Recent Calgary Flames additions bring long-haul playoff experience

The Calgary Flames topped up their playoff experience with the recent addition of four forwards who know what a long post-season feels like.

The No. 1 team in the Pacific Division headed into the NHL playoffs and a first round series against the Dallas Stars banking on that experience rubbing off on a lineup lacking in long-haul playoff seasoning.

Blake Coleman, Trevor Lewis, Tyler Toffoli and Calle Jarnkrok, who all joined the Flames in the last 10 months, either won a Stanley Cup or reached a Cup final before their arrival in Calgary.

The majority of Flames, including top producers Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, have yet to see a third round in their careers.

Calgary beat Winnipeg in four games in the best-of-five qualifying round in Edmonton’s 2020 playoff bubble, before falling to the Stars in six games in the first round.

The Flames fell short of last year’s post-season and haven’t made it past the second round since 2004.

“It’ll get talked about a lot — guys with experience, but what you’re looking for is a good experience,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said.

“You take out the play-in round in the bubble, there’s not much experience here. There’s maybe four guys with over 50 playoff games.”

Coleman, 30, signed last summer on the heels of back-to-back Stanley Cup victories with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“This is the prove-it time of year,” Coleman said. “This is when the players show up, the games get harder. You can either up your game or back down.

“We’ve got a lot of proud hockey players in our locker room and now they have some experience to lean on. Guys that have had tremendous regular seasons are going to have to take it up even more in the playoff time here.

“The biggest thing is understanding that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got to keep your composure. Every game is a completely new game. You’ve got to make sure you’re able to hit that reset button when you need to.”

Lewis, another summer of 2021 signing, earned a pair of championship rings with Sutter in both 2012 and 2014 when both were with the Los Angeles Kings.

“Everyone’s got to be bought in or it’s not going to work,” the 35-year-old said. “Make sure all your distractions are out of the way and come ready to go for the whole playoff run.”

Toffoli earned a Stanley Cup ring in his rookie season with the Kings in 2014.

The Flames acquired the 30-year-old in a February trade with Montreal after Toffoli reached last year’s Cup final with the Canadiens.

“You’ve just got to go into the playoffs with the right mindset and feeling as confident in your game as possible,” Toffoli said. “You’ve got to realize that what you’re going into, there’s so many ups and downs, you can’t let anything necessarily affect you.

“You can’t get too high when you’re playing well and you can’t get too low when you’ve got crappy bounces or something happens. You’ve got to try and stay as even-keel as possible. It’s time to play the best hockey you can bring and have as much fun as possible because it’s the best time.”

Flames general manager Brad Treliving dealt three draft picks to the expansion Seattle Kraken in March to get Jarnkrok, who went to the 2017 Cup final with the Nashville Predators.

The 30-year-old Swede has played third-line centre for wingers Coleman and Dillon Dube.

“He’s been to the finals, and he’s had a lot of a lot of good runs,” Coleman said. “It may not be on the scoresheet every night, but he does a lot of little things right.

“He works his bag off for lack of a better word. He’s reliable. He kills penalties. He plays tough minutes and I think he’s the guy you feel comfortable putting out against anybody, which in the playoffs, it’s more about guys you can trust and feel they’re reliable players for you.”

Along with Milan Lucic, a Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins in 2011, Calgary’s bottom-six forwards now bring the most playoff experience to the team.

“All the new players who have come in and who have won before, we’re obviously all looking at them, but at the same time (those) of us who haven’t won have got to take charge,” Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022

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