Here's a good bit of trivia: what does today—April 7, 2004—have in common with April 17, 1996? Aside from that day being the last time the Winnipeg Jets ever opened a playoff series, it was also the last time the Calgary Flames ever ventured into the postseason.
Back then, Calgary's three leading scorers were Theoren Fleury (46 goals, 96 points), German Titov (28 goals, 67 points) and Michael Nylander (17 goals, 55 points). With 16 goals and 35 points in 74 games, Cory Stillman had not yet come into his own as an NHLer although he did post a career season. There was also a feeling of doom and gloom around the organization at the time as the team was trending downward in the standings after a remarkable run that saw the team emerge from the depths of a 3-15-5 start. Gary Roberts, a major inspiration and catalyst for the team's success, was out for the season with a neck injury.
My, how things have changed.
Then, like now, the Flames finished sixth in the conference although 79 points was all that you needed eight years ago. There's a much different feel around the organization now, though.
This is the fifth time Calgary and Vancouver have met in the playoffs, with the winner eventually advancing to the Stanley Cup Final three of those times. Calgary holds the slight edge with three series victories to two. In actual head-to-head playoff games the Flames have 13 wins to the Canucks' 12.
FLAMES KEYS TO SUCCESS:
Get the split!
The pressure is not on Calgary to win tonight, it's squarely on Vancouver. Calgary needs one out of the first two games to build momentum coming home Sunday. Vancouver needs both, and especially needs to win the first game.
The Flames need goals—and timely goals at that—from the likes of Donovan, Nilson, Simon, Gelinas, Nieminen, Conroy and others. Iginla will have Ohlund on him all game and this will open up room for the other players.
If this past season has taught Calgary anything, it's that they play much better when they have the lead. An early goal would calm down any playoff jitters the organization might have.
Jarome Iginla is Calgary's on-ice leader. He tied for the league lead in goals with 41 and has at times thrown this team on his back and taken it for a ride but it's also the little things he does that makes the Flames better. Case in point, a late December game against the Edmonton Oilers where Iginla not only scored both goals in a 2-1 game but also single-handedly killed close to a minute off the clock with 1:30 to go in the game while keeping the puck in the Oilers end.
Markus Naslund has to carry the load for the Canucks in Todd Bertuzzi's absence. He had 35 goals and 84 points this year but only 6 goals in his final 25 games. But make no mistake, Naslund will be dangerous this series. He has three goals in Vancouver's last four games, stepping it up when it counts. 15 of his 35 goals this season have come when a game is tied.
EVERYBODY SHOULD KNOW...
Marcus Nilson has found a knack for scoring timely goals early in games since being traded to Calgary from Florida. He will be playing in his first NHL playoff game in his sixth season.
Ryan Kesler is one of the meanest players in the Canucks organization. There's a reason he's spent a good portion of the season up in Vancouver and that's because he is very difficult to play against. He doesn't score much but he's been getting more and more chances as the season's progressed. He is a very intense player and will excel in the playoffs.
Calgary: Stephane Yelle (hip) and Toni Lydman (upper body) are both questionable for tonight. Dean McAmmond (back) and Steve Reinprecht (shoulder) are both out for the rest of the season. Dave Lowry may return later on in the series.
Vancouver: Questions about Dan Cloutier's health has come up but he will get the start tonight. Todd Bertuzzi (suspension) is out for the playoffs. Bryan Allen is questionable. Mats Lindgren (back) and Magnus Arvedson (knee) are done for the season.
Vancouver's power play ranked 22nd in the league (14.9%) while Calgary's was 21st (15.1%)… Vancouver had one of the league's best penalty kills at 85.9% (3rd)…. Calgary's penalty killing at 84.6% ranked 13th… The Flames earned 46 points on the road this season (21-16-2-2) while Vancouver earned 48 at home (21-13-7-0)… Vancouver was only shutout twice all season—the best in the league in that department… Head-to-head this season the Canucks outshot the Flames 64-38 in the third period but the Flames outscored Vancouver 5-3 in the final frame… Calgary had a 61-59 edge in shots in the first period but were outscored by the Canucks 8-2… In the season series Shean Donovan and Jarome Iginla led the way with three goals apiece… With four goals and two assists for six points, Brendan Morrison was the main contributor on the Canucks' side.
Vancouver won the season series this year 3-2-1
Oct. 9: at Canucks 4, Flames 1
Nov. 29: at Flames 4, Canucks 4 (OT)
Dec. 4: Flames 4 at Canucks 1
Dec. 26: Canucks 2 at Flames 0
Jan. 3: Canucks 3 at Flames 1
Feb. 11: Flames 3 at Canucks 2
1994 Conference Quarterfinals (Canucks win 4-3)
Apr 18 Vancouver Canucks 5 at Calgary Flames 0
Apr 20 Vancouver Canucks 5 at Calgary Flames 7
Apr 22 Calgary Flames 4 at Vancouver Canucks 2
Apr 24 Calgary Flames 3 at Vancouver Canucks 2
Apr 26 Vancouver Canucks 2 at Calgary Flames 1
Canucks scored at 7:15 of overtime (Geoff Sanderson)
Apr 28 Calgary Flames 2 at Vancouver Canucks 3
Canucks scored at 16:43 of overtime (Trevor Linden)
Apr 30 Vancouver Canucks 4 at Calgary Flames 3
Canucks scored at 2:20 of double overtime (Pavel Bure)
1989 Conference Quarterfinals (Flames won 4-3)
Apr 5 Vancouver Canucks 4 at Calgary Flames 3
Canucks scored at 2:47 of overtime (Paul Reinhart)
Apr 6 Vancouver Canucks 2 at Calgary Flames 5
Apr 8 Calgary Flames 4 at Vancouver Canucks 0
Apr 9 Calgary Flames 3 at Vancouver Canucks 5
Apr 11 Vancouver Canucks 0 at Calgary Flames 4
Apr 13 Calgary Flames 3 at Vancouver Canucks 6
Apr 15 Vancouver Canucks 3 at Calgary Flames 4
Flames scored at 19:21 of overtime (Joel Otto)
1984 Smythe Division Semi-Finals (Flames won 3-1)
Apr 4 Vancouver Canucks 3 at Calgary Flames 5
Apr 5 Vancouver Canucks 2 at Calgary Flames 4
Apr 7 Calgary Flames 0 at Vancouver Canucks 7
Apr 8 Calgary Flames 5 at Vancouver Canucks 1
1983 Smythe Division Semi-Finals (Flames won 3-1)
Apr 6 Vancouver Canucks 3 4 at Calgary Flames 4
Flames scored at 12:27 of overtime (Eddy Beers)
Apr 7 Vancouver Canucks 3 at Calgary Flames 5
Apr 9 Calgary Flames 4 at Vancouver Canucks 5
Apr 10 Calgary Flames 4 at Vancouver Canucks 3
Flames scored at 1:06 of overtime (Greg Meredith)
1982 Smythe Division Semi-Finals (Canucks won 3-0)
Apr 7 Calgary Flames 3 at Vancouver Canucks 5
Apr 8 Calgary Flames 1 at Vancouver Canucks 2
Canucks scored at 14:20 of overtime (Tiger Williams)