The Flames are alive! But is it too late?
VANCOUVER -- The music was deafening in the visitors dressing room at Rogers Arena, and Niklas Hagman was protecting its source like a pirate's treasure.
After a short negotiation with PR man Sean Kelso, Hagman grudgingly turned off the music so the media could perform their postgame duties in the Calgary Flames' dressing room.
When Jay Feaster took over as interim GM of the Flames last month, he told the players to have some fun. He told them he wanted to hear music when he walked by the room. He wanted them to enjoy the game.
Long ago buried by the outside hockey world, the Flames have risen from the ashes. Too little, too late? Maybe.
"A lot of people don't think we can do it, but we think we can," said Flames center Brendan Morrison.
The Flames are playing their best hockey of the season and posted impressive weekend victories over the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, both divisional leaders. As of Monday morning, they were still 14th in the Western Conference, but have narrowed the gap from the eighth and final playoff spot to five points. A win over visiting Nashville on Monday night and the Flames could jump into a 10th-place tie with Minnesota. It's going to be wild race down the stretch.
"There's so many teams involved, like 5-6 teams for that last playoff spot, so for us, we've talked about since before Christmas that it would take four points out of every six points to get into that 94-point range to get us into the playoffs," said Flames winger Alex Tanguay. "We need two out of every three games and we've been pretty successful at it since Christmas, and that's how we're going to keep approaching it."
The Flames are 8-3-3 in their past 14 games, a specific stretch that began Dec. 23 after coach Brent Sutter told his players they were going to break down the rest of the season into three-game segments. The goal is to try to grab four out of six points over the final 47 games with the hope of reaching 90-plus points and perhaps grabbing a playoff spot.
"I just wanted this team to work hard and compete and we're doing that right now," Sutter said after Saturday night's thrilling 4-3 shootout win at Vancouver.
While some of this stretch is attributed to Feaster taking over and relaxing his team, I would argue good, old-fashioned guilt and pride has played an equally important part after longtime GM Darryl Sutter was pushed out the door Dec. 28. It was a wake-up call for the players -- their poor play in the first half cost the GM his job.
"That was definitely a factor," Morrison said. "He did a lot for guys in this room."
"Yeah, I mean, he was a big part of a lot of the guys being here, he brought most of us in here," said underrated blueliner Mark Giordano. "You hate to see a guy that went to bat for you get let go."
What better way to honor their former GM than to pull off a second-half miracle.