Sunday, June 06, 2004

Flames take the Hard road to Stanley

We’re going to get the full value for our Stanley Cup ride this year as the Calgary Flames let game six get away from them, with a double overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Flame fans inside the Saddledome, on the red mile and across Canada, were ready for the big celebration when former Flame, Martin St. Louis crashed the party early in the second overtime period.

A hard fought contest worthy of the league championship had the teams exchange goals in regulation time preparing the stage for an exciting first overtime period. The end of the regulation only went to set the stage for 20 more minutes of excitement, leaving everyone involved players, fans, broadcasters and viewers tired and on edge by the end of the first overtime. Many chances, but no scoring the two teams drenched in sweat retired to their dressing rooms. A rest for all and we were ready for the second overtime, but Calgary never really got the chance to finish off the season. Tampa took the attack early into the Flames end, using their fore-check smartly they got the puck back to the point and at 33 seconds, St. Louis pounced on the rebound putting the shot into the net. 3-2 Tampa, a celebration on hold in Calgary and possibly one being prepared in Florida. So now its wheels up and we’re off to Tampa for Game Seven Monday night.

It will be interesting to see how these Flames once again, bounce back from the disappointment, for surely the anticipation level on Saturday was for a giant celebration. The Cup was in the building, the fans at their loudest and for a good part of the game it looked as though it was only a matter of time before the Flames put a couple of goals in the net to salt away their second Stanley Cup.

At one point it seemed as if they had done just that, a shot from Martin Gelinas directed at the Lighting net turned into a phantom goal. As a television replay seemingly showed the puck to have crossed the goal line. Even the paid observers in the broadcast booth were split, ABC seemed to think it was in, CBC's Ron MacLean leaning that way, but Don Cherry voicing his opinion that it wasn't. Regardless it became a moot point, the off ice officials viewed the replay and ruled against the prospect of a goal, the puck was dropped and we were back to the action.

A resilient Lightning squad the began to show that they had other ideas on how the night was going to end. Holding off the Flame attack in the first over time it became a game of whoever got the lucky break first would win. St. Louis was the successful candidate and Flame fans will nervously watch Game 7 from home, fingers crossed for the result they desire so badly.

Calgary has been amazing on the road, through the playoffs they have managed to win even at the most improbable times. Game 7 against the Canucks, a business as usual Flames squad sent Vancouver packing for the season. It’s that spirit they’ll try to recapture as they strap on their skates and equipment for one final time this season. But in the back of everyone’s mind is this one simple fact, have they gone to this well one time to many. Will Monday be the night when the law of averages finally swings back away from their remarkable run.

Game 7 in any sport is always a magical moment, all stops are pulled out nothing is left behind in the dressing room. Ask any minor hockey player what they’re favourite dream of hockey is and the answer is simple. Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the breakaway down the ice, the shot at the net and the celebration as the red light signals victory. Monday night two teams will share that boyhood dream, but only one player will live it completely.

We get to share from the sidelines as suddenly this oh so long season will seem worthwhile. The victory will be sweeter the defeat more heartbreaking, but in the end the hockey should be at its best. It’s been a long haul since training camps opened in September, but we’re finally at the point we all hope for. One game, winner takes all. Drop the puck we’re ready to watch!

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