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Tightness, Part 4.
Game 4 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Round 1 Flames 2 Sharks 3

Loren Brown
April 16th, 2008

An abbreviated Game Takes, a day late, and unfortunately for the Flames, a dollar and goal short.

On The Line
On the line: In the playoffs, what's on the line is clear cut. Sure, there's momentum swings that could dictate how series progress, but there's less emphasis on how results are obtained, its all about getting those results and getting, maintaining series leads. Last night was a perfect example. As much as Sunday's comeback may be in the record books and looked upon fondly come the summer or fall or in the future, Tuesday was a new day, with a 3-1 series lead on the line for the Flames, or the series reverting to a best of 3 format.

The Flow
The Flames showing themselves to be a different class over a meek and weary Sharks team. Numerous Flames hits from all lines early in the game once again hit the Sharks, specifically their defensemen, into nervous and turnover happy players. The Flames goal ends up coming off a broken play, Jarome Iginla picking up the loose puck off a rebound and firing low past Evgeni Nabokov. Overall,the Flames dominate a Sharks team who looked brutal and completely unorganized. For a team that was supposed to be desperate, they got outplayed in most facets of that first period. Shots ended up 6 to 2, but as the trend would continue the shots were not the true indication of the chances the Flames created. The Sharks quite fortunate to escape the first with only a one goal deficit. The second period settled down, the Sharks regaining some composure, a powerplay goal off a tip in from Ryane Clowe, and the game knotted at 1. A scrappy rest of the periods ends with an innocent faceoff win from Jarome Iginla, and Dion Phaneuf fires a slapshot that found its way to the back of the net. The Flames setup for a positive third period, being ahead after 40 mins in what looked to be a game where no more goals were going to be scored. The third starts with San Jose coming out seemingly a bit more desperate, peppering Miika Kiprusoff and the Flames with shot after shot. Kiprusoff the answer to every Sharks attack. With that attack, left the Sharks vulnerable at the back. Craig Conroy with a 2 on 1 that drifted just wide. As the period trudges on, the Flames slowly become a bit more cautious. With just over 7 mins to go, a rare 3 on 1 for the Flames due to the Sharks pressing. Poorly executed, the puck returns to Daymond Lankgow stick after the broken play, who promptly rings the underside of the cross bar. After that opportunity passed, the Flames go into full defensive mode. As expected, the as well as the Flames and Kiprusoff held of the Sharks, an innocent play and one mistake turns against them. Daymond Langkow doesn't get enough power on his clearance....it lands at on Johnathan Cheechoo's stick from a tough angle...a Hail Mary shot off his back foot, and it hits the 3 square inch area that was between Kiprusoff's mask and the post, and his shoulder and cross bar. The Flames now in full lockdown mode..that said the Sharks didn't really go for the kill either. With under 10 seconds to go, the unthinkable. A puck makes it back to the point, and similar to the earlier Phaneuf goal, it finds the back of the next courtesy of Joe Thornton. The Flames, so close to that 3-1 series lead, come crashing back down to earth, tasting some of the similar medicine they dolled out to the Sharks two nights previous. 3-2 Sharks final, in a wild and crazy finale.

Big Save

Miika Kiprusoff with a myriad of saves in his 32 attempts, but the underside of the cross bar gets this one, off the stick of Daymond Langkow. At the most crucial time in the game, the shot travels one inch lower, and the Flames are off to Northern California with a commanding lead. Instead, the red piece of iron allows the Sharks a last breath to get back into the contest.

Big Hit
Craig Conroy, circling the Sharks net, gets hammered cleanly by Douglas Murray..Conroy pops right back up, a little worse for wear and a little smarter as a result. That said, the majority of Sharks are likely a bit more tender after a barrage of Flames physical play throughout the evening.

The Goat
With an overall ok Flames effort. The closest this writer could come up with could be Langkow. 3 chances to possibly put this game away. Unluckily, his tip in the first period, with Nabokov sprawled on the other side of the net, fortunately hits the back of the sake of the Sharks defenders and spins back into the helpless Nabokov. Then Langkow's above mentioned brush with the crossbar, and his unfortunate giveaway that directly ended up in the Flames net with under 5 mins to go. Honorable mention to a few Flames passengers...with some guys putting it all on the line noticeably in the second season, there are a few passengers that haven't yet got their nose dirty. No need to point those players out, lets just say they've continued their lackluster play from the regular season.

Three Stars
1-Miika Kiprusoff - Under constant pressure in the last half of the game, Kiprusoff inspires confidence, and all 3 goals were attempts at net that would take more luck to save then skill. Very solid and great bounceback.

2-Joe Thornton - Ineffective most of the game thanks to the Flames defenseman. Making simple mistakes and looking clumsy at times. That said, when it mattered, gets the stick in the way and ties up the series, just like that. 3 - Jarome Iginla - 2 points again. The Sharks are doing the best to neutralize the captains control over the game, yet he still manages to figure prominently on the scoreboard....this writer expects to see a breakout superstar game in the near future from #12.

Odds and Ends
If this went into OT, I think the Flames would've been re focused, as certainly after the 2-2 goal, they wanted to play for OT and get that rest. ... Hurts, no question, being that close from 3-1 up. But SJ again showed me little once again...for a team that should have been desperate like they should've been also in Game 2, they ended up winning on getting two late minute fortunate goals, more a product of the Flames sitting back in a shell then SJ coming on with pressure the Flames couldn't handle. ... Anyone and their dog would've taken the series 2-2 at this point. That, and given that it appears the Flames still are the ones dictating the play, when they play well, SJ doesn't match, and besides the 3 odd minutes in game 3, only when the Flames sit back, or as in game 2, take a gross number of penalties, do the Sharks come on. ... Tomorrow will be tough no matter if they won or lost last night. But the win focuses them a bit more for tomorrow, whereas I'm thinking a win last night would've meant a sure SJ win tomorrow. Not trying to downplay the loss last night, but it did show that SJ can find a way to win if you do give up too many shots and chances come from nowhere, and Calgary will be a bit better adjusted now that they've been brought back down to earth like they were last night. ... I am counting on the Flames winning probably one of them in SJ...thus they key being they probably have to win at home on Sunday. Both highly attainable goals at this point. .... So all in all, Flames are a bit unlucky to be tied at 2, they were full value for Game 1 win, were two miraculous saves from Nabokov and 22 minutes in penalties that slowed momentum down from going to OT at least, in Game 2, and still just lost. Outside of 3 minutes in Game 3, a better team for the other 57 mins and last nights game flow was pretty even, SJ getting all those shots to the net meaning they got that extra junk goal. ... This writer was pretty confident they can pull this out...and, knock on wood, even if they lose tomorrow (and are then subjected to 2 days of Calgary media proclaiming the Flames all but done) I still think the combination of their play to this point (and SJ's underwhelmingness) can easily pull out two in a row, given how close these two teams really are style wise when it comes right down to it, and the Flames having more of the run of the play in my opinion as mentioned above, to this point.

Next up
Where the Flames made hay in 2004...Game 5's on the road. The Flames have the chance to come back home with a lead. Thursday evening, 8pm, on CBC.



Phaneuf - Vandermeer
Regehr - Sarich
Hale - Aucoin



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