyone was doing things right and we won.”
Listing off more of the things he liked about the evening’s action, head coach Brent Sutter mentioned the collective play in the neutral zone and the goaltending as well as the obvious energy and emotional investment throughout the lineup.
“Our determination, our focus, everything they need to do as a group to be successful, we had it,” Sutter said. “We play that way, we will get rewarded.”
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