Across Calgary, chants of 'BRING OUT YOUR DEAD' ring out. The Flames have looked simply dismal over the past two weeks. They are given absolutely no chance to win this hockey game by most fans across Calgary, despite the fact they are still statistically dominant at home. Despite this, the Flames not only win - they win in Flames style. A 2-1 victory. Still, no one is planning the ticker-tape parade just yet.
Thursday March 22 - Flames vs. Predators
Calgary's kryptonite enters town. A chance to halt the momentum gained beating the current President's trophy leaders two days prior. Calgary goes down early and the city breathes a collective 'crap' before the Flames tie it up before the 1st frame is over. The Preds go ahead again in the third and things look bleak, but the Flames refuse to give up. They are soon (suprisingly) outchancing the Preds, including a great one by Jeff Friesen. The guy who everyone loves to hate is turning around his game however, as the Flames finally tie it up off a fluke bounce from an Iginla shot. In OT Yelle draws it to Tanguay who feeds it to Rhett Warrener in the slot for the tip in that gives the Flames their first win over Nashville in years. No one is convinced yet though, up next is 'THE ROAD.'
Sunday March 25 - Flames vs. Blackhawks
Huselius opens the scoring early against the hapless Hawks, but the Hawks storm back taking the lead after the first and keeping it safe by the end of the second. Every fan watching the game knows the Flames have a chance, but it looks like the Flames evil twins have showed up. You know them, you don't love them. They're the ones that find ways to lose. But that Jeff Friesen and his linemates, Stephane Yelle and Robert Nilson, the ones who have really hogtied the Hawks in their own end all game, score a goal early in the third. Hamrlik blasts one in from the point and the Flames get a rare road victory, even if it is against a terrible team.
Tuesday March 27 - Flames vs. Wild
November 11th is the date on everyone's mind. Thats the last time the Flames beat a playoff team on the road. Have the wins against Detroit and Nashville given the team a newfound confidence, or will the twins show up? The early results don't look good. Gaborik and linemates are tapdancing all over the Flames defence and the top line of Iginla-Tanguay-Conroy looks like Swiss cheese the way they're covering their defensive assignments. Cue Miikka Kipprusoff's heroics. He stops every shooter in regulation and OT. The Flames enter the shootout, an early-mid season disaster, but something to which they've recently had success on. Their success continues, as Tanguay scores and Kipprusoff stops both Wild shooters. Fans are officially allowed to stop quoting November 11th.
Thursday March 29 - Flames vs. Wild
Can the Flames make it two in a row? Is this win streak even possible, let alone probable? Just 10 days ago, the Flames looked like dead men walking, now they carry the Reaper's Scythe. Masterton trophy nominee Langkow opens the score early, and then Jarome Iginla follows him up scoring only 20 seconds later. Then he continues to score often, garnering his first hattrick in years.
Saturday March 31 - Flames vs. Canucks
If someone asked 'will the Flames beat the Canucks on March 31st' two weeks ago, I think most would have replied 'probably not.' The twins were far too likely to show up, the team looked mentally beaten, the coach looked unable to fortify the troops. But there are signs the times are changing. The past week has opened eyes across the league, and has shown Calgary, if on top of their game, are true contenders, just as their 'on-paper' lineup would indicate.
The addition of David Hale has given Calgary another option on the third pairing on nights when Rhettsky's arthritic body simply cannot go on anymore. Zyuzin's innefectiveness has been mostly hidden playing third pairing minutes and the far more competent Giordano should be able to suit up when Coach Playfair comes to his senses.
While Amonte continues to struggle, it is obvious that Friesen is starting to gel with linemates Nilson and Yelle, and that has given Calgary an additional effective 10 minutes a night, often against top level opponents. And while some have argued Iginla has struggled, his linemates have been consistently putting up respectable numbers.
Miikka Kipprusoff has been criticized for simply being 'not good enough' which in Calgary translates to 'you haven't been able to totally cover for your teammates' totally ineffective play.' The other night in Minnesota however, proves Kipper can still, at least occasionally, be 'good enough.'
The Canucks are having a record season, and while there is Kudos all around for Brodeur's closeness to breaking Parent's 47 win season, Luongo is just as close. The whole Canucks team looks really good, and make no mistake, they are true contenders for the Cup, if not the favorites at this point in the season.
So while the Flames have had a lot of tests this season, this is probably the last most important one of the season. Win this, turn a city of doubters into a city of believers. Win this, and you come back from the dead.