January 11, 2012
Best shot needed from Flames defence
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - The saying about the best offence is a good defence is especially true when it’s the defencemen scoring the goals.
The Calgary Flames got three of them during a 6-3 victory Tuesday night over the New Jersey Devils at the Saddledome. They’ll need that to continue as they attempt to surge into the playoffs over the last half of the season.
“If you look at the NHL now, a lot of teams have big contributions from the back end,” said blueliner Mark Giordano, who could make his return from a hamstring injury Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks (7:30 p.m., Saddledome). “You have to, because teams play so well defensively that you need the extra guy on the rush. “I think at times we’ve been good at it and at times we haven’t.”
They were great at it in the first period Tuesday night, when Jay Bouwmeester netted his second goal of the year, Sarich scored his first and rookie T.J. Brodie fired in his second of the season to help the Flames stake themselves a 4-0 lead.
The most surprising of them might have been Sarich’s hard shot from just inside the faceoff circle.
Known as one of their more reserved blueliners in terms of the rush, even the 33-year-old Saskatchewan product was poking fun at himself after Devils legend Martin Brodeur was pulled following his goal 7:32 into the first period.
“I was saying in here, ‘Whenever Cory Sarich scores on a goalie, he should probably get yanked.’” Sarich said with a grin. “When you have some time, I probably don’t shoot the puck a lot worse than a lot of people. But a lot of times, you’re rushed at the point, get guys bearing down on you. It was nice last night to have a little bit of time and kind of get set up for once. Prove a few skeptics wrong.”
With injuries to the likes of Alex Tanguay, David Moss and Brendan Morrison, and Rene Bourque currently serving a five-game suspension, the contributions from the back end become even more key for the Flames.
“Well, it’s important whether they’re in the lineup or not,” head coach Brent Sutter said. “You want your defencemen to be bigger contributors on the offensive side without being high-risk players. You never know what can happen when you put pucks on net. Good things can happen.”
Sutter says some teams have between 750-850 shots from defencemen at the end of each season. The Flames are on pace for somewhere between 500 and 550.
“You want to be in the upper third of the league in doing that. At times, I feel like we are taking a back seat there,” Sutter said. “We need to be more active with that. It’s the way the game is played now. Your defence have to be active, and they have to be part of your offence, no question.”
Giordano agrees. His return could help in that regard.
“When they say secondary scoring, you guys always seem to think that means second, third, fourth line. What about defencemen? We can be secondary help to our offence, too,” he said. “We need that.
“It’s up to us who can play that offensive side of things to contribute,” he added, listing off a handful of names.
Sarich’s name was noticeably absent.
“Cory’s more of the safety valve of our defence,” Giordano said with a laugh when that is pointed out. “But the other night, obviously, getting his opportunities, he buries it.
“Sarchie to me is an undercover good puck mover. Everybody thinks of him as this punishing defensive defenceman. He is that, but I played with him all of last year, and I think he had five goals and maybe 20 points, so I consider that pretty good numbers for a guy who’s considered a shutdown guy.”