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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Flames Newest Offensive Weapon: Brian McGrattan 2.0

Introducing the new Brian McGrattan: Goal scorer, offensive catalyst and slap shot aficionado.

That might very well have been the strangest sentence I've ever written yet much like a court reporter, I'm merely transcribing the facts as they've been presented over the past few games.

The hulking six-foot-four, 235 pound winger -- a grizzly bear on the ice, but a teddy bear off it, has goals in consecutive games for only the second time in his career after lighting the lamp Monday night in the Flames 3-2 home-ice loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Equally, if not more impressive, McGrattan led Calgary with a career-high six shots on goal against rookie goaltender Martin Jones -- that's right, S-I-X! The only other Flame with more than two was TJ Galiardi with three shots.

“It's good, even for me,” admitted the club's 32-year-old elder statesman. “I'm starting to get a little bit more ice the last couple weeks and getting more comfortable playing more minutes and showing the coaching staff that I can do a little bit more than fight.”

A Rare Feat by NHL Standards

Looking back over recent NHL history, what McGrattan accomplished Monday night was very, very rare.

In the last 14 years going back to 2000-01, only three players have scored a goal and had six or more shots in less ice time than McGrattan's action-packed and highly effective 8:31 against Los Angeles.

  • Shawn Thornton, Bos - Jan. 1, 2012 vs. Wpg, 1 goal, 7 shots, 7:04 TOI.
  • Jonathan Cheechoo, SJ – Feb. 21, 2003 vs Clb, 1 goal, 6 shots, 8:30 TOI
  • Pierre Dagenais, NJ – Dec. 26, 2001 vs Pit, 1 goal, 6 shots, 8:17 TOI

A Record Night by a 'Long Shot'

In typical McGrattan style, he didn't merely break his old record, he smashed it, clobbered it, bloodied it, just like one of his one of his patented overhand rights to the mush.

In his previous 290 NHL games, 'Gratts' -- as he's known around the dressing room, had racked up more than three shots in a game just once. That was over four years ago in his first stint with the Flames. Skating on a line with Fredrik Sjostrom and Brandon Prust, he peppered Devan Dubnyk with four shots in a 6-1 Flames victory over Edmonton on Jan. 30, 2010.

As for his goal, possibly the most dramatic of his NHL career (OK, there are only nine to choose from), it drew the Flames to within one with 2:22 left in the game. In an otherwise quiet night at the Saddledome as the Kings built an early lead then checked the young Flames into the ground, suddenly the building was alive again, having erupted after McGrattan spun in the slot and powered a slap shot off Jones' pad and in.

“It was big,” emphasized McGrattan. “Two goals right away got some energy in the building and all we needed was a little extra bounce to get a third one.”

McGrattan's third goal of the year and sixth in the last 67 games going back to last season, came just over two minutes after Mike Cammalleri's power play goal at 15:29 ignited the late comeback attempt and set up the furious final few minutes in which the Flames nearly tied it up a couple times.

Contributing Feels Great

“It is a payoff,” said McGrattan, best known for the 164 scraps he's had since turning pro -- 72 of them in the NHL. “Us guys in a fourth line or checking role, we're not guys that put up a ton of offence. When we can chip in with a goal, even back-to-back (games), it's always exciting and it is a reward for the hard work we do.”

Not to be forgotten, the late rally came against the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, the NHL's hottest team with seven straight wins heading into last night, and against a club that was a perfect 20-0-0 when leading after two periods.

In coming up one goal shy once again, the resilient Flames have played 39 one-goal games this season, tying them with the New Jersey Devils for the league lead. Their 13 one-goal losses in regulation is second only to Buffalo.

“The identity of our team is a team that never gives up and we work hard every night,” McGrattan said. “Minus a couple games this year, we've been in almost every game so that's encouraging going forward. We've got the last 17 or18 games here to play spoiler against some teams.”

McGrattan's next opportunity to continue his unexpected but awfully fun to watch offensive prowess comes Wednesday night when Calgary hosts Anaheim.

In the last four games, McGrattan's 12 shots on goal ties him with Mark Giordano for the team lead. But McGrattan's dozen have come in just 29:11 in ice time. Over that same span, Giordano has logged over three times as many minutes (102:51). The next closest forward to him over that span is Cammalleri with nine shots.

“We've got a lot of guys that are getting an opportunity to show the organization that they belong in the NHL. The young guys have brought some spark to our dressing room and they push the old guys because we don't want to lose our spots,” said McGrattan, who is the oldest player on the team other than back-up goaltender Joey MacDonald.


Three-Year Anniversary of his AHL Game of a Lifetime

While McGrattan's six shots was a career high for an NHL game, it's not his high as a pro – not even close. Playing for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch on Mar. 12, 2011, he scored twice and had a whopping 13 shots on goal in a 3-2 win over Rochester.

Interestingly, his linemates that game were Nick Bonino and Patrick Maroon, who are both expected to be in the line-up for the Ducks on Wednesday. That game will fall on the third anniversary of that wild night at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse.

One thing you can bet on after his 100-footer found the back of the net behind Eddie Lack on Saturday, you know he'll keep on shooting as much as he can and brandishing that red-hot slap shot that has served him so well of late.

It was in the second period Monday that McGrattan, with Saturday's goal in mind, again let a long slap shot fly from way outside the blue-line.

“Yeah, I had another long one there,” McGrattan said with a chuckle. “I was at the end of a shift, I'm like, ah, I my as well try it again.”

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