Monday, May 17, 2004

The Heat's Back On!

It’s getting very hard to handicap this Western Final, just when one team seems to be gaining the momentum, developing its killer instinct, they fall flat on their face. Monday night it was San Jose’s turn to stumble around the rink and make Calgary look like would be Stanley contenders. All we at HockeyNation can say is: “somebody win this thing please!”

Monday night the Flames were led once again by Jarome Iginla, who took control early in game five with a determined sense of play. The Flames scored two quick goals in the first period, on their way to an eventual 3-0 win of Game number five. Turnovers would be the death knell for the Sharks in game five, as the Flames took advantage of sloppy play by San Jose. Iginla scored on a breakaway to break the ice, Marcus Nillson followed up shortly after to put the Flames two ahead, followed by Craig Conroy who iced the game in the second. Once ahead the Flames shut down the Sharks, hemming them in their own end, controlling the blue lines and spending an awful lot of time visiting, or at least waving at Evgani Nabokov’s doorstep.

Calgary took more shots in the first period than they could muster in the final two frames, as they outshot the Sharks 21-19 in a game that featured a choking defensive style once the two goal lead had been secured. Miikka Kirprusoff redeemed himself from yesterday’s abundance of San Jose goals by closing the door on the infrequent Shark attack. Neither team could get shots on net, let alone score on the power play as both teams continued their unenviable tradition of fumbling the extra man advantage. The Flames while concentrating on shutting down the Sharks in the second, also shut their own attack off at the same time. It wasn’t until the ten minute mark of the second that Nabokov had to look at a shot from someone in white.

The key to the Flame victory was a solid forecheck, some heavy hitting and the desire of Iginla to get this team through this third round. The Flames now take a 3-2 lead back to the comforts of the Saddledome, which is not necessarily a guarantee of a good result. Neither San Jose or Calgary has shown any inclination to win in front of the home crowd, indeed the prospect of playing in front of the paying customers seems to cause each home team to fall on it’s butt.

Calgary can break this horrid streak of non performance on Wednesday, a Calgary victory will send the Flames on to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1989. A loss sends them back to San Jose, which may work out in their favor anyways, but do they really wish to keep tempting fate. Better to take these fish off the market as soon as possible, before they can take one more bite.

Thursday night would be a fine night to start a party in Calgary, for that to happen these Flames had best remember how they played on Monday as opposed to the effort from Sunday. Another performance such as they gave on Monday night, will serve them well in their bid to move on to the final round.

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