Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Youth trumps experience as Hawks advance
The Calgary Flames had been carefully retooled the last few years with one goal in mind a return to the Stanley Cup finals and those golden days of Mike and Joe and Lanny. The start of the season providing a strong declaration that the missing ingredients had been found, the trading deadline that the one extra piece was in place and the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs that all plans can fall apart.
Things actually began to go wrong for Calgary a few months before the annual spring time ritual, the team which had previously shown a penchant for scoring goals suddenly couldn't, a normally reliable and talented goaltender began to let the odd goal get by him and a team that had come to define the concept of depth was quickly shown to stumble when injuries began to pile up.
Their competition was young, inexperienced in playoff action and expected to find the first round as a stepping stone for future success in years to come, the only thing was they began to find that playoff hockey is addictive, you get a taste and you want more of it.
The Black Hawks one of the big success stories of 2008-09 found that with hard work, a dedication to the team game and with a little luck that their run through the spring could be extended a little bit further.
Nikolai Khabibulin stymied the Flames shooters, while on a nightly basis his team mates found that their game plan of crashing the Flames end, taking the body and neutralizing the Flames main attractions was more than enough for a four game to two victory in round one.
They outplayed the Flames at the style of play that the Flames had refined over the last few years and despite their relative youth on the bench, the made fewer mistakes and had more composure than their more veteran opposition.
Their victory in the series was a testament to their coaches and their ability to transfer the game plan from the dressing room to the ice, something the Flames couldn't do.
They were two teams seemingly heading in different directions, the Flames once again bowing out in a first round, the third time in three years that they have not advanced past the first round.
While the Hawks, youthful exuberance and all decided that just being happy to be there wasn't enough and now will seek to reward their fans with hockey into May, a month that Calgary fans are quickly finding is more suitable for gardening, golf and other outdoor activities far, far away from a hockey rink or a television set.