Flames’ Frolik carrying lessons from past Cup runs into 2019 playoffs

The Calgary Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 5-3 to claim top spot in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division title.

CALGARY – There’s only one member of the Calgary Flames who owns tangible proof he has what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.

And while that gold and diamond-encrusted confirmation sits in a safety deposit box an ocean away, Michael Frolik is armed with photos and memories of a run he successfully completed six years back.

"It’s in my bank safe back home in Prague – I put it in there after we won and haven’t seen it," said the 31-year-old Flames winger of the Stanley Cup ring he won after setting up the championship-winning goal as a Chicago Blackhawk.

"My wife has some jewelry there and she was there last year and took some pictures and sent them to me and said, ‘it looks very good.’"

As it would.

Looking back on the Hawks’ run that capped the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13, Frolik recalls there being an undeniable feeling in the room his club was capable of finishing the journey.

"Yes, definitely," said Frolik of a team that had also won the Cup three years prior to his arrival.

"The talent they had at the time – (Patrick) Kane, (Jonathan) Toews, (Brent) Seabrook, (Duncan) Keith – they were in their prime and they were still pretty young, similar in age to Johnny (Gaudreau) and Monny (Sean Monahan)."

Pausing, the 11th year veteran from the Czech Republic suggested his current club possesses a similar mix of confidence, star-power and depth.

"I think we have it this year," said Frolik of his team’s mindset.

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"What could be better than first in the west? We have goaltending and great defence and some offence (second in the NHL) – we have the whole package right now and we just have to make sure we’re ready when the time comes.

"I remember that year we won we were awesome during the season and were undefeated in 24-straight games in regulation (to start the season). I think it’s kind of similar here – we had a lot of wins and the confidence is there and I think that year the home advantage was huge too. I think it’s a good thing to start at home and use the crowd."

Flames first-round playoff tickets sold out in minutes Thursday, proving conclusively the city is ready to recreate the magic of Calgary’s storybook run to the final in 2004.

The question is whether the young group Frolik plays with is ready as well.

After all, nine players on the team’s regular roster have yet to experience their first NHL playoff contest.

To prepare for next week’s playoff opener, the quiet, second-line fixture laughed off the idea he’d be showing pics of his ring, or grabbing youngsters to discuss what lies ahead.

They all have an idea of what’s coming, and the former first-round pick is positive his team can weather the early rigors of what is an abrupt change of pace.

"The pace and the game is definitely other-level than the regular season, as it should be," said Frolik, who has played in 42 post-season games, second only to James Neal (100) on the squad.

"The battle level goes up, and even the referees give you a longer leash. There’s a lot of mean stuff going on out there. It should be like that – it’s playoffs."

His strongest recall of all the playoff games he’s endured over five cup tourneys?

"The big thing is having momentum in the playoffs – it’s a very powerful thing and when you have it you just don’t want to give it up for free," said Frolik, who had 16 goals, 34 points and was plus-25 in an injury-interrupted season.

"Mistakes and bad things are going to happen, but you have to try to keep the momentum as long as possible and not give it to them for free with a bad penalty or some mistake."

Frolik recalls his Hawks’ true momentum came after being down 3-1 in the second round series against Detroit.

"I remember we just said in the room down 3-1, ‘we’ve got to believe we can turn things around,’" he said.

"We really believed we could, and we did – it was the turning point in the playoffs."

In Game 6 of that series Frolik scored on a penalty shot, making him the first player in NHL history to convert on two penalty shots in the post season.

Frolik’s fourth season in Calgary didn’t gain steam until New Year’s Eve, after his agent, Allan Walsh, suggested in a tweet that by making his client a healthy scratch the coach was "devaluing a great team player." It went on to question whether Bill Peters was trying to run Frolik out of town.

The next night Frolik was returned to his usual spot on the second line alongside Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk, where he essentially stayed the bulk of the season. Not only does it remain Calgary’s shut-down line, but it’s a significant offensive threat as well.

"We knew what he was all about but we also wanted to see players in different positions," said Peters of the early line juggling that saw Frolik playing just 8-10 minutes a night when in the lineup.

"The best spot for Fro, no question about it, is with Chucky and Backs. That’s where he’s most comfortable and where the duo of Chucky and Backs are the best too."

Frolik’s Cup run included three goals and seven assists in 23 games, which featured an assist on Dave Bolland’s Stanley Cup winning goal in Game 6 with 59 seconds remaining.

Bryan Bickell had tied the game a mere 17 seconds earlier, setting up an intense finish that saw his line’s number called right away.

"The coach said, ‘okay guys go on the ice,’ and we said, ‘no, put somebody else there – nobody wanted to go," laughed Frolik.

"We ended up coming off 17 seconds later (after scoring the winner). It was a special moment I will never forget."

Alas, he insists it’s all but a memory now.

"It’s in the past and it’s been a couple years so nobody is going to bring it up, " he shrugged.

"I have (a Stanley Cup ring) but it’s not like I’m going around the NHL showing pictures.

"I always say, ‘live the moment.’ I know we have something going on here and we can prove it on the ice."

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