By Paul D
5. Deryk Engelland
Even though he hasn’t been making an appearance on the scoreboard, Deryk has been a very valuable resource against the Canucks so far this series. The Canucks are playing a violent and physical brand of hockey, with multiple games ending in brawls, one with two Canucks going after Engelland. But fortunately Engelland has been able to step up to protect his teammates and accept the challenge on the ice. In four games he has recorded 44 penalty minutes and barely dodged a suspension for game misconduct and instigating. Going late into this series with each new game presenting a new level of aggression from both teams, Deryk Engelland is the player they need on the ice when things get rough.
4. Brandon Bollig
On an average day on the ice no one really expects that much from Brandon Bollig, Maybe a few well placed hits and taking a fight for a teammate once in a while, but Flames fans were pleasantly surprised on Sunday when he scored the opening goal on Eddie Lack. That was when home fans really started to get in Lack’s head and soon after Brodie scored again to end the first period with a 2-1 lead. This was significant because Lack was still hot from last game allowing only one goal in 23 shots to for a 4-1 victory over the Flames, Bollig’s goal early in the first period shook Lacks’s confidence and helped the Flames to a 4-2 victory to take the lead in the series.
3. Sam Bennet
Sam Bennett was the Flames first round draft pick in 2014, but due to a shoulder injury was unable to play for much of the season, and to the disappointment of Calgary fans who were expecting him to be a game changer, was sent down to the minor leagues earlier in the season. He was not expected to show up on the Flames roster until training camp next season, but he was called up to the NHL near the very end of the season and played the in Flames final game of the season where he recorded his first NHL point on an assist to Josh Jooris. Since then he’s been a hardworking contributor to the Flames playoff run, Currently playing on the Flames second line alongside Mikael Backlund and Joe Colborne. Bennett was playing very well for most of the playoffs, creating lots of scoring opportunities in the attacking zone, but on Sunday he was in front of the net with a bouncing puck and managed to put it in the net. This goal was credited as the game winner which resulted in a 4-2 win for the Flames, also his first NHL goal. But not just on the scoreboard, Bennett has been able to take endure a lot of physical play on the ice including a questionable headshot late in sundays game, but always the enthusiastic rookie he took it like a champ and was posing with his battle scar and lucky game puck with a smile on his face.
2. T.J. Brodie
T.J. Brodie is a great defenseman with solid offensive aspects to his game, however, he is not usually known for his offensive numbers. But so far in the playoffs he has played a fantastic offensive game that generated scoring chances and kept steady offensive pressure on the Canucks. Coupled with his defensive game that keeps chances in the defensive zone scarce and forces opponents to fight hard for every shot on goal, and his ability to generate quick offense in transition by shovelling the puck into the neutral zone. These qualities and his one goal and two assists has made him a valuable asset to the Flames in the playoffs so far.
1. Kris Russell
Kris Russell is the alternate captain of the Flames and one of their senior defenders. When captain Mark Giordano suffered a severed bicep tendon and was unable to play for the rest of the regular season it looked like the Flames playoff dream was over, but because of alternate captains Russell and Wideman stepping up and taking on the extra responsibility and playing much harder on defense, the dream stayed alive. And now in the postseason Russell has been playing some of the best defense of his career, he’s been physical on and off the puck, limiting scoring chances and he’s been terrific getting the puck out of his teams zone, however, what has really set him apart from the rest of his team is the amount of shots he has blocked during the playoffs. Official stats say he has a total of 96 blocked shots in the playoffs, an average of 26-30 in the last four games. This is an incredibly impressive statistic, one of the biggest team plays a player can make is blocking a shot, fighting through the pain to keep the puck away from their goaltender. This effort has not gone unnoticed by Flames fans either, some even suggesting that if Jonas Hiller is having a bad game they can just put Russell in net, and head coach Bob Hartley is thrilled to see such dedication from his blueliners. This kind of never quit attitude is exactly what it took to jumpstart the team in the aftermath of losing Giordano and keep the team alive as they rallied past the defending Stanley Cup champions the L.A. Kings to earn their spot in the playoffs. This is what makes Kris Russell the most unexpected and valuable asset to the Flames so far in their playoff push.