Unlike most Cowtown fans I didn't think the Flames were playing that great in Game 3. I mean, it was orders of magnitude better than in Detroit, but that isn't saying anything. They weren't feeding off the crowd. When they scored and the crowd went into a frenzy, they played without emotion. They weren't hitting everything that moved, save the one gorgeous Phaneuf hit.
Tonight was a thing of beauty. For some reason, I just hadn't been feeling the normal playoff butterflies-in-your-stomach, edge of your seat, punching the couch excitement. Most of that was probably due to a couple of embarassing games in Hockey Town, and the Predators being more dirty than physical.
But tonight was just raw excitement. IMHO, the crowd was way better tonight. Even right after Detroit would score, "GO FLAMES GO" chants rang out loud and clear. The constant chants of Hassssekkkkkk were fantastic. The last 5 mins were so intense I was squeezing my pillow like a woman in labour. During the checking line shift with 3 mins to go, I was standing up clapping like an idiot despite watching it alone. Time-shifted. On my PVR.
The first period was crazy. I loved Iginla getting into Hasek's head and seeing him flop like a fish out of water. Hasek got up pretty quickly when he realized Babbcock was going to eat him alive. So he thinks to himself, how can I get Iginla back? He does a partial Bertuzzi/Simon and attempts to swing that paddle. Too bad he thought better of that too - if he connected with any gusto he'd be gone for the playoffs. You gotta love the contrast between Kipper and Hasek. I enjoyed Remenda's anecdote of Kipper asking the two refs "Maybe you guys should switch positions?" and how after a 51 shot game 2 Kipper lamented "Yeah, I was sort of busy but it's fine".
A wasted 5 on 3 by Calgary, but on the 5 on 4 Detroit left Langkow wide open in the slot and he buried it. Unfortunately the Flames again failed to feed off the crowd. Booing Bertuzzi seemed to wake him up. Sloppy play behind the net leads to a Bertuzzi goal. Conroy comes down with a bit of a fluke goal, but give him credit for shooting with a couple of Wings screening Hasek. Again, the Flames aren't capitalizing on the momentum shift and pretty soon Bertuzzi gives Franzen a nice pass. That line was trouble all night.
The other guy who was dangerous all night, and all series... Kris Draper. How good is he? He's so good that when Sutter broke up the Grind Line by taking D-Mac, Detroit doesn't miss a beat. This guy goes balls-to-the-wall all night. I love him. Like Grier on SJ. I'd kill to have him on the Flames. Not an amazing talent but just great grit, determination, hockey sense, leadership. Exactly what the Flames need these days. But I digress...
Lidstrom with his 2nd rare mistake of the serious, holding up Iginla, who was a horse all night. Again, the Flames make them pay on the 5-3. What a beautiful pass by Tanguay. The guy really makes all his teammates better. And with him starting to hit, he could become 0.75 of a Joe Thornton.
Flames finally harnessed energy in the 3rd. Great PKs. Amazing shot blocking. Keep their feet moving all night.
Guys/Things I noticed tonight:
Stephan Yelle - Sandbox is 0.75 of a Kris Draper. Great energy. When it seemed like nobody on the Flames could clear the zone, Yelle found a way.
Marcus Nilson - Wow! It seemed like he was fading this year, but turned it on late. He reminds me of '04 now. Great chance alone on Hasek. A few great PK shifts and a strong forecheck all night.
Jarome Iginla - Playing with a fire in his belly. No goals but making Lidstrom clutch, and a few great chances down low.
Daymond Langkow - What can you say. 2 times alone in the slot, 0 mistakes. He really stepped up.
Miikka Kiprusoff - I want your babies. Nuff said. Actually, it's not enough said. Even in the final 5 mins when Flames couldn't clear, Kipper was air tight. Did you see how fast he was moving on that CBC replay with the 3 save series? Just brilliant. No way would I take Hasek over this guy.
Craig Conroy - Only for the first period though. Good PK, good goal. The rest of the game he disappeared, and was terrible on the faceoff dot.
Brad Stuart - Very solid game. Great shot blocking.
Roman Hamrlik - Best defenceman tonight. Goal saving play after Giordano made an awful play at the blueline. And a huge hit behind the net on... Draper I think.
Kris Draper - You rock.
Dom Hasek - You are a spaz.
Don Whitman - Could you make an action packed, edge-of-your-seat game sound any less exciting? It's time to put Cole, Neale and Whitman out to pasture. The future is Jim Hughson, and Chris Cuthbert. Maybe Gord Miller for bronze.
Flames PK - Dynamite all night. Clearing it again and again. Extremely impressive. The Versus guys love to talk about the Detroit PP. Hopefully they don't look at the numbers.
Flames entering the zone - What a fantastic job! Crossing the blue line with speed, with numbers. Calgary barely had any offsides all night.
2 Minute Minors for Hooking - I think there were 9 of them in the game! Argh! Don't be calling that crap in the third. Even that one on Lebda hooking Lombardi in the third was BS. One thing I'll give the refs credit for - they were consistent. I didn't feel much hate for them since they seemed impartial.
Fantastic game. I'm tired of all these series ending in 5 games. This one has some passion now.