The experts were busy congratulating the Calgary Flames on having had an impressive year, the feeling being that this hard working squad had given it their best, but the Detroit juggernaut would begin the roll with Game Five. Only problem is that Calgary wasn’t paying the least bit of attention. With a largely unproven lineup and a key one game suspension of Ville Niemmenen, not many would have thought that the Flames were ready for a big challenge, but once again Darryl Sutter’s team rose to the occasion.
Saturday afternoon proved to be a tough day for the Detroit Red Wings as the Wings were shut out at he Joe for the first time since Grant Fuhr recorded a goose egg back in 1997. Miikka Kiprusoff once again set the stage with his 31 save performance as the little team that could picked up win number three in the best of seven series, taking the momentum and a chance to eliminate the much admired Red Wings, back to the Saddledome for game 6 on Monday night.
Craig Conroy scored the winning and only goal at 3:53 of the second period, firing a returned pass from Jarome Iginila over the shoulder of Curtis Joseph. The goal the only one of the twenty shots on Cujo to find the mark, but as the game played out it was all that Calgary needed.
By far the dominant player in red tonight was Stephane Yelle, the Flames sparkplug did it all Saturday, blocking shots, making hits and winning key face offs to control the flow of the game, keeping the Red Wings off the score sheet. In addition to the loss on the scoreboard, the game may have been costly in the player personnel department as well. Steve Yzerman took a bouncing shot from Mathieu Schneider which struck him in the face, Yzerman who does not wear a face shield, immediately fell to the ice in severe pain, leaving the ice after a few minutes. He went straight to a Detroit area hospital for x –rays and observation. The Wings hope to have further information by tomorrow morning, should Yzerman be unable to play it will mark the second high profile veteran wing to be sidenlined. Chris Chelios missed his third straight game with an undisclosed injury, adding to the Red Wing woes.
Following the Yzerman injury the Joe Louis crowd sat in stunned silence as Calgary continued on with its planned attack, playing Darryl Sutter’s game plan perfectly. So happy was he with the play of his Flames he deemed tonight’s performance to be a 10.
The usually verbose and loud Detroit fans was given to unaccustomed worry as the winged wheel spun out in the home barn. Having successfully silenced the crowd the next plan for the Flames is to make sure that there is no more hockey in Detroit this year. They can end the series and set the second guessers off in Motown with a win on Monday, suddenly the tight team is the Wings, pressing hard they can’t find the net. Even worse now the superstitions of the playoffs are against the early season favorites, past history shows that the team that wins game five goes on to win the series 80% of the time.
As Calgary proved on Saturday, with Kiprusfoff in the nets, you only need to score once to take a victory. Monday night in Calgary they have a chance to take their team to yet another level; this Flames team is making believers out of a lot of people right now. Most of them could be found sitting across the way in the Detroit bench, with a little luck for Calgary the Wings will be shaking hands by the end of play on Monday night.