Just about everyone, myself included – counted the Flames down and out after their 5-0 loss to the Bruins on Saturday afternoon . How strange is it now, a mere 5 days later, that a glimmer of hope has managed to surface following their big win in Washington and an equally huge Colorado loss. Can it be? Can the Calgary Flames possibly make the playoffs after-all? Or is this all just one giant tease meant to rip our hearts out?
On this night, things got a little more interesting as the best possible outcome happened. Colorado lost, and Calgary did their part and were able to hang on for the win. Now hold on to your hats…
On The Line
The season. Anyone will tell you Calgary has to win them all, and even then…they would only have about a 50/50 shot at playoffs. The fact is, they are still alive…they need to play like this is game 7 of a playoff series. No more mistakes or slip-ups, this is it.
The Flames started off strong with a couple chances on the first couple shifts generating the first 5 shots on goal, but Phoenix quickly found their grove and climbed back. The Coyotes reeled off 11 straight shots taking all the momentum away from the Flames, but Miikka Kiprusoff stood his ground on a long flurry of activity near his net, turning away every Coyote chance that was generated. The game remained scoreless heading to the 2nd period.
Calgary turned on their jets in the 2nd, out-shooting Phoenix 15-6 while applying good offensive pressure and some physicality to boot. The only constant threat for the Coyotes was Lee Stempniak who seemed to be the owner of every decent scoring chance including a bang-on crossbar shot about halfway through the period. Calgary was rewarded for their hard work when Rene Bourque saw the puck deflect off his foot from an Ian White powerplay shot and find the top corner behind Jason LaBarbera for a 1-0 lead at 14:23. Phoenix had a late period chance when Lee Stempniak was in close alone and was denied by the right pad of Kiprusoff, then Mikael Backlund laid down to block the rebound shot to preserve the lead going in to the 3rd.
the Coyotes took control in the 3rd period, but it wasn’t before Ales Kotalik scored his 2nd goal in as many games and gave Calgary a 2 goal cushion just under four minutes in to the period. Kotalik took a great pass from a hard working Mikael Backlund and beat LaBarbera five-hole for the goal. Then queue the Coyotes. They fired everything they had at Kiprusoff who was there for all but one, to who else – Lee Stempniak. The ‘Yotes forward jammed home a loose puck with 7 minutes left setting up the hair raising finish. But Calgary bared down and held on to win the game and pull within 2 points of the Avalanche for that coveted 8th and final playoff seed.
1. Miikka Kiprusoff: Stopped 29 of 30 shots and was especially solid during the many Coyote attacks that saw lots of shots and chances without the Flames defense able to clear the puck.
2. Lee Stempniak: Got sick of hearing his name in this one, but he was good. 1 goal, 4 shots, 1 crossbar…could’ve had a few.
3. Mikael Backlund: 1 assist but it was an important one, as it created the game winning goal. Was great in the faceoff circle (8-5) and had a hugely important shot block to end the 2nd period.
In the dieing moments of the 2nd period, Lee Stempniak was left all alone to take the puck to the Calgary net, but Kiprusoff was there for an absolutely crucial save to keep Calgary ahead. Honorable mention to Kiprusoff’s save on Matthew Lombardi during a 3rd period scramble. Nobody except Kipper knew where the puck was, he trapped it under his arm when the Coyotes were pressing for the equalizer.
Matt Stajan was everywhere in the first period, including on his keester. Martin Hanzal flattened the Flames forward after Stajan played the puck to a teammate as he crossed the blueline.
Hard to find a goat tonight. As far as Flames go, I didn’t think Jay Bouwmeester played a particularly strong game. Far from a goat, but the closest thing I could think of.
Mikael Backlund. For the reasons listed above, he was the definition of clutch tonight. Insane shot block to possibly save a goal, set up the game winner after a great shift, and won some very key faceoffs. Only 13:38 of icetime but seemed to be out in every key situation.
Odds and Ends
So…what do we make of this? It was so easy to count Calgary out just a few days ago, and now just a win away from being tied for the final playoff spot. Put an asterisk next to that though. Even if Calgary can earn a victory on Friday against Colorado, the Avalanche will have a game in hand, and will own the tiebreaker scenario. Still an uphill battle, but a fate Calgary has some say in. From this point forward, if Calgary can win out and go 5-0, Colorado will have to answer with a 4-2 record. Being that one of their losses would be against us, that is a 4-1 record they would require for all other games. Lets not get ahead of ourselves though, Calgary needs to win every game and that is no easy task…as witnessed by the closeness of tonight’s contest. Hang on Flames fans, hang on. Friday’s game is enormous…if nothing else, this is our playoffs, enjoy it. Ian White continues to impress me. 2 goals and 10 assists now since coming to Calgary in 22 games played. Shots were 31-30 in favor of the Flames. Mark Giordano lead Calgary in icetime with 21:49.
Calgary travels to Colorado for the much anticipated Friday night tilt against the Avalanche. 7:30 PM start time on Sportsnet West and the Fan 960.
Hagman – Stajan – Iginla
Bourque – Backlund – Kotalik
Dawes – Conroy – Moss
Nystrom – Mayers – Sutter
Regehr – White
Staios – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Sarich