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Alex Tanguay #40 of the Calgary Flames takes the shot during the practice session the day before the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium on February 19, 2011 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images) (Dylan Lynch/2011 Getty Images)
Alex Tanguay #40 of the Calgary Flames takes the shot during the practice session the day before the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium on February 19, 2011 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images) (Dylan Lynch/2011 Getty Images)

Eric Duhatschek

Tanguay proves lucky charm for Flames' shootout hopes Add to ...

For someone who is so good at it, Calgary Flames forward Alex Tanguay doesn't think too highly of the shootout.

Tanguay would rather see the NHL go to three points for a win, so that a regulation victory counts for more than one earned in extra time. But assuming the shootout is here to stay because the commissioner wants it that way, Tanguay would prefer to see five shooters involved instead of three because, currently, the team that scores first almost always emerges victorious.

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The irony, for anyone following the Flames' fortunes of late, is that shootout success is the primary reason they're entertaining any faint playoff hopes.

Calgary has nine shootout victories, including last Saturday's 5-4 come-from-behind win over the trash-talking Edmonton Oilers that kept the Flames mathematically in the playoff picture - for a few days more anyway. (According to captain Jarome Iginla and defenceman Robyn Regehr, several Oilers players wished them well on their summer vacations when Edmonton was up 4-1.)

That night, Tanguay scored the decisive shootout goal - his 10th of the season - tying the single-season record established by Jussi Jokinen in 2005-06, and matched by Wojtek Wolski three years later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Flames have won seven of the 10 shootouts in which Tanguay has scored.

"I've had 16 shots," Tanguay said. "That's crazy. That's almost one-quarter of our games. That's why I feel, if they gave three points for a regulation win and two for overtime, I think some games would be played differently in the later stages."

Because shootout victories don't count in the first tiebreaker (most wins), every team in the Western Conference playoff chase has the edge over the Flames should they wind up tied in points - just one more hurdle Calgary will need to overcome to qualify.

As well as Iginla has played - he's up to No. 7 in the NHL scoring race - one could argue Tanguay's contributions are as significant as Iginla's or goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff's in keeping Calgary in the race.

It was Tanguay's goal in the final two minutes against the Dallas Stars on the night before the Christmas break that forced overtime and permitted the Flames to win in the shootout - the turnaround game of their season, the one that got them out of the doldrums and spurred a second-half run.

Iginla said Monday after practice he firmly believes the Flames can and will make the playoffs - even though the odds are long and they'll need to win out starting with Wednesday's home date against the Anaheim Ducks.

"Clichés aside, they're all Game 7s for us and that's how you prepare - go in and try to be really good and that's all," Iginla said.

Iginla chemistry with Tanguay has been nothing short of sensational. In the two years Tanguay played for the Flames the first time around, Iginla managed 94 and 98 points, respectively, including a 50-goal season in 2007-08.

Iginla's numbers fell off the next two years, when Tanguay was in Montreal and Tampa, but they are up again this season - not a bad return on a $1.7-million (U.S.) investment in a 31-year-old who had insisted there was a lot left in the tank.

Tanguay becomes an unrestricted free agent again at the end of this season.

For now, though, the Flames are content to ride his coattails, especially if they happen to get into still more shootouts in the final five games.

"The shootout is a big part of hockey, an important part and there's a lot of pressure, too," Iginla said. "On the last one, we're going, 'C'mon Tangs, please!' And he found a way and got us the winner.

"But he's also really helped us on the power play. I like to shoot one-timers and he gives me a lot of those. If you're a shooter, you really need the great passers. If you like the one-timers and you don't get the one-timed pass, it doesn't really matter.

"He's been a great addition, in terms of his overall skill. Last year, we didn't have that same high-end skill - and he brings a lot of it."

Follow on Twitter: @eduhatschek

 

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