Irreverent, perhaps, about the higher-seeded team he's playing against and the more experienced veterans players he's battling against.
But irrelevant? Oh man, hardly.
Of all the words in the English language, "irrelevant" was how Kevin Bieksa on Sunday night chose to grossly understate the role Micheal Ferland has played so far in the testy first round series between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks.
"I think he's pretty irrelevant so far," said the Canucks defenceman after Sunday's game three loss in which Ferland had a game-high eight hits, part of a 33-18 edge for Calgary as all night the Flames took away Vancouver's time and space (read my story for The Canadian Press on this storyline here.)
This, of course, was about a half-hour in real time after Bieksa essentially jumped the irrelevant Flames rookie in the Canucks corner with 1:06 to go and threw three or four punches before Ferland could even get his gloves off.
- The type of vehicle Ferland drives (surely a Ford F-150 or something similar). Irrelevant.
- The number on the back of Ferland's jersey (79 for now but surely changing this summer, perhaps to his recently vacated junior number of 27). Irrelevant.
- The impact Ferland has had on this series. Not irrelevant.
Veteran Poise From the Manitoba Kid
Ferland played his 29th NHL game Sunday night. Today, the native of Swan River, Manitoba, celebrates his 23rd birthday.
He's young, inexperienced and with a resume as thin as his, many in his position might very well be irrelevant. But Ferland has not been. Not even close.
Perhaps Bieksa picked Ferland in his hockey pool because no goals or assists in game three was about the only fathomable way in which Ferland could be described in that way.
Ferland's line of Matt Stajan and David Jones may have been the lone Calgary trio to not collaborate for a goal on Sunday, but in crashing and banging their way to a collective 14 hits, they were a giant part of the Flames first playoff victory at the Saddledome since April 22, 2009.
Ferland played 12:08 in game three but it felt like he was on the ice twice as much as that. He certainly packed a lot of action into those dozen minutes.
"I want them to know when I'm out there," said Ferland. "The biggest thing for me is to use my body. It's so easy to make those hits with that crowd. I love hearing them after every hit so that's awesome."
Eight hits gives Ferland 18 in the playoffs, which is tied for third in the NHL behind left-winger Matt Martin of the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals defenceman Brooks Orpik, who each have 22.
"Ferly is quite a player and he's just starting," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "We've got a remarkable young man. So intelligent. You have to be around him to figure out how intelligent this young man is."
Taking Advantage of his Opportunity
Hartley says Ferland is making the most of the chance at playing time that arose when Lance Bouma (upper body) was lost late in the regular season.
"Right from the get go, he delivered some good, solid clean hits. That's the way that we always play. He's filled in. He's taking advantage of Lance Bouma's injury and he's really creating a good role for himself."
There were plenty of signs once again Sunday of how far Ferland has matured from just two years ago when he was returned to junior from the AHL. The coach at Abbotsford that 2012-13 season was Troy Ward, who said this at the time:
"He was basically a 20-year-old that was living like a 17-year-old. When you try to do that in this room and this environment, it becomes very difficult. That's not a knock against Micheal – that's just where he was in his development process."
Fast forward to Sunday night and while riding the emotion of a deafening loud crowd, Ferland demonstrated how much he's grown up by being very careful to not get too caught up in it.
When Vancouver antagonist Derek Dorsett tried to goad him into dropping his gloves and fighting in the final minute of the second period, Ferland refused. With the Flames ahead 2-1 at the time, one risk was letting the Canucks manufacture a spark headed to the third. Additionally, perhaps -- although it didn't work -- he could have drawn an unsportsmanlike penalty on Dorsett and a power play at that stage would have been huge.
There was another instance in the game where Stajan and Jones were already caught in deep and Ferland had a chance to take a run at the defenceman on his side that had the puck. Normally, given the way he had been electrifying the crowd with his punishing hits all game, you would have expected him to run at him and try to staple him. Instead, he wisely curled back back up ice in anticipation of the Canucks breakout, which saved Calgary what could have been a potentially costly 3-on-2 rush against them.
Also Shrewd Off the Ice
When asked Sunday night about the shenanigans at the end of the game and Bieksa initiating that scrap with him, Ferland once again showed his maturity by dismissing it, rather than making it a talking point and giving the Canucks something to pin up on the ol' bulletin board.
"The game just got heated at the end, a few guys competing down low. Before I knew it, we were punching each other," Ferland said.
If he continues to let his actions do most of the talking, Ferland will continue to be a relevant part of this series, whether or not Bieksa wants to admit it or not.
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Recent Related Flames Reading
- Blow-by-Blow Recap of Friday Night's Fights and What it Could Mean - Here is a blow-by-blow recap of the four primary incidents from game two -- and what it could mean for the Flames -- as tempers boiled over and hostilities returned to a rivalry that long ago left the so-called 'Battle of Alberta' in the dust.
- High-Five: Flames Rookies Getting it Done - Five of the Flames 12 forwards in game one were rookies. How absurd is that? There were only 22 rookie forwards in the line-ups of the other 15 teams in game one of the playoffs. I look at the historical significance of that and reflect on what it means right now and for the future.
- The Time for Sam Bennett is Right Now - What's better than having an ace up your sleeve? Having an ace in your hand. There is a time to be patient with young players and there's a time to be loyal with veteran players. But now it's time for Bob Hartley to ice the line-up he can to beat the Vancouver Canucks four times in the next seven games. That line-up should include Sam Bennett,
- The Decisive Dozen: 12 Games That Made the Difference in 2014-15 - It wasn't easy but here is my carefully curated list of the 12 most important games of the regular season, a year in which the Flames did the improbable in making the Stanley Cup playoffs. Included are links to the highlights of each game.