Monday, May 03, 2004

Gelinas the Giant Killer

In the end speed and desire trumped experience and talent. The Calgary Flames skated and skated Monday night, a frantic pace that eventually wore down a Detroit squad that battled for its life for almost four complete periods. The third period of this game was by far one of the most entertaining 20 minutes of hockey seen in a long time. Both teams took turns rushing the puck down the ice, setting up shots on net that were turned away by some stellar goaltending.

As the first overtime period was winding down it was one of the few veterans on the Calgary team that put away the winning and series ending goal, Marty Gelinas for the second series in a row was the guy that slew the giant. His rebound shot at the 19:13 minute mark, sent the Flames on to the final four with a 1-0 win in an Overtime thriller. Gelinas is becoming an old hand at crushing dreams, he was the goal scorer in the game seven victory over Vancouver that moved the Flames along in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In 2002 as a Carolina Hurricane, he eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now here he was again, banishing the Red Wings to the sidelines giving Flames fans a chance to enjoy their heroes for at least four and hopefully for eight more games!

The result Monday was an unfair fate for Curtis Joseph, who came back from purgatory this year to lead his team into the second season, his performance in this game six a spectacular display of clutch goaltending as he time and time again turned aside Flame chances, giving his tired and suddenly very slow looking team mates the chance to sneak one by Miikka Kiprusoff. Through this wild game both teams had their chances to win, glancing pucks off the post, goal mouth scrambles all combined to keep the sold out Saddledome crowd on the edge of their seats. Calgary fired 44 shots at Curtis Joseph before finally putting one goal behind him, ending the game, and the Red Wing season.

As the teams shook hands at the end of the game, one couldn’t help but think that we won’t be hearing a lot of these names again in a Detroit uniform. This was probably the last chance for the grey beards in red, many of whom were visibly tired as this game progressed. The Red Wings have provided some memorable games over the years, but with the trouble they had with Nashville and now losing out to a younger and faster Flames team, changes are most likely on their way in the motor city. Injuries to Chris Chelios and Steve Yzerman kept both from this game six finale, will they retire in the off season, only time will tell. Will Dave Lewis survive as head coach of the Wings, or will they re tool with a new hand at the helm. For the wings the games on the ice have come to an end, but there will be a whole lot of action behind the scenes as Mike Illitch rebuilds the Heroes of Hockeytown. Mike Albom put it best with his column in the Free Press prior to game six, "win now or get broken up."

Calgary now moves on to a place they haven’t been to in a very long time, the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They wait now for the winner of the San Jose/Colorado series, and while he probably won’t admit it publicly, Darryl Sutter must be hoping for a chance to return to San Jose. His years at the controls of the Sharks brought them close to success, but he’s worked pure magic in Calgary. Having taken a team that struggled year after year, Sutter turned it into one of the hardest working teams night after night. Whichever team faces the Flames they had better strap themselves in for the ride, there are no free rides through the Saddledome this year. There’s nothing more dangerous than a team that has full confidence in itself, right now the Flames are a very dangerous team.

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