Flames special teams unit a killer
CALGARY, AB -- There hasn’t been a team more dangerous down a man this season than the Calgary Flames.
With Lee Stempniak’s tally early in the third period against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday, the Flames moved into sole position of first in the National Hockey League in shorthanded goals with six.
It isn’t by accident, either. It’s by design.
“They all have the green light,” coach Bob Hartley said. “The four guys on the ice, as soon as we feel that we can go, that’s the nature of our game. Our system is built on pressure and skating. That’s the mentality that we want to get all across our system.”
The message has been well received by Hartley’s crew. Calgary’s six short-handed tallies have come from five different scorers.
It’s not a bad way to spend two minutes.
“The best way I find to kill is outside of your zone and when we’re able to force up ice we do it,” Mark Giordano said. “When you can play offence on the PK, do it.”
The Flames have, capitalizing a half-dozen times through 27 games this season. Last year, the Flames finished with six through the 48-game schedule -- third league-wide.
“The guys are responding well and we’re scoring goals and I think that whenever you can get a shorthanded goal, it’s going to give a big boost to your hockey club,” Hartley said.
Calgary received one of those boosts with Stempniak’s marker 2:44 into the third period against the Coyotes.
Up 3-1 and killing Karri Ramo’s high-sticking minor, Matt Stajan poked the puck by Keith Yandle at the blue line before breaking in on a two-on-one against Phoenix forward Mike Ribeiro. Stajan held before feeding a pass across the top of the crease that Stempniak tapped behind goaltender Thomas Greiss.
The goal killed any and all momentum the Coyotes had in mounting a third-period comeback.
“Stempy, going back years now, has always been great on the PK, a great offensive guy on the PK and him and Staj together are a great combo,” Giordano said, “but I think it’s our whole team’s mindset where if we get the chance, we’re going,” Giordano said.
The pair went, exposing Ribiero’s inexperience defensively and the dangers of using a forward on the point of the power play.
It might make opposing coaches leery about using a similar set-up against the Flames.
“Sometimes it might discourage a coach to put a forward on the blue line because obviously there’s always a bonus but putting a forward on the blue line but at the same time, there’s a danger, if you get that forward stuck,” Hartley said. “We saw Staj and Stempy, we got them on a two-on-one against Mike Ribiero. Well I’m sure Mike Ribiero didn’t defend too many two-one-ones in his career.
“It keeps the other teams on their toes and at the same time, I don’t really care how the other teams react to it.
“It’s the way that we play.”