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In March, Giordano became only the fourth defenceman in league history to score 70 points or more at the age of 35.BEN NELMS/The Canadian Press

He has reached a time when many hockey players’ legs begin to feel heavy and their production starts to slide. Yet Mark Giordano shows no sign of yielding to advancing years. If anything, he is just catching up to them.

“I think I have always been a late bloomer,” the captain of the Calgary Flames says.

It is his 13th season in the National Hockey League and the best of his career. In March, he became only the fourth defenceman in league history to score 70 points or more at the age of 35. He finished the regular season on Saturday with 74 points.

“You expect your peak to fall between the time you are 28 and 32, but I feel fresh,” Giordano says. “At the same time that I have been getting older, I have become more focused. I put in a lot of time working out in the off-season. I haven’t felt any effects related to age at all.”

The Flames have lofty expectations after winning 50 games for only the second time in franchise history. Only the 1988-89 team won more – 54 – and they went on to win the lone Stanley Cup in Calgary’s history.

“We have had a good season and we feel confident,” Giordano said Monday after the team’s first practice session of the postseason.

The Flames begin their first-round series on Thursday at Scotiabank Saddledome against the Colorado Avalanche, an opponent they defeated in each of their three regular-season matchups. “We expect to play well and go deep into the playoffs."

After missing the playoffs in seven of the preceding years, Calgary ended up with a 50-25-7 record, the second best in the league. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning, which won 62 games, had more victories.

“We expected to make the playoffs last year, but we didn’t start well and we chased after them the whole season,” Giordano says. “When you are doing that, every loss feels like the end of the world and every win is a relief. You are just happy not to lose.

“You say all the right things but you know you are really playing out the string and it is tough to come to the rink every day. This year it is fun.”

Giordano is one of only five Calgary players to score 70 points or more, the first time any team has had so many since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000-01. His 74 points were nearby double his output from last season, and it elevated him to being among the game’s top defencemen.

He is not as tall and gangly as Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks, as pesty as Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings or as flamboyant as P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators. He is as rugged and as durable as the Jeep that he drives.

He and Burns are the leading candidates to win the Norris Trophy, with Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs a distant third. The major awards will be handed out in Las Vegas in June.

“Mark wears the captain’s C for a reason,” Mike Smith, Calgary’s 37-year-old goalie, says. “He is just a warrior. He competes every day like it is his last day in the league. He is a consummate professional.”

Smith is completing his 13th season in the NHL, having come to Calgary from Arizona via a trade in 2017.. It’s the first time since 2012 that a team he has been on has made the playoffs.

Giordano and Smith have become friends since he joined the team.

“We spend a lot of time together because of our age bracket,” Smith says. “Off the ice, he is such a great guy to be around that you drawn toward him.”

Giordano ranks second only to Jarome Iginla in the number of games he has played for the Flames. He has played 833 for them since he entered the league in 2006. The only other team he has played for is the Moscow Dynamo of the Russian Elite League, where he played in 2007-08.

He opted to play for the Dynamo after he became embroiled in a contract dispute with the Flames after his first full season.

“It was a tough decision at the time,” Giordano says. “You worry about closing the door on something. When I went there, there was a chance I could play my entire career in Europe.”

Instead, he gained valuable experience and more playing time than he would have if he had stayed in Calgary.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he says. “It seems like a long time ago. Honestly, the years in hockey go by so quickly, and you need a lot of luck along the way. There are truly a lot of great players.”

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