Where has Jarome Iginla the sniper gone?
Flames captain has just one goal to his name in 10 games so far this season
For Jarome Iginla, the drought is near precedent-setting. For someone who positively rains goals, this is reaching equivalent proportions to the Dust Bowl in the ’30s. Why, you half expect to see the odd lonely tumbleweed skipping past the front of his dressing-room stall.
One snipe in 10 games this season.
Dating back to late last campaign, two in 21.
Dry? The man is absolutely parched. Facing the 9,100 kilometres of the Sahara could not be more tortuous.
“I have no excuses,” Iginla said Tuesday, as the Calgary Flames prepared to face the Dallas Stars at the Scotiabank Saddledome this evening. “If you count the scoring chances in the first 10 games, I’ve had plenty. It’s about trying to stay with it, not getting frustrated, find ways to be better and more effective. Maybe it takes getting a couple more scoring chances just to get the ball rolling.
“I’ve been here before. I believe I’ll get better. But we need it now.
“It’s not just about getting scoring chances, it’s about putting it in. In close games, I know part of my job is to produce and I haven’t done that enough.”
An Iginla revival is imperative if Calgary is to get its playoff drive back on track. In other hours of need, he has risen up to accept the responsibility.
Well, the only franchise home he’s ever known needs him again. Needs him now.
Iginla’s lone snipe of this campaign came Feb. 5th at Joe Louis Arena, parked on the tip of the goal crease, rooting away in front of Wings’ goaltender Jimmy Howard like a Tuscan truffle hound with the scent in its nostrils, defenceman Niklas Kronwall simply unable to handle him.
Too often that determined, muckraking Iginla has been replaced by a more peripheral No. 12, or one with his stick cocked in the far faceoff dot, frozen like a MacFarlane sports action figure, waiting, waiting, waiting ...
“As a team, we’re not doing this enough,” said coach Bob Hartley, choosing to go general when asked specifically about his captain. “As a team, we need to get grittier. That’s the new way and it’s probably the only way to score goals in this league these days. Bang and crash in front of the net, getting those loose pucks. (Mikael) Backlund scored one in Game 1 or Game 2 like this and Jarome scored his goal like this.
“Whenever we go at the net, we’re a different team.
“He’s a guy that commands so much respect with his size. Once he gets body position on a defender, they won’t move him. He has that good presence. We need that.
“But it starts with all of them.”
No, it starts with him and they follow. He remains, at 35, the pied piper. The rest, particularly the young ‘uns, feed off his energy and his lead.
“Personally, I feel I’ve been in front of the net a lot,” argued Iginla. “(Monday) I had one go off my leg and hit the post. I hear that’s the easiest thing to get back to, is to get to the front of the net and battle. Definitely I plan on doing that, but I have to find ways to create in other areas. But whenever it’s not going, get to the front of the net and battle there. And go with the same mindset I’ve always had: The next one’s going in.
“We’re almost down to a quarter gone. We realize the importance of not falling behind and not catching up in the last 10 games. So we want to get back to .500, over .500, we want to move up. We’re still at a point where we have games in hand. But we need to climb.”
To Iginla’s credit, he isn’t blaming his lack of production on a new coach, new system; isn’t buying into the couched, convenient explanation that concentrating on other matters has affected his sniper’s sights.
It’s on him, not extenuating circumstances.
“There are areas we’re trying to get better in, like D-zone coverage,” he said. “Our whole team is. Backchecking ...
“But those 1-1 games, close games, is when you really feel it, when you don’t produce. Work harder than ever to get to the net, try to have pucks go off you, try to get feeling good. Unfortunately it’s a part of it, streaks, goal scoring or not.
“I haven’t produced enough in the first 10. I plan on being a lot better the next 10.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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