Flames forward gets in the way

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:42 PM ET


 The NHL used to keep stats in some of the more obscure categories like shot blocks and hits.

 Until player agents started using the stats as bargaining chips in salary negotiations.

 Doing away with those stats might not be such a bad thing.

 Otherwise, based on these playoffs, Stephane Yelle might have priced himself right out of the Calgary market.

 "Yelle makes a living blocking shots," says captain Jarome Iginla. "He's so good at it. He one of the best defensive forwards in the game.

 "We all want to block shots, we all want to get in the (shooting) lane but it's a knack too. It's about reading when the defenceman is going to release it.

 "He pays the price. To be honest, some guys don't want to block shots. He's a guy who will do whatever it takes. He's shown that whether it's playoffs or regular season.

 "When you watch him, it inspires other guys to try and get down and block shots."

 Yelle was at his best in Game 5's 1-0 win as he threw his body in the way of numerous Red Wings shots, especially in the third period as Detroit poured it on.

 But Yelle wasn't the only Flames forward throwing caution to the wind, risking life and limb in order to take some of the pressure off goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.

 Marcus Nilson has also displayed a talent for erasing opponents' scoring opportunities.

 Head coach Darryl Sutter says his players have been willing to pay the price the entire season. But with playoff success comes an increased awareness of what it takes to win.

 "We're a good defensive team," Sutter says. "We didn't give up many shots all year. That's our identity and it's not going to get better or worse once the playoffs start.

 "It's what we're about. We know where we match up and where we don't match up and we know what we're better at."

 The Flames have been as good as anyone at blocking shots this post-season, something veteran Martin Gelinas says comes natural at this time of the year.

 "It's the type of hockey we've been playing in the playoffs," Gelinas says. "Everybody's been willing to sacrifice themselves to block a shot.

 "And we know whatever Miikka sees, he'll stop it."

 Andrew Ference, part of the squad's black- and-blue blueline corp, says the forwards' dedication to team defence makes their lives a lot easier.

 "They're doing what's expected of them," Ference says. "There's a large amount of credit that's due to our forwards helping out.

 "If you watch the last minute of that game, they were blocking shots like that and backchecking like crazy.

 "As good as the guys on D have been in stepping up, we've had a lot of help."


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