There must be more than a few Flames fans that are conflicted right about now. Their team is up two games to none with the next two games at the Saddledome, where the crowd will be jacked up in welcoming home their team tonight (CBC/ESPN, 8:00 p.m. MT). However, cliché as it sounds, it does take four games to win a series and in these playoffs the Flames have lost three of their six games at home.
All that said you do have to enjoy the position the team is in right about now as a Flames fan. Could a Calgary team that hasn't yet lost two consecutive games in these playoffs suddenly lose four out of five? Of course, it's the playoffs and they very well could – look at Minnesota's sudden four-game sweep at the hands of Anaheim last season after two very solid playoff rounds – but the way the team has played you have to like their chances.
Perhaps the one seed of doubt in the fans' collective minds is the unfathomable opportunity for this team to be in the Stanley Cup Finals. It just seems almost surreal that this team that we debated back in October about whether or not they could even make the playoffs are suddenly two wins away from playing for hockey's ultimate prize.
Well, win tonight Calgary and suddenly you're up 3-0 with two more home games yet to play and a difficult task for the Sharks becomes nearly impossible.
But here's yet another cliché: expect tonight's game to be one of the toughest games to win this season against a very desperate and still very good Sharks squad.
FLAMES KEYS TO SUCCESS:
Don't get too high:
It's already happened with the fans, but the Flames players themselves can't allow themselves to get too high despite the 2-0 series lead with two games at the Saddledome coming up. Hopefully Sutter has settled his troops down with two more wins yet to go.
Since returning, Chris Simon has been unable to play the style of game that made him so successful in the Vancouver series due to the officials scrutinizing his every move. While the referees have swallowed their whistle for the most part, Simon can't breathe heavy on his opponents. If he's given some more leeway he'll be able to make a difference.
Shut down Marleau-Damphousse-Korolyuk:
Judging from practice Wednesday, Ron Wilson has assembled Patrick Marleau, Vincent Damphousse and Alexander Korolyuk as a new top line. Marleau and Damphousse are currently in an extended slump which could make them overdue and dangerous tonight.
15 out of 56 teams have come back after losing the first two at home (26.8%). In the Conference Finals it has only happened once ever (1-10, 10%). That was the 1945 Detroit Red Wings over Boston.
Interestingly, the team with the 2-0 lead doesn't have a very good record in game three: 26-30 (.464) or 5-6 (.455) in the Conference Finals.
The Flames have only ever been up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series twice before. (1989 vs. LA, 1988 vs. LA). Both times the first two games were at home. They lost game three in '88 and obviously swept the Kings in '89.
The Sharks have been down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series four times and have a 3-1 record in game three in these situations, but an 0-4 series record.
1995 vs. Detroit, lost game 3 at San Jose, swept 4-0
1998 vs. Dallas, won game 3 at San Jose, lost series 2-4
1999 vs. Colorado, won game 3 at Colorado, lost series 2-4
2000 vs. Dallas, won game 3 at San Jose, lost series 1-4
Ironically, only 20 out of 207 teams (9.7%) have ever come back after losing the first two on the road so one silver lining for the Sharks is if you look back historically, the position they're in is favourable to if the first two games were in Calgary and they'd lost.
In the Conference Finals, the team trailing 2-0 after playing the first two games on the road is 6-46 (11.5%) in the series which is slightly better.
Calgary: Dean McAmmond (back) and Steve Reinprecht (shoulder) are both out for the rest of the season. Denis Gauthier (leg) is out. Matthew Lombardi (concussion) is doubtful. Toni Lydman (concussion) could return this series.
San Jose: Milan Michalek (knee) and Marco Sturm (ankle/leg) are out for the season. Scott Parker (hand) could play if called upon.
The last time the Flames and Sharks met in a playoff series, it was San Jose that took the first two games on the road and the Flames that had their backs up against the wall heading into game three. How did the Flames respond in game three? They drubbed the Sharks 9-2 in their own building. Calgary also won games four and five… The Sharks were awesome on home ice this season at 24-8-7-2 and despite not quite as much success on the road, they were still a very good road team with a 19-13-5-4 record… Marcus Nilson's goal 20 seconds into the game tied Joe Mullen for the fastest goal ever in a Flames playoff game (May 6/86 at St. Louis). Calgary won that game 5-3… The Sharks may have fired 52 shots on Miikka Kiprusoff in game one's losing cause but in game seven of the Calgary-San Jose series in 1995, the Sharks won 5-4 in double overtime despite Calgary peppering 60 shots on San Jose netminder Wade Flaherty… The most shots on goal against in Flames playoff history is 65, on two occasions with Calgary winning both times: April 11, 1981 at Chicago (5-4 OT win) and April 6, 1988 vs. Los Angeles (9-2 win).
"When I look at the whole game. I think we had six forwards who didn't get a shot on goal. That basically says everything in a nutshell right there. A lot of the credit has to go to Calgary. But we have to be at fault ourselves for not generating enough and being committed enough to drive to the net.'' – Sharks head coach Ron Wilson on why the Sharks lost.
"Maybe it can be a positive, to know that tonight wasn't our best effort. We can obviously offer a lot more.'' – San Jose forward Scott Thornton.
"I was a small part of the team in Colorado. I hope I'm a little bigger small part now." – Flames forward Ville Nieminen on his role on the 2001 Stanley Cup Winning Avalanche and his year's Flames.