Prior to Game 6, after the disappointing Game 5 win, the Calgary Flames third line center Mikael Backlund had some word for the media where he guaranteed a win a la Mark Messier. He retracted that later on saying, “I didn’t guarantee a win, I just said we weren’t going to lose”. Yea, same thing Mikis.
Ten minutes into the game two things were certain: the Calgary Flames faithful at the ‘Dome were doing their part, blowing the roof off of the joint; and Mikael Backlund looked pretty silly.
10 minutes in a tic-tac-toe, the Canucks were up 3-0. Call it luck, call it skill, call it what you will, it was a huge deficit early that stunned everyone. But as the Calgary Flames have done all season, the game turned around, and it took 55 minutes to eventually get their first lead of the game, but that’s what it took to finally close out the Western Conference rivals for good. So in a way,
The Mikael Backlund guarantee folks. Never fails.
— Ro (@flamesstamps) April 26, 2015
Without a doubt the first two goals for Vancouver were lucky. Not insomuch they bounced off of legs or skates, but just before both Vancouver goals, Calgary hit the post in the other end. Instead of going up 2-0 the Flames found themselves down 0-2. Despite taking the early play, it was Vancouver scoring the goals and taking. Briefly stunned, the crowd got back on their feet to cheer the home town team. That didn’t help Jonas Hiller, who was pulled after the second goal for Kari Ramo.
That’ didn’t seem to help as moments later a power play in the middle of the first period gave the Flames hope that they could get on the scoreboard. Instead, the Sedins connected with Verbata for a SH goal.
Down 0-3 you had the sense not only had momentum had shifted in the game, but the entire series. As the first period wound down, I mentioned to the crowd watching the game that is the Flames were not have a chance they would have to score late goal. Sure enough, the wrecking ball Mike Ferland cashed in off of a beauty feed from Matt Stajan, who’s having a career playoff series.
Going into the first intermission down only two goals instead of three major world of difference.
If you’re going to write the script for the comeback story, then you need a late goal in the first period and an early goal of the second period. Cue the first line. The top line has been dormant for most of the series only amassing 7 points in 5 games. Tonight that line combined for 10 points and three goals. They started working early in the second period where the injured Sean Monahan scored his second.
Throw most of the game stats nuts we’re having a hayday. From very very beginning of the season Fentwick and Corsi bloggers/lovers I’m limited on how poorly the Flames performed in the stats call. What do you continuously ignore are the only thing that matters in hockey: winning. The top line for Vancouver controlled the play every time we were on the ice. It seemed as old Flames defense finally figured out that in order to stop the pressure they in turn needed to pressure I’m in debt rather than waiting for the Sedins to make the move first. And the entire game to figure that out, but Wednesday did mr. chats. Luckily the Flames bent but they didn’t break.
The second period started with the early Monahan goal, but then it was all Vancouver. For what seemed like a ten minute stretch Calgary kept icing the puck over and over again. Calgary is an opportunistic team, they score on the limited chances that they get. Despite dominating play for the first half of the second, when they thad the chance, that top line for Calgary turned up ice and lo and behold, Gaudreau found the net and suddenly it was a tie game.
Eventually, all the zone play caught up to the Flames which ultimately lead to the fourth Vancouver goal. Imagine this though. Vancouver had a 3 goal lead, then they took all the momentum in the second and the lead. They lose that all in the third period which can only mean a few things, one at least is the team lacks character. Outside of that top line, nobody was scoring and overall the team lacked grit. Few would’ve said that going into the series since Vancouver is usually regarded as a tough team, but Calgary out of nowhere led by irrelevant Michael Ferland, matched and exceeded the Vancouver intensity.
The nerves in the crowd were evident and on the bench the lines were juggled. Rookie Sam Bennett moved to the 4th line. Tyler Wotherspoon on D played just over 4 minutes after being on the ice for a first period goal. Backlund? A -2 and largely irrelevant to the game. His guarantee wasn’t looking so good going into the third period with the Flames down by one.
Cue the come back. The Calgary Flames all year have been the third period team scoring the most goals in the third period in the entire NHL. Everyone knows this but the Canucks didn’t see prepared. Apart from the top line and there was loses steam pressure. Although they controlled play it was Calgary that fought back to tie the game again, this time on the powerplay when Jiri Hudler gave the Flames hope they could close out the series.
From Game 4 and into Game 5 you also had the sense that goaltending was an issue for for Vancouver. Ryan Miller, the six million dollar man, rarely make he stops and also was poor with as rebound control. Clearly better goaltending would’ve give Vancouver a chance, but they didn’t get it. If you ask Eddie Lack’s dad, (I would agree), Lack was the better choice for Vancouver, but they didn’t going them when it mattered and as a result the shaky goaltending gave Calgary the edge they needed to close.
The final 15 minutes were all Vancouver, the same top line hemming the Calgary defense in their own zone. But again, the opportunistic third period team pounced on their limited chances. After getting the Flames going in the first period with a deft backhand pass, Matt Stajan was trailing a play on net and found himself alone in the slot. THe perfect shot into the top corner gave the Calgary Flames their first lead with only 5 imuntes left in the game.
The ‘Dome went insane.
Vancouver poured all the pressure they could in the dying two minutes, but they never threatened. Two empty netter sealed the deal and the ‘Dome, and the city, erupted with joy.
This particular playoff series has been a surprising one and asked such as been more exciting for fans. Being the underdog and exceeding the expectations by making it into this second round of the playoffs, let alone getting in, all in year two of a rebuild, well you get the idea that this is the recipe for a very exciting time for this franchise and the city.
Next up, Anaheim, the top team in the Western Conference. But first, a day off, and a chance to get some rest. What a comeback win, what a team, what character, we #neverquit
Go Flames Go!
Notes: No lineup changes coming into this game for the Flames, who get tomorrow off after the win. Sam Bennett has 2 games left on this 9 game entry level contract…. Kevin Bieska, another irrelevant night. Ferland? 2 goals. Sven Baertschi? Irrelevant.
Mayor Nenshi also wins the bet between mayors….
Have your say, how does it feel to be moving on to the second round?!