March 20, 2023

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In the heat of the Calgary Flames’ fight for their playoff life, Mackenzie Vigar taking his game to the next level probably flew by.

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It’s unavoidable. The focus of the Flames, their fans, and the Calgary media is whether the team can somehow bridge the gap between themselves and the second-place team in the Western Conference, the Winnipeg Jets.

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Individual performance at this time of the year is secondary.

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But Vigar’s growth over the past couple of months deserves some attention.

“He’s been really good for us since the (All-Star) break,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said Saturday morning. “He was really good for us. He’s a really good contender and he’s really beefed up his personality and his profile. He did a really good job.”

Had the Flames managed a win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, Vigar’s game would probably have become the talk of the town in Calgary. Instead, the fact that he scored a goal and added two assists is overshadowed by the fact that the Flames were again down 6–5 in overtime and lost a point in the playoff race.

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But Vigar was excellent on Saturday. This was his last strong performance for the Flames, who are in need of strengthening their best players.

It wasn’t just that the 29-year-old scored three goals for the Flames, but that his defensive play was solid. He wasn’t on the ice for any of the Stars’ six goals, and his partnership with Rasmus Andersson still looked like the Flames could actually build around themselves.

“He was really good,” Andersson said. “I think one of his best skills is just to clear the puck, he always sort of finds the center and makes the right play in the d-zone. He plays physically and likes to jump in the game; he’s been really good lately and that’s what we need, we need everyone to be really good.”

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Vigar himself was understandably uninterested in talking about his performance after Saturday night’s defeat. The Flames know how badly they need two points in every game, and an overtime loss hurt them.

But that doesn’t make it any less noticeable that he has improved his game. After scoring just one goal in his first 67 games with the Flames after being acquired in a trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers, Vigar has now scored in two straight games for the Flames. He also had three multi-point games in the Flames’ last seven.

Combined with a solid defense, Vigar is really starting to look like the player many Flames fans were hoping for when general manager Brad Treliving wrapped up his blockbuster last summer.

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“Maybe just a little bit of comfort and confidence,” Vigar said when asked about what allowed him to improve his game after Saturday’s loss. “Ras, the whole team, we played well here, it all came down to one game. It’s hard to talk about my own game after a loss or after a win, that goes for everyone in this room. I want to win just as much as any other guy in the room.”

Calgary Flames defenseman Mackenzie Vigar, 52, celebrates with teammates after his goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, March 18, 2023.
Calgary Flames defenseman Mackenzie Vigar, 52, celebrates with teammates after his goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, March 18, 2023. Sergei Belsky/USA TODAY Sports

It would be tempting to speculate that the improvement in Vigar’s game came about as a result of the decision to pair him with Andersson. Vigar played primarily with Chris Tanev until the Flames’ February 28 game against the Boston Bruins.

As noted by Sutter, Vigar had been playing at a higher level long before and showed a different pass after the All-Star break that occurred weeks before the Flames switched their defensive partnership.

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However, the partnership with Andersson seems to bring out the best in both players.

“Obviously I played with[Noah Hanifin]for a long time,” Andersson said. “But the four of us, I think we can play anywhere, and it was easy to play with Wigsy. He hits the puck so well, which gives me more opportunities to join the attack.”

Rapture goes both ways, and the Flame benefits from it.

“Ras is a great guy and fun to play with,” Vigar told FlamesTV on Saturday. “He has a lot of advantage on offense, he drives the puck well, I think he makes my life a lot easier. Nimble player, does everything very cleverly. It’s great to play with him, I think he improved my game, he helped me a lot.”


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