Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Around mid-November, there was a lot of talk that Jarome Iginla was past it. And at the time it wasn't unfounded.
After all, his two goals and six assists through the first 15 games of the season were appallingly low for a player of his supposed caliber and reputation. Worse, the problem appeared not to be with puck luck, but rather that he simply wasn't the Jarome Iginla we all knew.
Who could blame him? He'd played most of his 13-year career as a physically dominating power forward who relied less on finesse and overwhelming skill than muscle and a positively lethal shot. At 33 years old, his best days were likely behind him, squandered on a lockout and non-playoff teams because the Flames consistently failed to surround him with talent for the bulk of his career. At some point, for players who play his style of game, it's just not possible any more.
That 15th game, a 5-4 loss to Phoenix on Nov. 12 in which he recorded no points or shots and was a minus-4, seemed to awaken something in Iginla.
But this is Jarome Iginla we're talking about. Lots of people have found out the hard way that the last thing you ever wanted to do was go out of your way to piss that dude off. Edmonton found that out the hard way last week.
He's probably the modern-day king of the Gordie Howe hat trick with nine (this is always a tough stat to figure out definitively), and a large portion of those started not with a secondary assist, but with the fight. Putting a bee under Iginla's bonnet, as that abysmal mid-November performance did, has never worked out well for anyone.
(Coming Up: How McCarty and Lemieux are like Stone Cold and The Rock; Mike Ribeiro got away with one on Michal Handzus; the Habs' road woes and the Flyers' home problems; Ryan Miller update; in praise of Ducks/Sharks; Ryder's penalty shot; Devils eliminated; Kurt Sauer still on concussion hell; Bryzgalov to the Leafs; Jimmy Howard saves the day; and when Shea Weber wants you to grow a playoff beard, you grow a playoff beard.)
Since then, he has been the irresistible force of a captain he always was, the one the Flames have always needed him to be. In the last 65 games, he scored 37 goals and added 36 assists — never going more than three games without a point — despite a constantly rotating cast of supporting players, particularly at the center position. To wit, eight different players have run his pivot this year, with the most frequent being Matt Stajan and Olli Jokinen.
In St. Louis on Friday, playing the 64th game since the Phoenix loss, and in the ultimate testament to his leadership, the Flames were once again facing playoff elimination. Down by two late in the second period, Iginla threw the entire team on his back, scoring Calgary's first goal, setting up the second (one of those "you could've scored it" tap-ins) and icing the game with the third in a 3-2 must-win. They were career points Nos. 998, 999 and 1,000.
That day, he became just the 77th player in NHL history to get to 1,000 points. He did it almost entirely during the Dead Puck Era — when players could climb on his back and slash the stick out of his hands without so much as a glance from the referees — and regardless of the fact that for a long time, he was the only player on his teams worth mentioning.
Maybe the most impressive stat for Iginla isn't the 1,001 points or the 480 goals in 1,104 career games. It's the portion of his team's total goals that were directly attributable to him.
Just as a fer-instance, in 2001-02, he scored 52 goals and set up another 44 for a team that scored 201 total. His 96 points were first on his team by a 21-point margin and, after linemates Craig Conroy (75) and Dean McAmmond (51), no one else even cracked 35. Somehow, he didn't win the Hart that year. Then in 2007-08, he had 22 points more than the next closest teammate. The year after, the margin was 17.
Iginla is already the best player ever to put on a Flames jersey, having scored 116 more goals and 55 more assists than Theo Fleury, and played 301 more games than Al MacInnis. And he pretty much brought the franchise back to any sort of prominence by himself.
Perhaps most importantly, he's also widely considered just about the nicest and most respectful guy in the league. It's entirely possible that not one person in the NHL past or present has ever said a bad word about Iginla. The stories of his respect for even his fiercest opponents, and extreme generosity with his time and money, are plentiful.
You gotta figure Iginla has a couple more years left in him, and maybe those streaks of ineffectiveness start lasting a little bit longer, and he doesn't go to the net with quite so much power as he did when he was 27. But any reports of his decline in the past were more than a little early.
I've heard it said that there's some debate whether Iginla should be in the Hall of Fame, and that's just about the dumbest argument anyone could ever have. By the time his career's over, he'll have easily broken that mythic 500-goal mark and surged up to 1,100 or even 1,200 career points with little trouble.
Despite being on weak teams and not winning a Stanley Cup and, of course, that ugly start to this season, Iginla will go down as one of the three best players of his era and an all-time great.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: A Ducks/Sharks game this weekend, another on Wednesday and that might just end up being a playoff matchup too. Which is awesome because these teams don't seem to like each other very much.
Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday. Hey, remember that time they led the division for like 36 hours? I don't either.
Boston Bruins: Michael Ryder scored a goal. Sure, it was on a penalty shot, but still, he scored it. Can't take that away from him.A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.
Buffalo Sabres: "Ryan Miller is doing well," Lindy Ruff said. Oh good. That's good for a number of reas... "Not well enough to practice, however…" Oh bad. That's bad.
Calgary Flames: Daymond Langkow played his first game in more than a year after breaking his neck and he looked like he hadn't missed a day. An assist, a plus-2 rating, a shot on goal, a couple of hits. Really impressive.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes were down 2-1 in the third period of a must-win game. Fortunately, it was against the Islanders so they obviously won 4-2 behind a two-point third period from… Joe Corvo?
Chicago Blackhawks: It's the time of year when Masterson nominations come out, and Chicago's representative for the award will be Ryan Johnson. I'm assuming it's because Todd Bertuzzi caught him with an illegal hit and he didn't end up in the hospital.
Colorado Avalanche: "Congrats to good guy Peter Budaj for getting his 100th win tonight." I read that and yelled "THIS SEASON!?!" and laughed and laughed. That would be a record. And Peter Budaj could never get such a record. Because he's terrible. But anyway, I guess Peter Budaj got his 100th career win Sunday night so that's something.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash didn't play Sunday, the third straight game he's missed. When Scott Arniel asked if he could go Monday, Nash was probably like, "Oh yeah I really want to but jeez my knee or something really hurts bad coach!" Gotta rest up for the World Championships.
Dallas Stars: Looks like Mike Ribeiro got away with one on Michal Handzus.
Detroit Red Wings: Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux were in the same room without killing each other? It's like the time I found out Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock don't hate each other in real life! It was my hope that the 15 years since That Game had done nothing to diminish the white-hot hatred these two harbored for each other. You shoulda killed him, D-Mac.
Edmonton Oilers: Saturday night, the Oilers took two points from the Canucks, who entered the game with almost exactly double Edmonton's point total for the year. This was the Oilers' Stanley Cup Final.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers played Saturday's game against Pittsburgh short a man on their roster because they sent down Patrick Rissmiller and called up Tim Kennedy, without putting the latter on re-entry waivers. That made him ineligible. This is exactly like that time Dale Tallon forgot to send out that RFA paperwork only no one cares.
Los Angeles Kings: Go give blood at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and the Kings will give you a voucher for two tickets to a game next season. So not only do you give away like 17 percent of your blood, but you also have to watch a Kings game? Horrible deal. (And also they'll donate a dollar for every new Twitter follower they get between now and April 9. So help 'em out with that.)
Minnesota Wild: This is such a great headline about why the Wild are stuck in a middle-of-the-pack malaise: "Never terrible enough."
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs' road record is now 19-19-1. That's the worst of any of the 16 playoff teams. And that's after winning in New Jersey on Saturday.
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber is making everyone in the Predators organization grow playoff beards. Even the women. Especially the women.
New Jersey Devils: The Devs were officially bounced from playoff contention on Saturday to the surprise of no one. It's the third season the Devils have missed the playoffs under Lou Lamoriello, and the last time it happened, it was 1996, and Jacob Josefson was still watching whatever the Swedish equivalent of Barney the Dinosaur is. Bårney, probably.
New York Islanders: The Islanders, Rangers AND Devils chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted a combined 17-3 to not vote for league awards this year in protest of the Isles' decision to ban Chris Botta. Good for them. Wish more chapters would do it to send a message. And the three people who voted against it did so because Trevor Gillies paid 'em a quick visit if you follow me.
New York Rangers: Two beauty shootout goals outta Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski to pick up a W for the Rangers against the Flyers on national TV.
Great job by Bobrovsky to get that stick across on the second one, even if he didn't stop it too.
Ottawa Senators: In my opinion the most notable thing about the Senators' 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs was that brand new free-agent signee Stephane Da Costa hit a post in the game.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers haven't won a home game since March 8. The playoffs can't start soon enough.
Phoenix Coyotes: Really sad story of Kurt Sauer still being unable to even participate in on-ice workouts since suffering a concussion in September. Of 2009.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Y'know how good the Pens have been despite missing Crosby and Malkin and about 100 other important players for decent chunks of the season? Maybe more impressive is that despite the mountainous number of call-ups the organization has made this year, the Baby Pens just locked up the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy — the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy.
San Jose Sharks: Call of the century by Randy Hahn: "Perhaps he dedicated a Cee Lo Green song to the referee."