Underdogs no more
Despite the overtime loss, the Flames came up big in Game One
Despite a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss, the Calgary Flames held their own through Game One of the Stanley Cup playoffs and have shook off the underdog tag.
GAME IN A MINUTE
THE NUMBERS GAME
24:59 - Ice time for Dion Phaneuf
3 - Shots on net for Adam Pardy
THE BIG HIT
THE BIG SAVE
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
OUR THREE STARS
Coming into the game, the Flames had been counted out by many media outlets and fans. After having a tough stretch drive in the regular season, many pundits counted the Flames out but that was something that the team has refused to buy.
"If people want to call us that and give us the underdog tag then that’s fine. I don’t think we feel that way in this room and I don’t think we’re going to play that way," Mike Cammalleri, who had an immediate impact in his first career playoff game with a goal, said during the week.
Head coach Mike Keenan was also not appreciative of being discounted.
"If you look at Detroit, they had a worse record than us in their last 10 games but no one is counting them out," he said in regards to the team's woes at the end of the season.
Captain Jarome Iginla has had to field numerous questions about the team being counted out and every time, he relayed his firm belief his team would come up big once they took to the ice.
"Whatever anyone wants to say, we like the matchup," he said with authority.
Calgary were out to dispell any doubts about their play and they did so early. David Moss was able to whack in the game's first goal in the first period after the Flames dominated in the offensive zone. The club had 10 shots on Nikolai Khabibulin whereas a jittery Chicago had just five.
In the second frame, the Flames kept up their hard work and while Cam Barker was able to get the Blackhawks their first goal of the night, the work ethic from Calgary didn't dissipate. The Flames were still able to throw 11 shots on net in the period and several of them were excellent scoring chances.
The third period saw the play really pick up as both teams were desperately trying to get ahead. Cammalleri took an unusually selfish penalty in the period, elbowing Martin Havlat in the head off of the faceoff, but got himself back in the Flames good book with a beautiful top shelf goal.
After getting the 2-1 lead, however, the Flames sat back and tried to hold the Blackhawks off for the remainder of the period. That style of play didn't bode well for the team as Chicago just kept pressing and Havlat was able to bat in his own rebound off of a quick shot through a crowd.
Overtime didn't have the desired effect for the Flames as Havlat scored the game-winner just 12 seconds into the extra frame. The goal came with controversy though as Andrew Ladd tripped up Miikka Kiprusoff seconds before Havlat shot, preventing the Finn of making the save.
"I believe it was Ladd who did not try to stop," Keenan said after the game. "That's goaltender interference."
A big factor in the game was the Flames defensive skill. Instead of having the speedy youth of the Blackhawks zooming around the Calgary zone, the defense buckled down and held them to the boards for the majority of the game. They were also able to make superb breakout passes to the forwards, enabling several scoring opportunities.
Another reason for the Flames strong showing was the forechecking and their ability to breakdown to the "Bulin Wall". Much has been written about Khabibulin's record against the Flames and his dominance and instead of cowering, the Flames had a gritty forecheck and was in the goaltender's face.
Prior to the game, Craig Conroy joked about his strategy to beat Khabibulin.
"I threw in that goal in Game Seven so I watched it. I’m going go top shelf on him," he laughed, referring to the Flames series in against Tampa Bay in 2004.
Conroy pointed out that come playoffs, it's a clean slate for the team and Khabibulin's record meant nothing to them.
"You put all the past behind you – what we’ve done against him, what he’s done against us – and start fresh. We go out there and get rebounds, traffic and bear down. When we get an opportunity we’ve got to shoot at it and drive the net hard. Make it uncomfortable for him and that’s what we’re going to try to do."
According to Conroy, no matter the result of Game One, the Flames won't be backing down one inch.
"The task at hand is a difficult one but we’re ready to rise to the occasion. We feel like ‘Hey, if we come out and play our game, be physical, we’ve got to kind of wear these guys down.’"