Iginla, Flames turn it around

A slow start now in the past as Iginla catches fire

Tuesday, 28.10.2008 / 1:19 PM / News
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com staff writer

Jarome Iginla is the franchise in Calgary. The better he plays, the better the Flames do.

And through the first 5 games of the season, neither he nor the Flames were doing much of anything. Iginla had a goal and 2 assists, and Calgary stumbled to a 1-3-1 start.

One week later, though, and there's a completely different outlook in Calgary.

Iginla scored 5 of the Flames' 11 goals last week as Calgary went 3-0 to improve to 4-3-1 on the season.

Iginla had the game-tying goal in a 2-1 win against Washington; netted a hat trick on just 3 shots as the Flames came from down 3-0 to beat Nashville, 5-3; and he scored a goal and set up 2 others in a 4-1 win against Phoenix.

His efforts earned him selection as NHL First Star of the Week.>

The Flames needed Iginla, in his fifth season as captain, to step up. He has led the team in goals and points for 7 straight seasons, and now is at the top again this season. He's been one of the only constants on a constantly changing roster that this season again is trying to bring together some disparate parts.

Over the summer, top-six forwards Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay departed, replaced by Mike Cammalleri, who was acquired in a trade with the Kings, and free agent Todd Bertuzzi. Other new faces include Curtis Glencross, Rene Bourque and rookie David Moss.

"We made changes in the offseason, as most teams do," Iginla said. "Up front, I think we've gotten a lot quicker. Bertuzzi has come in and played really well for us, he's been really strong on our power play. Cammalleri has fit in nicely. We added Bourque and Glencross and they've got great speed."

The new additions have taken time to blend in, but Iginla wouldn't put the team's early struggles on a lack of chemistry.

"We just got off to a tough start," he said. "We had a bad first game against Vancouver and then we lost a few one-goal games in row where defensively our game wasn't sharp. We were having terrible second periods. I wouldn’t say it was getting used to everyone. We just got away from what we wanted to do. We weren't moving the puck very well or playing strong defensively.

"We tried to change those things. … And fortunately this last week was a lot better for us."

They'll try to continue their good run with home games this week against the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Bruins on Thursday.

To keep on the right path, they'll need Bertuzzi to continue his renaissance. The Flames are the big forward's fifth team in 4 seasons after the Ducks bought out the final year of his contract this summer. The Flames signed him with the hope that being reunited with Flames coach Mike Keenan -- Bertuzzi's coach in Vancouver when he had his best seasons -- as well as Iginla's presence in the locker room, could help Bertuzzi rediscover his game.

With 6 goals -- including 4 on the power play -- through 8 games, it's a move that certainly is paying major dividends. The Flames' power play ranked 19th in the League last season at 16.8 percent, but now is converting at 21.3 percent, good for seventh in the League.

"He's been really, really good for us," said Iginla. "He's come in and he's playing really hard. He's having a lot of fun. Talking to him, he's really enjoying himself. He's one of the older guys on the team, so he's been a leader in our dressing room.

"I think our power play has been really coming on and he's a big part of that. He draws a lot of attention in front of the net. He moves the puck well still … We want to be a better team in the League and we've got to get our power play up there, too, and he's a big reason why it's been improving."

Iginla's play also is a reason the Flames are improving.