Back in September, who would have ever thought it would come down to this? One more win and the Flames will have accomplished the unthinkable—that is, winning a playoff round after not only seven seasons without playing a single playoff game but also 15 long years without winning the fourth and deciding game of a series.
However, when coach and GM Darryl Sutter says that the fourth game of a series is the most difficult to win, he's not blowing smoke. The last six times the Flames have been in this situation, dating back to 1991, they've come up empty. Five of those six times they've come up empty while losing in overtime. Three of those six times they've come up empty while losing in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks, so they're not out of the woods yet by any means.
But enough dwelling on the past. Since the start of this season, it's become obvious that this edition of the Calgary Flames has been different. One test after another, they've risen to the occasion. But can they take it up another level and accomplish what past, Stanley Cup contending teams couldn't do? 19,289 fans clad in red are going to have to find out for themselves tonight.
Expect that Vancouver will be hungry and determined. If the Flames do manage to advance in this series, it will not be an easy task. Remember, Vancouver was in an even more dire situation last season down three games to one against St. Louis.
FLAMES KEYS TO SUCCESS:
Find another gear:
Since the start of the season, the Flames have played at a high intensity. A number of people doubted whether they could elevate their play once the playoffs began but they have. However, the fourth game in any series is the most difficult to win and can the Flames find yet another gear to finish off the Canucks?
Good things come to those who direct pucks at the net. If the Flames keep putting the puck on the net chances are they'll get some bounces. Alex Auld played very well last game and now that the butterflies are out of the way expect him to step up to the occasion once again.
Grace under pressure:
In the final ten minutes of game five, the Flames (with the exception of Kiprusoff) were running around as the Canucks stepped up their play trying to get the equalizer. Calgary needs to be better than that, as the Canucks will be playing with that type of intensity for the entire 60 minutes tonight.
Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff are beginning to play like the MVPs they were during the regular season for the Flames. After slow starts, all of a sudden Iginla and Kiprusoff are performing the way they have throughout the regular season. Iginla (3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points) is averaging a point per game while Kiprusoff's goals-against average (1.81) and save percentage (.929) are approaching what they were during the regular season…
EVERYBODY SHOULD KNOW...
This is not the first time the Canucks have juggled goalies in an attempt to get an edge over the Flames in a playoff series. In 1989, the Canucks rotated Kirk McLean and Steve Weeks in and out in an attempt to foil the Calgary attack. Weeks lost game two and five, but won game four while McLean was victorious in games one and six while losing games three and seven.
Calgary: Dean McAmmond (back) and Steve Reinprecht (shoulder) are both out for the rest of the season. Dave Lowry (abdomen) may return later on in the series. Toni Lydman (upper body) remains out. Chris Simon (leg) is questionable.
Vancouver: Todd Bertuzzi (suspension) is out for the playoffs. Mats Lindgren (back) and Magnus Arvedson (knee) are done for the season. Dan Cloutier (ankle) is out.
Stats nobody wants to hear: The Flames are winless the last six times they've had the opportunity to eliminate a team, including three consecutive losses against Vancouver. Historically, teams winning games 2, 4 and 5 and holding a 3-2 series lead only have a .447 winning percentage in game 6… Stats everybody wants to hear: Teams holding a 3-2 series lead has ended up winning the series 78.9% of the time… Much talk has been made about Vancouver's power play and how it has dominated this series. On the road, the Canucks are 8.3% with the man advantage (2-for-12). Calgary, meanwhile, is only 7.7% (2-for-13) at the Saddledome on the power play—good enough for 12th. Calgary (15.8) and Vancouver (16.2) have the fourth and third most penalties in the league so far these playoffs. Toronto (17.8) and Ottawa (16.8) are first and second… Kiprusoff ranks fourth among playoff goaltenders in GAA, behind Khabibulin (0.50), Nabokov (1.56) and Lalime (1.76)… Lombardi's three points ties Colorado's Marek Svatos and Boston's Patrice Bergeron for the league lead among rookies.
"It's frustrating to be in this situation but we were in it a year ago against St. Louis and we were able to win Game 6. We know what will work and how we can be successful." – Longtime Vancouver Canuck Trevor Linden, who was also a part of the Canucks team that came back against Calgary down three games to one in 1994. .
It's a tough situation and I'd rather not comment on it. Moose [Hedberg] is a superb teammate, guys have a lot of respect for him. It all came down to the coach's decision and what he felt." – Canucks centre Brendan Morrison on the Vancouver goaltending situation.
"It's going to be wild. It's going to be loud and it's going to be exciting. No matter what happened tonight, we expected it to be loud. Now, it's going to be super loud. We put ourselves into the position we wanted. Now, we have to work hard." – Flames centre Craig Conroy on the state of the Saddledome Saturday.