CALGARY — Ever since his agent wondered if the coach was trying to run him out of town, Michael Frolik has chipped in at a dizzying pace.
So much so, the veteran suggests he’s been prone to an extreme medical reaction upon scoring.
“I just kind of black out sometimes — I don’t really know what to do,” chuckled the Flames’ utility man when asked about a spirited goal celebration that kick-started yet another Calgary comeback Friday.
Things sure seemed dark for the local heroes early on as they opened the proceedings by being outplayed for the fourth consecutive period. Down 1-0 to a struggling Panthers squad that outshot the hosts 10-4 in the first period, coach Bill Peters told the lads things needed to change. Drastically.
So the coach went to work on what he does best — mixing lines (and this time, even defensive pairings).
Predictably, that meant Frolik was elevated from the fourth to the second line (aka the 3M Line with Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk), where his mid-game redirection past Roberto Luongo turned a 2-0 game on a dime.
Five minutes later, his brilliant setup of a trailing Mark Giordano tied the contest.
Eight minutes into the third Frolik stole the puck from Jonathan Huberdeau and found a wide-open Tkachuk in the slot to put the Flames up 3-2, before Sean Monahan iced it with an empty netter.
Following his first three-point night in years, Frolik said he hoped his parents stuck around to see his heroics.
“First period I had maybe one minute of ice time (2:26 actually) — hopefully they didn’t leave the game after the first,” smiled Frolik, whose parents, Zdenka and Stanislav, flew in from the Czech Republic one night earlier.
“It’s not easy (playing so little). You’re cold in the game and then you get a 10-second shift. (Peters) said after first he was changing lines so I hoped I’d get back, so I did a few hard laps and brought some energy to the lines.”
In the seven games since agent Allan Walsh punctuated 2018 by making it clear he and Frolik weren’t happy with his decreased ice time under the new coach, the 30-year-old has four goals and four assists.
Yet, there he was Friday night, starting on the fourth line before the bench shortened and he was returned to the lads he’s so familiar with.
Largely with their help he’s scored 11 goals in 29 games, putting him on a clip that would see him eclipse 30 over a full schedule. Not bad for a lad who missed 15 games with a high ankle sprain and has otherwise averaged roughly 11 minutes a night. On Friday he earned all 15:15.
What’s also becoming familiar is the discontent in the team’s play following its last handful of games. Despite winning four in a row and nabbing five of six, the Flames have been playing sub-standard hockey they know has been covered up by the brilliance of David Rittich.
The netminder upped his record to 17-4-3 with a 24-save effort that kept the team in the game at points, making several stops to prevent the visitors from going up by a field goal.
“We haven’t played well here for a while and it’s been masked by the fact we’ve gotten wins,” said Peters, who was then asked why that was.
“Yeah, because we continue to win, and so they think, ‘We’re obviously playing well and the effort is good enough, execution is good enough,’ and the reality is it’s not the level we should be at and can be at.”
He made the rare move of splitting up his top pairing by putting Giordano with Travis Hamonic and T.J. Brodie with Noah Hanifin.
Frolik swapped spots with Austin Czarnik as the Flames shortened their bench to try erasing yet another early deficit. He’s good at that.
It’s obviously the sign of a much-improved team that the Flames can play poorly in their eyes yet still pull out wins at the clip that has landed them atop the West and second in the NHL.
Last night’s hero was the first to admit the first intermission talk in the room revolved around the fact they need to tighten up defensively and move their feet more.
“There’s good chemistry in that group and he’s a versatile guy — he can play the left and right side,” said Peters when asked why he put Frolik back with his buds.
“They got lots of looks and that line was dialed in once we put them together. He’s been great. A good pro and veteran guy who has been in the league a long time. He’s been awesome.”