For the third time in these playoffs the Flames headed into hostile territory with the series tied at two and the opportunity to win a crucial game five. All three times, the Flames have won that game five and given themselves the opportunity to wrap up a series here at home.
Tonight, (CBC/ESPN, 7:00 p.m. MT) the Flames not only have the chance to wrap up a series but also clinch a berth as the West representative in the Stanley Cup Final. But first they must overcome this inability to win at home against the Sharks. Calgary did win two of three on home ice against Detroit including the clincher in game six so it's not an impossible task.
Regardless of the outcome, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl is in the building tonight, ladies and gentlemen. I bet nobody envisioned that scenario back in September.
FLAMES KEYS TO SUCCESS:
I actually don't know if it's Flames hockey or not but I'd like to order a second helping of whatever that was we saw on Monday.
Although there was a rest day on Tuesday, this is still the third game in four nights for both clubs with two long flights in between.
Never mind the road team winning, the team that's scored first has controlled the tempo of each and every game this round.
ROAD SERIES: AN ANOMALY...
Although it will be little consolation, if the Flames fail to wrap up the series tonight the fans attending the game will at least become a part of Professional Sports history. In the entire history of best-of-seven series since 1905, the road team has never won each of the first six games of a playoff series.
Only six times before has the road team even won the first five games. Oddly enough, all six series have been in either the finals or semi-finals of their respective leagues. Besides the Flames/Sharks, the other five occurrences were:
1906 Major League Baseball World Series – Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox – This was only the second time a best-of-seven series had ever been played and although neither team was actually on the "road" the visiting team won each of the first five games. The series opened at the home of the Cubs, the West Side Grounds with the White Sox winning 2-1. The Cubs responded with a 7-1 win as the series shifted to the south side for game two. The White Sox won game three back on the West Side Grounds 3-0 before the Cubs won on the road again in game four, 1-0. The Sox won game five 8-6 before pulling off the stunning upset with the win at home in game six, 8-3.
1951 NHL Stanley Cup Semi-Finals – Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings– The series was a closely-contested one with the Canadiens winning the first two games in Detroit in marathon overtime affairs. Game one, Montreal defeated Detroit 3-2 1:09 into the fourth overtime period. The Habs won game two 1-0 2:20 into triple OT. Detroit bounced back with a pair of convincing wins in games threea and four, winning 2-0 and 4-1 respectively at the Forum. Montreal looked down and out but then won a huge 5-2 game at Detroit to send the series back home up 3-2. In the sixth game, the Canadiens pulled out the win 3-2, defeating the heavily-favoured Red Wings who had 36 more points than Montreal during the regular season. Montreal went on to lose the Stanley Cup Finals to Toronto in five games, with all five going to overtime.
1995 NHL Eastern Conference Finals – New Jersey Devils vs. Philadelphia Flyers – The New Jersey Devils were underdogs with eight less points than the Flyers during the shortened 1994-95 regular season but flew out of the gate with a pair of huge wins in the City of Brotherly Love by 4-1 and 5-2 scores respectively. Philadelphia had their backs up against the wall heading back to New Jersey for game three but managed to pull out a 3-2 overtime win. They followed that victory up with a 4-2 triumph three days later to tie it up at 2-2. In the fifth game, New Jersey rebounded to win 3-2 before disposing of the Flyers at home in game six, 4-2.
1995 NBA Western Conference Finals – Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs – This series was certainly an oddity in the NBA, where home teams do exceptionally well in the playoffs. San Antonio was a far better team than Houston in the regular season with a 62-20 record as compared to the Rockets' 47-35 record. Houston pulled off a pair of stunning victories in games one and two at the Alamo Dome but the Spurs regrouped to take games three and four at the Summit. Houston then bounced back to win yet another game in San Antonio before claiming the series at home in six games.
1996 World Series – Atlanta Braves vs. New York Yankees – The Braves stunned the Yankees in the opening 12-1 at Yankee Stadium off a two home run effort by Andruw Jones. It was expected the Yankees would bounce back to win the second game, but Greg Maddux and the Braves shut them down to the tune of 4-0. Headed to Atlanta for games three, four and five the Yankees were given little hope of succeeding but they did prevail. New York won game three 5-2, won game four in ten innings by a score of 8-6 and were victorious in game five 1-0 thanks to a masterful pitching performance from Andy Pettite. With the series headed back to New York for the sixth game, the Yankees prevailed 3-2 to claim their first World Series since 1978.
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 out. Toni Lydman (concussion) is out for tonight but is skating again.
San Jose: Milan Michalek (knee) and Marco Sturm (ankle/leg) are out for the season. Scott Parker (hand) could play if called upon.
Good news and bad news: when leading a best-of-seven playoff series three games to two, the Flames have a 7-2 series record. Unfortunately, they also have a 2-7 record in game six. The two game six wins? Last round against Detroit and 1989 against the Habs in the Stanley Cup Final. The two series losses? 1994 against Vancouver and 1995 against San Jose… Likely the favourite stat of Flames fans this year: In the game following one where Miikka Kiprusoff allows four or more goals this season, he has a 7-0 record with a 1.14 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. If the Flames can't win tonight, Plan B is to open the floodgates to the opposition! Well okay, maybe not… The Flames have not scored in the first period in a home game these playoffs. In fact, the last time the Flames scored a first period goal at the Saddledome was way back in March as Jarome Iginla scored 15:53 into the opening frame in a 1-0 victory over Phoenix the night the Flames clinched a playoff berth… The Sharks have a 1-3 series record all-time when trailing a series and a 1-3 record in game six. Their lone win on both occasions was against the Flames… The team that wins games one and two, loses games three and four and wins game five has a 36-5 all-time series record (.878) and 12-1 all-time in the Conference Finals (.923).
"I thought they were taking chances and trying to score some goals and we just kind of hung on. But overall it was a good road game for us. Now he got to find a way to do it at home."
-- Flames centre Craig Conroy on how San Jose played on Monday.
"I don't know if we outworked them, but we started off quick. We wanted a quick start. We haven't been able to get anything going early the last two games prior early and we felt that especially with these two teams you got to score first. Just put yourself in a great position and that was our game plan going in, to get the first one. The second one was a bonus and the third just put it out of reach. And they battled the rest of the way, but Kipper did a great job. One hit the crossbar and he saved it and then one went between his legs and he fell down on it. So we got some good breaks and we made some good breaks for ourselves."
-- Conroy again, with his synopsis of game five.
"That sounds good, but it's tough. They're a very good team and our first period, they have had great second periods. The second periods have been their periods. But it's something that all the stuff from now is gone. It's one more game for us that we got to win and we know that they will be more desperate and hungrier than ever and we got to find a way to match it. Because I don't know how you say it, with the desperation, but at home you got to find a way to change it."
-- Jarome Iginla, after being asked how the Flames have been able to shut the Sharks out in the first period throughout the entire series.