So it’s come down to this… The reputation of the Calgary Flames as a playoff contender is now on the line.
The Calgary Flames had a golden opportunity to go up 3-1 in the series and all they had to do was play solid for the last 6 minutes of game 4. They already had the 2-1 lead, and they were playing well enough to get a win against a lacklustre San Jose Sharks team. But they did what they’ve done all year and lost their consistency. They let San Jose score 2 goals in the last 5 minutes to come from behind and win the game.
Now a 3-1 series lead, with home ice advantage, became a 2-2 series tie with 2 of the final 3 games in San Jose. The big first round upset was looking a bit more difficult for the Flames.
The Flames best player in Game 4 let his teammates have it. Though we may not know who it was directed at, Robyn Regehr singled out into several of his teammates for their lack of effort and lack of consistency. Flames Captain Jarome Iginla also went head to head with Assistant Coach Rich Preston during a video session.
Whatever mental changes the team went through, they seemed to work to a certain extent, but unfortunately they weren’t enough to prevent a loss in game 5. Though the Flames played significantly better, and actually got more shots on net than the Sharks for the first time in the series, they still could not put a complete game together.
Game 6 (and 7… if neccessary) will determine the Calgary Flames playoff reputation going forward. If they are able to win 2 in a row, their reputation will still be up in the air… depending on how they perform after that.
If the Calgary Flames lose either one of their next 2 games, they will do a lot to solidify an already forming reputation as first round choke artists.
Hockey fans and media analysts are no longer calling the Flames playoff favourites like they were after the 2004 Stanley Cup run. That stopped after their 2006 first round exit vs. Anaheim in a series the Flames lead 3-2 but could not finish.
In 2007, the Flames exited the playoffs 6 games into the first round against Detroit in a series that was painful to watch. It was also a series that helped to solidify my loathing of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans.
Now we’re in 2008, and facing elimination in round 1 for the 3rd year in a row. The same thing is happening this season as in the past 2 seasons: INCONSISTENCY.
The Calgary Flames have a remarkably talented team, but unfortunately, a championship team is not just made up of Iginla, Kipper, Phaneuf, Regehr, Langkow and Nolan. The Flames will never succeed until they see consistent offensive production from Huselius, Tanguay, Conroy, and all the ‘supporting’ players that seem to come out of the shadows every few games to put points on the board.