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Deplete Flames Chase Avalanche 
Flames 6 Avalanche 3

Darren Linn
March 31, 2006

The task was a daunting one. The Calgary Flames who had stumbled a bit in recent times were facing the red-hot Colorado Avalanche in a battle for 1st place in the NorthWest division, and more importantly the 3rd seed spot in the Western Conference. On top of the way the two teams had been trending lately, the Flames have suddenly found themselves resembling the emergency ward at Rockyview hospital as much as a hockey team. If they were to beat a very good hockey team, they had to achieve that victory without the likes of Jordon Leopold, Rhett Warrener, Mike LeClerc, Marcus Nilson, Jamie Lundmark and a dressed but unavailable Darren McCarty. As the old saying goes, it was gut check time.

To beat a team like the Avs with an undermanned squad, you would suspect that the team would have to score a couple and hope that Miikka Kiprusoff could hold the fort at the other end long enough to escape with a point or two. Early on, it trended that way, but then a funny thing happened on the way to defeat. The Calgary Flames decided to revert back to a version they know all too well from a couple years ago. Hit ‘em hard, grind ‘em down, come at them with wave after wave of aggressive fore checking and effective cycling. It worked. In fact to use another old saying, it worked like a charm.

This was the most well-rounded and complete game the Calgary Flames have played in a very very long time. It was, for the Flame faithful, a thing of beauty. It had it all. Big hits. Garbage goals. Pretty goals. Good goaltending. Secondary scoring. All a part of the mix that will decide the playoff fate of a club picked earlier this year to go a long way into May. Well done guys, very well done indeed.

On The Line

As mentioned...same as every night they have played the last 3 weeks or so. 1st place in the division, 3rd in the West, etc etc. More so than those maybe? Send a message to the rest of the Conference that this club will not back down from adversity and are not going anywhere anytime soon. Message sent, and received.

The Flow

It was an odd start for the home side actually. The team came out firing on all cylinders and dominated the Avs early on, but there wasn’t a whole lot of physical play by either side. Then they Flames seemed to get lulled into a bit of a trance and it cost them. Right after scoring a PP goal to get that coveted 1st goal of the game, the Joe Sakic show took over. The future lead pipe hall-of-famer, scored two goals in less than 30 seconds to quiet a boisterous Dome crowd, and stake his club to a one goal advantage after the 1st period. That’s when the Flames seemingly took too heart whatever it was coach Sutter had to say during intermission and came out on a mission in the 2nd. The whole club came out hitting and hitting a lot. Led by Dion Phaneuf, the Flames upped their physical part of the game as well as pressuring the opposition. They never let up either and finished the period with a 2 goal lead. The 3rd was more of what the 2nd period contained, and the Flames won this game going away.

Three Stars

1 – Shean Donovan   I have been very hard on Donovan for the better part of this season and with very good reason. Tonight the popular player showed what he is all about and what had been missing most of the year. With the prettiest goal of the night after deking an Av dman and then leaving Budaj wondering what plane just flew past him, Donovan showed glimpses of getting his confidence back. A very good sign for all Flames fans.

2 – Joe Sakic   What a wonderful hockey player this guy is, and maybe the best Captain in the NHL. With a couple goals and really the only guy on the Avs to give the Flames trouble all night, he gets the nod here.

3 – Jarome Iginla.  I hope the nervous Nellie’s that have ridden this guy since October saw this game, because that is what a difference maker he can be WITHOUT scoring goals. He led the entire team in icetime with an astounding 25 minutes. What a horse and showing signs of Iginla playoff warrior.

Big Hit

Dion Phaneuf absolutely flattened Jim Dowd during a Flames PP in the 2nd period. Dowd decided to take on a charging Phaneuf coming in off the point. He won’t make that mistake again.

Big Save

Shortly after Shean Donovan had restored the Flames to a 2 goal lead, Miikka Kiprusoff robbed Milan Hedjuk with a possible game saving chest stop.

The Goat

Pierre Turgeon. When a veteran of Turgeon’s calibre finds himself at a -3 on a night when the opposition only scored 4 even strength goals, he has to look at himself in the mirror. This stellar stat was achieved with a little over 15 minutes of icetime to make matters worse. One guy that perhaps will never recover from the lost year.

Mr. Clutch

Tonight's award in this category will be unpopular with many I'm sure. Too bad!! This one goes to two guys who have been much lamented on Calgarypuck.com as well as on radio calling shows....Cale Hulse and Bryan Marchment. With the sudden loss of Jordon leopold, and with Rhett Warrener still on the shelf, these two guys stepped up and delivered a very solid game as a pairing. They combined for 31 minutes and a +4 rating and an assist. Not bad for a 7th and 8th dman now is it?

Odds and Ends

As mentioned in the opening, sick bay is overflowing. With 6 guys that would or could be dressed as regulars, the Flames need to avoid anymore serious nicks and bruises. This is about as depleted as the club has been since the playoffs of 04. A sure sign that Sutter's move for depth was astute and successful when they can dominate a club like the Avs the way they did......When is the last time the Flames chased an opposing goaltender?......Unusual move by Joel Quenneville to pull his G with over 5 minutes left and down 3. I like it and don’t understand why more clubs don’t try it.......Any complaints about the officiating tonight? Those guys were good and need to be applauded for it.....Tonight is a perfect example of spreading icetime among dmen, with totals going 23, 23, 21, 21, 16, and 15. More importantly? They wont be completely gassed against the Oilers......With the Canucks losing a SO to the Wild, the Flames pull away from them a bit more as well....8 pts ahead of 9th bodes very well....Calgary won the battle of the faceoff dot as well garnering 52% of the drops.....41 wins on the year now, but Duha and many Flame faithful have them worse off than 04. I just shake my head.......

Next up – Tomorrow night, 8 MST, Hockey Night in Canada against the despised Oilers of Edmonton.

Lines -

Huselius - Langkow – Iginla
Kobasew - Lombardi – Amonte
MacDonald - Yelle – Donovan
Simon - Ritchie - Iginla

Regehr - Ference
Hulse - Marchment
Phaneuf- Hamrlik




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