Flames starting to see some success from balanced attack
Tanguay leads Calgary in points, but there are six other players within four points
During this decade-plus stranglehold, challengers have come and gone. Some more than once.
And the best they could ever manage was second place.
Craig Conroy, thrice. Alex Tanguay, twice.
Marc Savard, Daymond Langkow, Kristian Huselius, Michael Cammalleri, Rene Bourque, Olli Jokinen, too.
Jarome Iginla, quite simply, refuses to budge.
The Calgary Flames right-winger has stood the test of time, leading his team in scoring for an NHL-record 11 straight seasons. The last time Iginla settled for silver was 1999-00 when, with 63 points, he’d finished a dozen behind Val Bure.
Since then, he’s been No. 1 without interruption (and never by fewer than six points).
But don’t look now. There’s a threat to the throne.
Seven forwards, including Iginla, are within four points at the top of the Flames’ charts. Which is a new look for the locals.
And perhaps one that will produce a fresh kingpin.
“You never know,” says Curtis Glencross. “Obviously, Iggy’s put up a lot of points in his career. He’s had a great career and he’s right back up there again. You can never tell.”
Adds Tanguay: “Look at the chances (Iginla) has had the last three games. We’ve had tonnes of scoring chances. I felt we could’ve scored a little bit more. Over the course of a long season, if you get chances, you’re going to be at the top of the leaderboard.”
More meaningful to the Flames than the changing face of the forwards is another wrinkle — an attack that isn’t top heavy. Offensive wealth is being spread.
“If you look at all the teams that have had success lately in the playoffs,” says Jiri Hudler, “they’ve had a lot of scoring depth. Obviously, the star players have to play at their best to be successful, but other guys have to chip in.
“It’s probably the most important part of the game, I think.”
Tanguay, with 21 points, currently leads the team, but sits only 59th in the NHL.
The Calgarians, with an average output of 2.88, still manage to rank 12th among teams.
“That’s good,” says Glencross. “Any time you can have production from as many guys as you can, that’s the ultimate goal at the end of the day. You have to have depth to go deep into the playoffs, with matchups and all that kind of stuff.”
Including blue-liners Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman, the Flames boast nine skaters with 13 or more points.
Only two clubs — St. Louis Blues with 10, Montreal Canadiens with 11 — have more.
“It is so important,” coach Bob Hartley says. “And not only balanced scoring up front, but we have the support of our defencemen . . . (who) are giving us great support on the attack, whether it’s the second wave on the rush or point shots.
“We’ve been able to get some timely goals from the four lines. Last time in Dallas, Steve Begin gave us the winning goal. That’s very important in a short season.”
Tanguay, with an eye on the Flames’ status in the Western Conference standings, isn’t interested in wasting his time scouring websites for trends and trivia.
“The situation we’re in, we’re not too worried about the stats,” says Tanguay. “We’re just worried about getting stuff done. I think we’ve got guys that can produce a little bit more and we’ve got guys who are producing great. So it is nice to get scoring from everywhere.
“But it’s not a question right now — we’re focusing on winning a game. Whether it’s 1-0 or 2-1 or 7-6, we have to find ways to win. If that takes scoring throughout our lineup or one goal from the whole lineup, we’ll take it.”
Nevertheless, the in-house race does make for an intriguing subplot.
None of the contenders is a stranger to pace-setting. Cammalleri, for instance, topped the 2006-07 Los Angeles Kings in scoring.
And Matt Stajan, the Belleville Bulls. Lee Stempniak, Dartmouth College, three times. Glencross, the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Tanguay, the Halifax Mooseheads. Hudler, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I’ve definitely been the leading scorer on teams before, but I don’t think it’s something that’s at the top of my priorities,” says Glencross. “If that (happens), it’s a bonus . . . but I’d rather be a playoff team and win a Stanley Cup than be a leading scorer.”
Follow Scott Cruickshank on Twitter/CruickshankCH
CALGARY FLAMES’ POINTS PARADE
The Flames’ leading point-getters with 22 dates remaining in their NHL schedule:
1. Alex Tanguay 21
2. Lee Stempniak 20
2. Michael Cammalleri 20
4. Jarome Iginla 19
5. Curtis Glencross 18
5. Jiri Hudler 18
7. Matt Stajan 17
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