Taking the body
The Flames lack of physicality burns them in Game 5
The Calgary Flames looked flat in their 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and that can be chalked up to one major aspect: a lack of physicality.
GAME IN A MINUTE
THE NUMBERS GAME
1 - Appearance of Curtis McElhinney
-3 - Rating for Jarome Iginla
THE BIG HIT
THE BIG SAVE
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
OUR THREE STARS
In the four previous games, the Flames were extraordinarily hard on the Hawks. They checked, they banged and they neutralized the Chicago speed that can be so dangerous. In Game 5, it was a different story. They took their foot off the pedal in terms of their physical play and it cost them.
“We don’t play as open or end-to-end,” said Jarome Iginla. “When we are having success, we need to play physical, aggressive and get in your face.When we’ve let up and let them skate, they can skate and make things happen. We got to stay on that body.”
Eric Nystrom, who had another great night after scoring the game-winner in Game 4, said that the team needs to play a hard, heavy-hitting game to be successful.
"It's not a genius game plan. It's pretty simple - crash, bang, throw pucks at the net," he said.
The Hawks definitely had the edge in the physicality of the game, making the Flames injury woes even more of a concern. Even though Daymond Langkow, Craig Conroy and Rene Bourque skated in Game 5, there is still concern they've a bit more banged up than the team wants to disclose. Chicago laid the body on all three throughout the game and then took out another key defenseman from the Flames lineup.
Troy Brouwer threw a thunderous hit on Dion Phaneuf mid-way through the third period and it shook the blueliner up so much that he left the game. There has been no word on the injury thus far.
The Flames got on the board in the second frame due to some gritty forechecking courtesy of Adam Pardy. After Cory Sarich pinched for the second time in a couple minutes, Pardy made an excellent play to keep the puck in on the boards and took a shot on net. Dustin Boyd was right there and threw the rebound through the legs of Khabibulin.
The lesson from Game 5 was that physical play is the way to win for Calgary. All of their good shifts, and their only goal, were marked by excellent gritty, hard play.
Pardy, not exactly an enforcer, took on heavyweight Ben Eager early in the final period after the Hawks heavy hitter laid out Mike Cammalleri. The Bonavista product took some punishment from the battle but showed the grit the Flames need in order to be successful.
Conroy got some revenge on Eager after the Hawk took the Flames veteran out in Game 4. Conroy leveled Eager in the defensive zone and then skated the puck out and into the Hawks end of the rink.
After throwing his body around, Nystrom gave Khabibulin the biggest test of his night with a great wrist shot. The 26-year-old generated several decent chances in the game due to his willingness to lay the body to the Hawks.
Todd Bertuzzi, while not a factor on the score sheet, has made good use of his big body in the series and Saturday night was no different. He pressed several Hawk noses up against the glass throughout the game and was the middle of numerous good forechecking shifts by Calgary.
In one sequence, the Hawks came charging into the Flames zone, looking to add to their lead but Sarich threw any self-preservation to the win with a huge shot block that ended up sending the play back into Chicago's end. That was just one big play by the defenseman - Sarich led the Flames in hits with four and was one of the few blueliners without an even rating on the night.
Earlier in the week, Sarich said that every single hit the Flames make is an important one.
"With physical play, it's not about that hit or that period or that game. Every hit, every check you finish, is an investment.''
The plan for Game 6? Get pack to the gritty style they've established over the course of the series.
"We just want to keep playing the body, playing physical, wearing their guys down," Nystrom said. "We think that we can wear them down by laying on the body. When we do that, they'll maybe start turning some pucks over. That's been the mindset - take advantage of their turnovers, get pucks to the net."