Klapka scores, Weegar sets record as Flames conclude season with blowout win

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Adam Klapka is the biggest dude to ever suit up for the Calgary Flames.

And so this may have been the biggest smile in franchise history.

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One of the highlights of Thursday’s season finale at the Saddledome — a 5-1 thumping, by the way, of the San Jose Sharks — was Klapka’s first big-league tally. The towering right-winger, listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 lb. and now with six NHL appearances on his resume, sailed a top-shelf shot through traffic from the top of the circle.  

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“I think the most special part was the big mutant Klapka getting that goal and giving me a big hug,” said defence workhorse MacKenzie Weegar, who added his name Thursday to the league record books. “He’s looking down at me and he’s like, ‘I scored in the NHL!’ And he’s spitting in my face — ‘I just scored in the NHL!!!’

“And I’m like, ‘Effing rights!’ It’s little things like that that are special. You don’t forget those.”

After Thursday’s morning skate, in his final pre-game press conference of the season, Flames head coach Ryan Huska had been preaching the importance of a positive “last impression.”

A leave em wanting more type of thing.

“You always want to make sure, when someone is going to see you for the final time in a long stretch, you want them to be like, ‘Oooh, there’s some good things coming around the corner for that person,’ ” Huska said. “And that’s what we want all of our guys to be like tonight.”

The 23-year-old Klapka, who followed up the goal with his first NHL scrap in the middle period, certainly made the most of this opportunity.

“I think it was time to show I can play,” said Klapka, confirming that his teammates wanted to see a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick. “And I’m really happy that I showed that I can make plays and play the hard game too. It means a lot for me.”

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“Of course, you feel like, ‘OK, I’m able to play here.’ But it’s just a start.”

Just a start, sure.

But for the 2023-24 Flames, this was also the finish line.

Blake Coleman
Calgary Flames centre Blake Coleman forward celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

While there is loads of work ahead for a now-retooling team, there was plenty to smile about Thursday on Fan Appreciation Night at the Saddledome.

With a back-door tap-in, heart-and-soul sort Blake Coleman hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career. Coleman is as popular as any guy in the locker-room, something that was plainly obvious with the way that Connor Zary celebrated after assisting on that milestone marker.

Everybody on the home bench was beaming again when Weegar buried from just inside the blue-line, becoming the first player in league lore to rack up 20 goals and 200 blocked shots in the same season.   

Masterton Trophy nominee Oliver Kylington and fourth-line centre Kevin Rooney also got in on the fun as the locals filled the net against the cellar-dwelling Sharks.

“A good win, a couple of guys hitting milestones … So a nice way to end what I think of as a tough year,” Coleman said. “This could have been just a throw-away meaningless game. Guys took it upon themselves to find something to care about, and it was each other.”

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The only unfortunate news Thursday was that Nazem Kadri, despite a game-high eight shots, couldn’t slip one past Devin Cooley for his 30th, and that the visitors capitalized on the power-play with only 8.9 seconds remaining to rob Dustin Wolf of his first NHL shutout.

And, of course, that the Saddledome will be quiet when the Stanley Cup playoffs start this weekend.

“Pretty cool. It’s pretty special,” Weegar said of his unprecedented double. “It’s one of those things that you’ll look at it at the end of your career and you can just enjoy a beer and enjoy that record. But in the meantime, I’m here for business and I want this team to go in the right direction.

Im looking forward to talking about next year.”

Calgary Flames vs. San Jose Sharks
Calgary Flames defenceman Ilya Solovyov attempts to slip a shot in against San Jose Sharks goaltender Georgi Romanov at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

While the veterans will report to the rink Friday for exit meetings and medicals before splitting for their off-season vacations, Klapka will be on a flight to Abbotsford, B.C., to rejoin the AHL’s Wranglers for their playoff push.

This mountain of a man leads the farm club with 21 goals and 45 points this season as he continues to refine the raw tools that prompted the Flames to sign him as a relative unknown out of the Czech League in 2022.

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Come training camp in the fall, he should be in the mix for full-time duties on the fourth line. He showed his sandpapery side with Thursday’s scrap with Givani Smith.

Whatever comes next, he’s now scored an NHL goal, and nobody can take that away from him.

“It has shown me so much stuff that I should work on in the summer,” Klapka said of this six-game appetizer — four appearances in late January, then two more during this end-of-season audition — with the Flames. “Like, I thought my skating is really good. But it’s really shown me that I have to do a little bit more, I can skate better and make more opportunity for the team and for myself. Just do all the things a little bit quicker.

“You know, when I compare it to the AHL, it was the same thing, the same process as right now. So I just try to be patient and I believe if I put hard work into it, it’s going to come. Even since I started playing pro back home, my progress, whenever I get to a better team, it was the same. So I don’t really get nervous. I know I can play better, but it’s still in progress and I will do everything for it, off the ice, on the ice, to get better.”

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AROUND THE BOARDS

Coleman described Weegar’s second-period goal as “an ugly knuckler.” A compliment, apparently. “That’s how he plays — he just gets the job done, it’s not always sexy,” Coleman said of No. 52. “Really happy for him, honestly. He’s one of those guys you want to go to war with.” … Huska, too, heaped praise on the first member of the 20/200 club. “The shot-blocking to me, that’s the hard part of the game where over and over, you’re doing it again,” Huska said. “Even when you’re not feeling good, you put yourself in those positions and you continually play through it. When you look at MacKenzie, you’d have to say he was one of our more consistent players this year. I thought he did a really good job leadership-wise and (providing) offence from the back-end. But then you have the intangibles that he brings, like he’s a competitor, he’s physical and he’ll put his body on the line to help the team win. And that’s the type of player you want to have.” … The Flames wrap the 2023-24 campaign with a 38-39-5 record. They will have the ninth-best odds in the draft lottery … Yegor Sharangovich finished as Calgary’s leading marksman, with 31 goals. Kadri topped the team charts in points (75) and assists (46), while nobody had a better plus-minus rating than Coleman (+19) and nobody logged more icetime than Weegar (1,880:17) … With an assist on Klapka’s memory-maker, Rasmus Andersson collected his 200th career point … In addition to Klapka, fellow forward Matt Coronato, defenceman Ilya Solovyov and Wolf will now be reassigned to the Wranglers.

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Calgary Flames vs. San Jose Sharks
Calgary Flames goaltender Dustin Wolf blocks a shot by San Jose Sharks forward Fabian Zetterlund at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

OFF THE GLASS

Another neat feat — Weegar scored 17 of his goals at even-strength, a new single-season benchmark for a Flames’ blue-liner. Al MacInnis, blessed with that scorching slapper, set the previous club record with 16 in 1987-88 … Flames fans, are you wondering which squads you should be rooting for in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs? In that case, here’s a handy refresher on a hat-trick of conditional draft picks acquired over the past few months. If the Vegas Golden Knights win their opening-round series, Craig Conroy & Co. will score a second-round selection in 2025 — instead of a third-rounder in 2024 — as part of the conditions of the Noah Hanifin trade. If the Vancouver Canucks advance to the Western Conference final, they’ll owe the Flames a third-round pick — rather than a fourth-rounder — this summer to complete the swap that sent Elias Lindholm to the West Coast. And if the Dallas Stars can earn a spot in the Stanley Cup final, that’ll be good news for the scouts at the Saddledome too as they would be adding a third-round swing in 2026 as part of return in the Chris Tanev deal … The proudest dad at the rink Thursday? It had to be Flames head sports physiotherapist Kent Kobelka, whose son Chris was a key cog for the Calgary Canucks in their run to an AJHL title and a berth in the Centennial Cup tournament.

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Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames salute the fans as their season concludes at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Photo by Brent Calver /Postmedia

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