They will not die. No other way to put it. They’ve looked down, they’ve looked out, but no matter what happens, the Calgary Flames keep finding ways to win. Last night, the Flames looked as if they were about to go down 3-0 to the mighty Anaheim Ducks, especially after a near goal by “18 year old” Sam Bennett was ruled no goal due to inconclusive evidence. So with time ticking down, and the hope being drained out of the Flames fans, the little train that could kept on chugging. After being held virtually silent through the first 8 periods of the series, Johnny Gaudreau took the puck at the right dot, and with 20 seconds left, wired a laser beam short side on Fredrik Andersen to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra period, the magic kept on working as Karri Ramo made two dazzling saves, and then with a delayed penalty, Mikael Backlund fired a screen shot that Andersen never saw giving the Flames a 4-3 win and getting the Flames right back into the series in spectacular fashion.
For Calgary, though, this is just same old, same old. In their first round series against Vancouver, the Flames were down 3-0 in Game 6 before Michael Ferland scored late in the 1st period to give the Flames momentum. They rode the momentum into the 2nd period and ended up tying the game, only to fall behind again late in the period on a Luca Sbisa goal. But the magic wasn’t done. Jiri Hudler tied the game on the powerplay, and then Matt Stajan completed the comeback after a juicy rebound from Ryan Miller.
Again though, this was just natural for Calgary. The Flames made a habit out of coming back from the dead to shock teams throughout the season. 3 goal, 4 goal leads could be erased in the blink of an eye against Calgary, and numerous times they did. The Flames pretty much contrasted every advanced stat in the book, and despite having terrible possession numbers, they were able to get it done. Everyone assumed that after losing Mark Giordano, the Flames would fizzle out and miss the playoffs in favor of L.A. Apparently no one told the Flames that losing your best player was supposed to have an effect, as they went on a 9-3-3 tear in the month of March to all but solidify a playoff spot.
So how do they get it done? Their top line of Gaudreau, Monahan and Hudler all had stellar years, but no other Calgary forward had above 35 points. What the Flames got though, was the clutch performances. When they needed a goal, it would be someone stepping up to get it done. When they needed a big save, Ramo and Hiller were able to make them despite very pedestrian numbers. It didn’t have to be the top line as seen throughout the playoffs. Sam Bennett, Brandon Bollig, Michael Ferland, Matt Stajan and Mikael Backlund and Kris Russell all have scored huge goals throughout the playoffs. Another huge reason, is how good Calgary’s defense has been. Kris Russell blocked a whopping 283 shots in the regular season, and another 36 in the postseason which is by far the most in the last 7 years. Dennis Wideman and T.J. Brodie were also in the top tier of shot blocking as well, and all three produced tremendously offensively along with their captain Giordano. Calgary became terrific at frustrating their opponents by not letting shots get through. And then after all that, when they needed a star to step up, they could count on their top line. After being held in check in games 1-5 against Vancouver, the Monahan line exploded in game 6 to charge Calgary’s comeback. The only question remains now, is whether or not there is magic left. The Flames have the momentum after the comeback, and have a chance to even the series in game 4. Anaheim is the most complete team top to bottom in the playoffs, and will force Calgary to be at their best if they want to comeback. Can Calgary’s run continue, or is Anaheim about to strike the clock midnight on their cinderella story?