Flames Close Book With Rival Rout 

Flames Take Season Series From Oilers 

April 5th, 2003
Rick Charlton

A seventh consecutive failed season ended on several high notes after a 4-1 Flames victory last night in Edmonton, the first time Calgary has won its final game in a year since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 1988-1989.

The only thing that might have made the night better for Flames fans would have been a duplication of Calgary eliminating the Oilers from the playoff race on Edmonton ice as they did last season in similar circumstances.

Lowry Conroy Clark
Saprykin Drury Clark
Gelinas Yelle Donovan
Nichol Betts Sloan
Mondator Lydman
Leopold Regehr
Mrozik Commodore

Darryl Sutter, who inherited the Calgary bench at mid-season, will finish at 19-18-8-1 in his short tenure, the Flames actually picking up steam in the last months of the season, a point when fans have gotten used to their heroes falling flat on their faces.

Calgary finishes 10-5-3 in March and April, the best ending to a season in 11 years and no doubt a bit of a relief to those with the unenviable task of selling tickets for a team with the longest current post-season drought in the NHL.

Making the strong finish even more interesting is the fact this team could have easily been wallowing in its own misery, playing out the string in half-hearted fashion as might have been expected, certainly the case for the last seven years.

A cynic might believe Calgary only picked up the pace when the pressure was off, the neckties loosening up when the season was already hopelessly lost.

An even bigger cynic might point out that even lousy teams tend to have a decent quarter in any season.

Still, the games get tougher as the season moves along, the level of competition ratcheting up and the weak and old being left by the side of the road.

Nevertheless, the strong finish by Calgary does lend some hope to next year even though it should be fairly obvious that a 13th place team is likely to undergo more than a few personnel changes before the next meaningful game six months from now in early October.

The much maligned Roman Turek turned in his second straight exceptional performance, the Oilers all over the Flames in the opening ten minutes of the game and Turek coming up with a series of miraculous saves before Calgary found its legs.

With a contract and a reputation that makes him virtually untradeable, the Flames need Turek to answer to the level of his compensation and continue the same level of play consistently into next season.

It must have also been gratifying to Sutter and upper management to see the veterans on this team, the guys who know full well when a season is done early, still showing up and leading the charge down the stretch.

Craig Conroy scored twice, giving him 22 on the season, while Dave Lowry, rescued from purgatory in Saint John at mid-season, added three assists.

Still further good news was the continued improvement in the play of rookie Jordan Leopold, scoring a power play goal on this night and logging 30:48 in ice time.

2003 Draft Watch

If the draft was held today ...

Pick Team Player*
1 Carolina M.-A. Fleury
2 Pittsburgh Nathan Horton
3 Columbus Milan Michalek
4 Florida Nikolai Zherdev
5 Buffalo Braydon Coburn
6 San Jose Eric Staal
7 Atlanta Andrei Kastsitsyn
8 Nashville Anthony Stewart
9 Calgary Tomas Vanek
*ranking: Red Line 3-27-03

Not to be outdone, Robyn Regehr was made public enemy number one in this game after a staunch elbow to the coconut of Oiler sprite Ales Hemsky early in the first period, setting the Edmonton crew on a night of revenge based hockey they'll need to avoid if they're to have any hope against powerful Detroit or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

The hit turned what might have been a desultory end-of-season affair into a typical Edmonton/Calgary punch-up, gigantic Georges Laraque and the rest of the Oil going out of their way to self-immolate themselves by taking a series of ill-considered penalties.

Flames scored twice on 10 powerplay opportunities while killing five of their own.

The victory leaves the Flames at 29-36-13-4 on the season, a desultory and disappointing 75 points but leap-frogging Nashville, at least temporarily, into 12th place in the NHL's Western Conference.

The loss was the first in seven games for the playoff-bound Oilers.

"How we finish is going to be a strong indication of how we're going to start next year," said Flames GM Craig Button during a second period interview on FAN960.

Flames outshot the Oilers 36-24 after a poor start.

Next up is . . . . . . golf. Or the NHL Draft in June.





Calgary Flames 4
Edmonton Oilers 1

1 Roman Turek - This game might have been over in the first ten minutes without some outstanding work from Turek. 

2 Dave Lowry - Grumpy old man puts on a show in the last game of the season, including a brilliant pass to set up Conroy's second of the night. But will he be back next year? He picked up the game-ending puck. 

3 Craig Conroy - Two goals and an energetic leader all night.

It wasn't the most spectacular moment in the game and you might have missed it if you had blinked, but Regehr's early hit on Hemsky set the physical tone for the night.

With Calgary up 2-0, Hemsky fed Ryan Smyth for a close-in breakaway but Turek flashed out a glove to rob the Edmonton winger.

Don't look for Darryl Sutter to slag Edmonton's moves at the trade deadline like 99% of the rest of the planet. Sutter called the moves "very astute," particularly the acquisition of Radek Dvorak, and said the additions make Edmonton a prime candidate to generate a first round playoff upset. . . . . . . . "I don't have any new information," Button said of his own status as Flames GM with some (obviously) speculating that the architect of the 13th place team in a 15 team conference three years into his tenure might be in some trouble. "I believe in this team. I believe in what Darryl and the players and the coaching staff have done. I want to be back here." Both Ken King and Button have admitted they have been talking about his status in recent weeks. Simply getting rid of Button should require any conversation at all so the ongoing discussions indicate something else, perhaps a reduction of Button's role, sharing some of his duties with others or an extension lasting more than one year . . . . . . . . The statistical oddity of this game and the last one is that Rick Mrozik, playing his first and second NHL games, was the oldest defenceman in the Calgary lineup. . . . . Leopold's 30:48 was far and away the most ice time of any player while Chris Drury had a curiously anemic total, only 13:48 after disappearing for great swaths of the second period. . . . . . . Steve Staios led the Oil with 25:04 in ice time . . . . . .Stephane Yelle led the Flames with a 68% winning percentage in the faceoff circle, although the Flames were 48% on the night. Mike York was 66% for the Oil. . . . . . .


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