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Red Mile Déjà vu?
Calgary vs. San Jose - Game 7 preview

Jason Parkin
April 21st, 2008


Do you remember April 17th, 2004? Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in Calgary; the Flames were leading the series three games to two and had the chance to garner the series win on home ice and earn a date with the Detroit Red Wings in Round number two. As you all recall, Vancouver won that game in triple overtime and forced a game 7 ... sending Flames fans home heartbroken, wondering what could've been. But at the end of the day, after the sting had subsided everyone was proud of the effort in the series and whatever happened in game 7 wouldn't sour the experience. A win would've been great, but people could have accepted a loss and still be overjoyed with just making the playoffs and making it to game seven. Well ... what happened after that night transformed the city, and revitalized the whole professional hockey scene in Calgary as the team marched straight to the Stanley Cup Final, eventually running out of gas in game seven against Tampa Bay. That run left a lasting impression on the city that could never again be duplicated...

Flash forward...
In 2005/2006 - the season after the lockout, the Flames put together one of their best regular seasons in over a decade by winning the hotly-contested Northwest Division with 103 points. Expectations were sky-high for the team to repeat what it accomplished a year and a half before. That 03/04 squad brought the city out of its slumber and made Calgary one of the most intimidating buildings to play in; giving the 05/06 team a league best 30-7-4 home record. Nothing less than a Conference final appearance would appease the masses. Calgary yet again had the chance to close out the first-round series in game 6 in Anaheim, but a late 3rd period goal by Scott Niedermayer sent the teams back to Calgary for a 7th and deciding game, which obviously the best home team in the NHL should surely win, correct? In game seven the Flames put forth one of their worst efforts of the season and bowed out 3-0, infuriating fans who had hopes and dreams of another magical playoff run. Fans were expecting another two months of hockey, spoiled from the previous season. It wasn't to be ...

Flash forward Again...
2006/2007 saw a first round match-up against the Red Wings, after the Flames sputtered their way into the playoffs and qualified by a one point margin. The post-season is supposed to be a time to ante up, when a player brings their game up to a level not possible during the regular season. The intensity is higher, the stakes are immense, but Calgary came out flat in almost every game - dominated in every category by Detroit on their way to a 6 game series defeat that should have been over in four if not for a certain Finish net minder's heroics. Word quickly spread about an unhappy locker room. Players complaining about their roles and playing time, or lack thereof (Amonte, Friesen), and frustration boiling over into talk about players taking it all too seriously - not having enough fun. An off-season coaching change was sure to right the ship. Another year, another first round exit and uninspiring effort. Would another 2004 ever happen again?

2003/2004 vs. 2007/2008
The Flames went through a turbulent regular season in 2007/2008. At the start of the year, expectations were again fairly high. The team started out great in October, went through a November swoon, then had an excellent two month run that saw them shoot up the standings from as low as 13th in the conference into a lead for the Northwest Division. The team was hard to gauge. On some nights, they flat out stunk. Other nights they were world beaters. Coming into the playoffs nobody really knew what to expect … feelings were mixed. Calgary drew the San Jose Sharks in the 1st round, a team that only lost two games in regulation in their last 22. Like in 2004 and 2007, the Flames were huge underdogs. Not many people outside of Calgary gave them a chance, and even many fans in Cow-town would have bet on the Sharks if a gun was put to their head and they had to choose. But in game one something happened, something hard to place a finger on. We quickly realized what it was; the team we watched suffer against Anaheim in 2006 and Detroit in 2007 was replaced with the team we saw in 2004, the team that played with heart and guts, determination and grit, piss and vinegar...and made you proud to be a Flames fan. Shot blocks, hard fore-checking and huge hits became the modus operandi for this team and fans started to get the same feeling they did in 2004. A back and forth series ensued, and the Flames played their hearts out in game 6 (Their most complete 60 minutes of the season) forcing a game 7 in California. Making it to game 7 against San Jose is more than most people would have asked for going into the series, but what if they win game 7? Could it be the start of another spring to remember? Or, if they lose game 7...can everyone relax a bit knowing their team showed the intestinal fortitude it has lacked since 2004, and hope for big year in 2009 with the core of the team still together?

Final Word
Whatever happens Tuesday night, there is little doubt that this has been the most entertaining hockey seen in these parts since the Vancouver series in 2004. It has everything. Jarome Iginla at the top of his game, two world-class goaltenders standing on their respective heads, and games that feature over 70 hits; a mind boggling statistic on its own. With game three you have one for the ages with an early three goal deficit just three plus minutes in followed by Curtis Joseph replacing Kiprusoff and a Cory Sarich hit to turn it all around. Then finally, four unanswered goals and the Flames had completed one of the biggest Flames playoff comebacks of all time. A game that will never be forgotten. This series is what playoff hockey is all about, hopefully hockey fans have enjoyed it … and hopefully they'll get to see a little more. This is fun. 2004 redux? Works for me!

 

 

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