The Cardiac Kids

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With over 80% of the 2014/15 NHL season complete, its getting to the time when we find out who the real playoff contenders are. The usual suspects of the Rangers, Anaheim and Montreal look to have once again secured another post-season run, but its a ‘rebuild’ team who currently have all the attention.

Surprising to many, currently sitting 3rd in the Pacific division lies Bob Hartley and his Calgary Flames. Rated 29th by Sportsnet before this campaign began, not many outside of Calgary would have expected such a successful year.

Led by Norris Trophy candidate Mark Giordano, the Flames were set for a year of rebuilding after consecutive disappointing seasons that saw them fail to make the playoffs once again. The off-season acquisition of Jonas Hiller would bring solid goaltending for a side still searching for Miikka Kiprusoff’s replacement, and the arrival of Deryk Engelland and Mason Raymond would add some much needed experience as well as solidarity. Brandon Bollig was signed as the teams newest ‘tough guy’ and with Sam Bennett being drafted 4th overall the Flames had all the ingredients needed for a successful rebuild.

The season to follow was far from what anyone could have ever imagined. To-date, Calgary have played 66 games, winning 36 and losing 25 in regulation with a further 5 in OT, the Flames have amassed 77 points – the same amount they achieved through the entire 82 games of last season.

A lot of what the team have achieved this season is down to the coaching and man-management of Head Coach Bob Hartley. Although last season didn’t bring the same success as the current campaign, there was always a mention from opposition teams about how hard the Flames were to play. Tenacity, drive, battle and determination were all things Hartley had instilled into the Calgary Flames portfolio. Carrying the same attitude into this season, it’s this sort of determination and never say die attitude that has earned the side the nickname ‘Cardiac Kids’.

‘Cardiac Kids’ highlights both the attitude of the side as well as the talent within the line up to never give up on any given night. Being the top ranked side when it comes to 3rd period goals scored as well as the top ranked side for least goals conceded in the 3rd period, the Saddledome and many other arenas have experienced many a heart-racing last 20 minutes when the Flames seem to find their stride.

A side that keeps you on the edge of your seat with sheer excitement and shock regardless of what team you support, it appears the Flames seem to just ‘find a way’ on many occasions.

Highlights of the season so far have seen the Flames recover from 2+ goal deficits in games against Anaheim, New Jersey, Colorado, LA and most recently the Ottawa Senators.

Down 4-0 in the 3rd at the Canadian Tire Center, the Flames looked to have been blown away after two poor periods. What I’m sure the Senator’s weren’t expecting was to give away 4 goals in the space of 20 minutes and allow the Flames a chance to claw the 2 points back from the jaws of defeat. Yet this is exactly what happened. A mesmerizing 3rd period performance had hearts racing right from Joe Colbourne’s bouncer that found its way past Anderson shortly after the restart and the Flames piled on the pressure since. Despite falling short in the shootout, it’s this kind of effort and never say die attitude that has earned the Flames an awful lot more support and plaudits.

With all to play for until the final buzzer the Flames have the chance to grab a rightfully earned playoff spot but it won’t be a walk in the park. Points have to be picked up constantly and there is no time to hit a bump in the road and go on a very unwanted losing streak.

So to you Mr Hartley, I would like to thank you for crafting such a wonderful team to watch, and here’s to hopefully many more years CHEERS.

Follow Alex on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk!

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