Series Preview: Calgary & San Jose
Calgarypuck Playoff Coverage 2004


Marc Ciampa
May 7th, 2004

FORWARDS

Once again, the Flames boast the top forward in the series in Jarome Iginla. However, one other advantage the Flames have this round that they did not have in the previous two rounds is depth up front. San Jose has struggled to get goals from anyone beyond their top line of Vincent Damphousse, Nikos Dimitrakos and Patrick Marleau with the exception of Cheechoo. Calgary meanwhile has had a number of different forwards step up at varying points during these playoffs.

Shean Donovan has had several games where he's dominated and set the tempo. Chris Simon was a force in each of the three playoff games he's appeared in and he's coming back. Martin Gelinas was awesome last round. Marcus Nilson was one of Calgary's best up front early last round. Ville Nieminen seems to be getting better as the playoffs go on. Saprykin played well early on against Vancouver. Craig Conroy has come up with big goals and big assists. Lombardi and Clark have played well and the list goes on.

EDGE: CALGARY

DEFENCE

In the first round, Mike Commodore and Andrew Ference both stepped up their play. The second round saw Commodore drop off somewhat but Ference continued his outstanding playoff performance as he ate up some huge minutes (25:06 per game). The big surprise, however, has been Steve Montador. He only saw action in game seven of the first round but in six games against Detroit had an even rating and 22:18 of ice. Commodore averaged 13:32 per game in the second round and was a team-low minus-three. The scary thing for Calgary is Commodore was unable to keep up his high tempo. Can Montador? Lydman won't be returning until game four at the earliest so if both Montador and Commodore begin to struggle it could mean disaster for the Flames considering each game will likely be decided by a single goal.

San Jose has a very solid top four of Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Kyle McLaren and Mike Rathje but after that Jason Marshall and Tom Priessing have played very sparingly as the fifth and sixth defencemen. Priessing's minutes dropped to 8:44 last round before being replaced by Jim Fahey, who played 5:03 in game six. A key for the Flames will be to wear down San Jose's top four as they will be eating up even more minutes than Calgary's top four.

Regehr's the best defenceman on either team but the Sharks get the nod for being better in the 2-4 slot.

EDGE: SAN JOSE

GOALTENDING

Last round, Curtis Joseph had a 1.74 goals-against average and .928 save percentage against the Flames in six games but Calgary still found a way to win. Kiprusoff may have to be even better this round, however, as Nabokov has been simply outstanding in this postseason so far.

With a miniscule 1.15 GAA against the high-flying Avalanche Nabokov can and will steal a series on his own but as the Flames showed near the end of their series against Detroit, they are not frustrated easily by a hot goaltender and Kiprusoff is more than able to match that goalie's performance at the other end.

EDGE: EVEN

SPECIAL TEAMS

In the regular season, the Flames had the 21st-ranked power play at 15.1%. San Jose's was slightly better at 16.6% (13th in the league) The Sharks had one of the best penalty killing units in the league at 85.3% - good enough for seventh overall in the NHL. Calgary's PK was 13th at 84.7%.

Special teams have not served the Flames well in the playoffs. Their power play ranks 10th in the league (11.5%) and their penalty killing is 13th out of the 16 playoff participants (82.3%). San Jose's penalty kill has been exceptional at 91.8% for third in the postseason and the Sharks power play has been above average at 14.3%.

It should be noted that during the regular season, the Sharks were 1-for-13 against the Flames on the power play while Calgary was 4-for-20 against San Jose.

SLIGHT EDGE: SAN JOSE

COACHING

One of the most intriguing aspects of this series is Calgary's coach and general manager going up against his former team less than a year and a half after they fired him.

When Ron Wilson took over as coach of the Sharks last season, he tried to institute his own system to poor results, guiding Sutter's 9-12-2-1 Sharks to a 28-37-8-1 finish. However, he finally started to obtain success once he brought back Sutter's old system to the Sharks.

Sutter has clearly been a coaching master this season as was evidenced in his carefully crafted game plan to oust Marc Crawford and the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. If Wilson has any advantage it's that he's been this deep in the playoffs before, when he guided the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998.

EDGE: CALGARY

INTANGIBLES

One advantage the Flames had last round that they don't have anymore is that nothing to lose mentality. They're facing another franchise that came into this season with little to no expectations and now with a Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line, nerves may once again creep in.

EDGE: EVEN

PREDICTION

The Flames have had time to rest and that should help keep them from wearing out this round. With Chris Simon returning that gives them a different look up front than they had in the Detroit series. If the defence core continues to perform well, Calgary has a very good chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. This series is likely to involve a number of one-goal games, which the Flames have been winning all year long. That may be the biggest edge they can get.

CALGARY IN SIX


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