The good news is the Flames probably played Chicago far tougher than anyone expected. The bad news is it ultimately got them to the same destination as if they had played like garbage.
First some good news: the Flames played the first 50 minutes or so of that game like the Flames of a couple months ago that were pretty much unstoppable. You remember those guys. Played a big, physical game, scored opportunistic goals, limited shots in both quantity and quality.
Basically, they bossed the Blackhawks around for a good portion of the night in their home rink in front of a sold-out and what was a raucous, jam-packed United Center. The crowd, like the Blackhawks, were more or less silent for the majority of the game.
They played far better than anyone who’s watched them since the deadline could have reasonably expected and even in that somewhat empty triumph (given the end result), have already surpassed my expectations for the series. I leave it to you to determine how much of an accomplishment “not getting steamrolled” is.
Now the bad news: Martin Havlat took over the game with just over 5:30 to go, scoring to pull the ‘Hawks even and then once again, just 12 seconds into overtime, to steal a win, a 1-0 series lead, and perhaps whatever confidence to which the Flames may have been clinging.
That’s real bad news.
Miikka Kiprusoff — First and foremost, I thought he was outstanding and it’s rather difficult to fault him for any of the goals the Blackhawks scored. It will go down as a 3-on-28 performance which, statistically, is poor, but as the game went on, he had to face a higher volume of shots that were of increasing quality. His saves before the first Havlat goal were rather spectacular, as were a few after. He deserved better than he got.
Physicality — Want to compete in road playoff games? Hit everything. And the Flames did that. They sent a clear and emphatic message that the outcome of this series, whether it was a win or a loss, would be decided on the basis of attrition. Sure, Chicago, you can get to the second round, but first Bourquey’s gonna put Kaner on Queer Street for a period and a half.
Speaking of the Bourque hit on Kane — That was the point at which I stopped worrying that the Flames had perhaps left their hard hats back in Calgary. The boys were very focused on the game plan (Hit. Everything.) from the giddyup.
The Cammalleri-Langkow-Bertuzzi line — They were the best line last night for either team, and they did everything well. Couldn’t have asked for a better performance from those boys.
Dion Phaneuf — I thought he imposed his will on the opposing forwards, bum wheel or not.
Team defense — Comprehensive is a very good word for it, especially given the patchwork nature of a D corps that featured Anders Eriksson in his first NHL game this season, Phaneuf playing on his aforementioned injury and Adam Pardy in his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff game.
Makin’ like Ric Flair — No matter where he goes next year (hint: not Calgary), I will always like Mike Cammalleri for this dirtiest-player-in-the-game cheapshot on Havlat. WOOOOOOO!
Stars missing in action — You didn’t hear a whole hell of a lot out of Jarome Iginla or Olli Jokinen, did you?
Anders Eriksson — I understand, it’s a tough situation. You play close to 30 minutes a night in the AHL for a full season and then finally get the call-up because of injuries. Then you play 22 minutes a night against some pretty significant competition. And you finish minus-2 as a consequence. I get that this isn’t exactly fair to him. But he also just stood there while Martin Havlat danced out of the corner, around him like he was a ghost, and scored the game-tying goal inside of six minutes to go. That was pretty damn frustrating.
The 12 seconds of overtime — No joke, this is the running play by play on NHL.com for the ENTIRE overtime:
0:00 FAC CGY won Neu. Zone – CGY #12 IGINLA vs CHI #36 BOLLAND
0:08 GIVE CGY GIVEAWAY – #40 LEOPOLD, Neu. Zone
0:12 GOAL CHI #24 HAVLAT (2), WRIST, Off. Zone, 41 ft. Assist: #36 BOLLAND (1)
The only thing it doesn’t tell you, of course, is that in the four seconds between the ATROCIOUS giveaway on attempted cross-ice stretch pass through the neutral zone, Jordan Leopold busied himself with shoving Andrew Ladd backward into Kiprusoff. Some of my friends were arguing that it should have been goaltender interference, but Leopold’s play was so mind-numbingly daft that he deserves to cost the Flames a game on principle.
The power play — I’m considering making this spot permanent. Now 0-fer in its last 47, I think. I don’t care how good people say it looks, if the puck’s not going in the net, it looks like garbage.