(I know, I know. You guys don’t like it when I talk about the Flames (or Bruins, for that matter). I did it too often at the beginning of the season and got enough e-mail about it that I pretty much stopped doing it entirely. But tonight, my boys kinda forced my hand. I hope you’ll appreciate my lack of choice in this matter.)
Imagine the perfect postseason game, if you will. Lots of physicality? Nice, close, exciting game? A bit of nastiness? Yeah, that sounds about right.
And that was exactly what everyone who watched Game 3 of the Calgary/Chicago series got, and Calgary pulled the series back within a game thanks to an impressive 4-2 victory. The game was back-and-forth, the tensions high, the boardwork consistently more like a near-brawl. Frankly, I have to admit that I gave the Flames no chance in this series coming in, and certainly not after the first two games last week, in which the Flames cranked out maybe 30 combined minutes of attentive, hardnosed hockey and suffered a pair of well-deserved losses because of it.
Not tonight. The Flames, no doubt fueled by an electrifying Saddledome crowd, played maaaybe five minutes of the type of hockey that typified the first two losses of the series, and that led directly to Chicago’s opening salvo, a Patrick Sharp goal on a power play caused by an Olli Jokinen roughing call that is actually in the dictionary next to “Rockhead penalty” (It is, I checked).
But after that, it was pretty much 55 straight minutes of Calgary doing the ony thing that was going to make it successful against a team that had so harangued it in the two showdowns in Chicago: hit everything. It was interesting to note that, in the first period on Saturday, Calgary dished out 21 hits and entered the dressing room up 2-0 as a result, but then saw the game slip away as, over the next 40 minutes, it only mustered 16 checks and pretty much let Chicago go where it pleased.
No such luck for the Blackhawks tonight. Calgary had 15 hits in the first period, 17 in the second, and 13 in the third. That’s 45 hits in 60 minutes, and the Flames were never more than plus or minus two on the overall average in any period. That indicates that the Flames, instead of playing wild, emotional hockey and having that flatline in the later stages, they kept everything at a steady level, just below the point of boiling over into something more volatile.
Things got nasty at the end, of course. No team likes getting pounded physically AND losing. And so all the childish trash talk to Jarome Iginla (which Pierre McGuire said is some of the worst he’s ever seen) and the near-fights and the crosschecks and the facewashing is understandable. And it’s going to make for some badass hockey on Wednesday.
Boston 4, Montreal 2
Montreal scored at 11:52 of the first period to get its first lead of the series. That lasted all of 5:43 before Phil Kessel answered. Then Boston pulled ahead at 3:35 of the second and Montreal answered 1:40 later. Then the Bruins said, “Alright, enough,” and scored at 17:21 of the same period. Then they played a consummate road third period and added an empty netter to take a 3-0 series lead. So long, Montreal. Fun fact, by the way: Montreal has only led for 5:43, like I said. Which is sad. But they’ve also been tied for just 48:52. And if you take out the 35:02 for which the score has been tied at 0-0, Montreal has only led or been tied for 19:33. Out of 180 minutes. Yeesh.
Washington 4, New York Rangers 0
Yeah, that’s a bit more like it. Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom both had three points, and the latter’s setup on Tom Poti’s goal was so pretty that Greece would have brought its full naval might to Priam’s shores over it.