Sea of Red April 20, 2008
It might not be the out-of-body experience that it was during the 2004 Stanley Cup final, but the pre-game ceremony is the highlight of the playoffs.
We’ve seen this movie many times before. The Flames elimination hangs in the wind. History has shown the team is either out in the first round or it goes all the way to the final. It’s never in between.
Four minutes in and Flames’ head coach Mike Keenan has gone with three defenseman – Jim Vandermeer seems to be a linemate for RW Jarome Iginla and C Daymond Langkow.
C Jeremy Roenick is absent from the Sharks’ lineup. That will likely not impact the San Jose threat. Coach Ron Wilson says he was resting him for this game so he would be fresh for game seven.
I think C Patrick Marleau plays like a shark – of the Great White variety.
LW Kristian Huselius (who was replaced by Vandermeer on an earlier shift when on the Iginla line) worked hard to get the puck over to RW Owen Nolan at the side of the net to put the Flames ahead 1-0 at 11:33 of the first.
Vandermeer was immediately put back as a forward with C Matthew Lombardi. No doubt Keenan is shaking the trees trying to find every possible angle that works. Keenan says Vandermeer is one of the few NHL players that has the capability to play both defense and forward. He has done it before. He thinks that is testament to the Flames’ depth at forward. “He’s the boss (Keenan),” adds Vandermeer, “and he tinkered a bit. I don’t know if it was me playing forward that got it going a bit.”
D Adrian Aucoin almost gave away the farm when he tripped as he was coming back to the net for the puck. RW Jonathan Cheechoo was inches away from recovering the puck. At the other end, LW Eric Nystrom nearly squeezes through for a breakaway until he is hauled down by LW Patrick Rissmiller, who gives the Flames the first power play of the game at 16:37 for hooking.
Iginla was sooooooooooo close. He got the puck just inches ahead of D Brian Campbell, who hooked and held him as he took the shot, which tricked just wide of the post.
End of first period: 1-0 Calgary; shots on goal – 11 for Calgary, five for San Jose
LW Kristian Huselius gives the Sharks a power play on a trip away from the play at 2:38. Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo hover the doorstep of Miikka Kiprusoff. Not quite.
It kind of makes you wonder if the Flames walked into the rink today KNOWING they were going to win or whether they were hoping they would win.
According to Iginla: “We have a lot of respect for San Jose. Every game has been close. We’re thinking of ourselves and we think we can find a way. Coming into this game, it was strictly about forcing a game seven. Every guy was positive and extremely determined and we need the same, probably even more because we know they’re facing it now, too.”
RW Devin Setoguchi is a noticeable find for the Sharks and has factored well in this series, especially his being on a line with Cheechoo and C Joe Pavelski. He had a reasonable chance about nine minutes into the second. Certainly Owen Nolan has stepped up his game on the Flames’ side. That said, LW Alex Tanguay looks like a ball and chain. This is the first time in the playoffs that Huselius has been a factor, meanwhile Tanguay gets on the score sheet with a hooking penalty at 12:05. The Flames do not need guys like Cheechoo, Marleau, and C Joe Thornton on a power play. Setoguchi has also earned his way into a power play position. Also, Eric Nystrom is turning into a fun player to watch.
Tanguay redeems himself and wins the battle along the boards against D Marc-Edouard Vlasic to get the puck to C Daymond Langkow, who makes no mistake with a minute to go in the third.
End of second period: 2-0 Flames; shots on goal – Calgary eight for a total of 19, San Jose 9 for a total of 14.
Maybe they should put D Dion Phaneuf on forward. He usually has better chances than most of the Flames’ forwards anyway.
RW David Moss’ penalty for hooking at 2:03 with a two-goal lead can’t make Keenan a very happy man.
Flames are called for icing when clearly on the reply it was the Calgary man who touched the puck behind the Sharks’ goal. Although, it was okay for the camera angle, not an angle the official would have seen it at.
Okay, with 11:24 left to go in the third, it’s come down to who wants this more? Yes, it’s still 2-0 for the Flames, but that can change in an awful hurry.
Both LW Ryane Clowe and D Christian Ehrhoff admit they didn’t shoot the puck enough or take enough chances.
The atmosphere in the arena from the fans’ perspective is electric. They seem more hyped for this game six than they were for games two and three.
Wayne Primeau is tripped as he raced in for an attempted shot. Christian Ehrhoff goes off for tripping at 10:35.
Five minutes left and the fans are on their feet cheering. Standing ovation for the Flames regardless of the outcome. The noise meter reads at 112 decibels. This place is going to explode.
The Flames obviously wanted this more. Pulling goalie Evgeni Nabokov for the extra attacker hadn’t changed the momentum.
Mike Keenan’s assessment of the game was, “I was pleased about the effort but I was more pleased about the execution and the attention to detail. Small one-on-one battles for example, or the details along the boards, the board work and particularly our hard fore check, I think that if you look after those details we’re a better team and we perform on a more consistent basis.
“You have to respect their (Marleau, Thornton, Cheechoo) skill and it’s not a secret but the best solution for us is to be able to put them in check and that’s what we tried to do.”
Heading into game seven, to some, it looks like the pressure is on San Jose a bit more, given the fact of where they finished, and that (according to D Robyn Regehr), the team was touted as a potential finalist.
D Brian Campbell comments, “I think home ice advantage doesn’t mean much until you get to game seven. You can’t go out there and expect it to be won. We’ve got it in ourselves.”
When asked about the pressure on his team and if they need to play with more desperation, coach Ron Wilson replies, “Well it’s the seventh game, if you don’t win you’re out. If I have to manufacture desperation we are in dire straits. Our players know what’s at stake. This is a great opportunity. These are the situations that you should enjoy; a seventh game and especially when you get to play at home. So our crowd will be picking us up just as their crowd picked them up. We just have to go out and get the job done, play with a little more passion, a little more aggression and we’ll be fine.”