Johnson: Cammalleri back to his sniper ways, putting puzzling pre-trade deadline slump behind him
Pending unrestricted free agent now tied with the Flames’ goal scoring lead after make a charge in the last four games
Assessing blame to a specific day would be too easy. Pinning a lengthy lack of offensive oomph on one lonely square — March 5th — among 365 to be found on any calendar is just a bit difficult to swallow; a trifle too convenient.
“It was an anxious little while, leading up (to the deadline),” admits Mike Cammalleri. “But I can’t put my struggles down on just that. I’m not going to be that way. I don’t know how much something like that affects your subconscious. Sorry, that’s not my area of expertise. But I’m not going to sit here and blame any one or two things, say that I was distracted in any way and that’s why I wasn’t producing.
“I don’t know how to explain it. I just went through a really unproductive stretch, for an extended period of time. That’s never any fun. But I’d don’t know if I’ve ever gone through one like that at anytime in my career.”
A self-deprecating grin.
“If I did, I must’ve erased it from my mind.”
Still, this one may be difficult to zap out of there for a while.
One slender point in eight games prior to suffering a concussion that forced him to step away for nine starts — from Jan. 13th through the 30th. Then zero in the opening half-dozen starts after returning to the Calgary Flames’ lineup Feb. 1st.
For someone as accustomed to scoring goals as Cammalleri, that represents a significant drought.
A goal scorer’s equivalent of writer’s block, perhaps, or a golfer on the cut stuff holding a flat stick struggling with the yips.
It’s obviously be a tad too late to help facilitate the trade that everyone thought was on March 5th, but Mike Cammalleri is heating up again. That familiar swagger has returned; as has the old, happy sense of anticipation every time he touches the puck.
Saturday at Jobing.com Arena out in Glendale, Ariz., a couple of helpers, including a splendid pinpoint pass to an onrushing Mikael Backlund at Coyote goaltender Mike Smith’s near post to momentarily pull the visitors even, pushing a modest personal scoring streak to four games (4G, 2A).
That output came on the heels of a two-goal night 24 hours earlier at American Airlines Center in Dallas which came in the shadow of goals in the Flames’ previous two starts, against L.A. and Anaheim.
His recent form has him now tied with rookie Sean Monahan for the club’s goal-scoring lead, at 19.
It may beggar belief but Friday’s outburst represented Cammalleri’s first multi-snipe game since — wait for it — way back on Nov. 8th.
Much of the reason for his uncharacteristic lack of production pre- and post-concussion, many automatically assumed, was a growing anticipation of a change of address.
An unrestricted free agent come July 1st, with his playoff resume, Cammalleri seemed a slam-dunk to be moved elsewhere to a playoff-bound alternative before the 1 p.m. MST trade embargo arrived and passed. But try as he might ‘interim’ GM Brian Burke couldn’t find a taker under the circumstances.
Cammalleri says he’s past whatever complicated feelings he had leading up to the deadline. It’s forward march from here until Game 82.
“I’ve always been a guy who usually plays his strongest hockey at the end of the year and into the playoffs.”
There’ll be no playoffs for the Flames for a fifth straight springtime, as everyone knows. Yet for boss Bob Hartley, there will be no quitting as they play out the string. A never-say-die that pulled them all the way back from two goals down in Dallas and very nearly did the next night in the desert. A nice bonus Saturday was a goal from the injury-plagued Curtis Glencross, his first since Nov. 15th, signifying that better times are ahead for the left winger.
“Glennie is skating better and better,” said Hartley optimistically. “It’s great to have him back in the lineup. Its going to take him a while but I think he’s showing some really good signs.
“Our guys deserve lots of credit. Our team didn’t panic, we stayed in the game. We talked between the first and second. This is the beauty of this group. We are very focused.
“And Cammy, another big game.”
With the stretch run upon us, and unrestricted free agency not that far down the road, Mike Cammalleri is heating up again. The slump behind him; looking more and like his old self.
Making himself attractive not only to outside potential suitors, but to his current employers.
When informed that he appeared more at ease on the ice the last week to 10 days, he replied: “I’m not relaxing. I’m just re-engaging here and really feeling good about playing the game and what we’re working on.
“It’s nice to produce. It’s obviously a part of my responsibility on this club.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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