When your back is up against the wall, you’re going to make sure that you leave everything out there. There are a lot of very good players over there and there’s a lot of pride in that room. We’re not expecting for one second that they are going to pack it in. It’s going to be a tough one. - Joe Colborne
CALGARY, AB -- It’s right up there with ‘one game at a time’ and ‘get pucks deep’, but the latest cliché coming from the Calgary Flames has a unique ring to it. It's one they haven't been able to use for a while.
The fourth win is the hardest to secure.
Up 3-1 in the Western Conference First Round best-of-7 against the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames have the opportunity to secure a spin in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and in enemy territory, no less, for the first time since 2004.
But the last one is the hardest to fetch, and it didn’t take Bob Hartley and Calgary’s coaching staff long to drive that point home.
“It was one of the first things that came out of our coach’s mouth. But we all know it,” said forward Joe Colborne. “We’ve been in situations like this before. When your back is up against the wall, you’re going to make sure that you leave everything out there. There are a lot of very good players over there and there’s a lot of pride in that room. We’re not expecting for one second that they are going to pack it in. It’s going to be a tough one.”
The Flames have only been out of the first round once since winning the Stanley Cup in 1989. In 2004, Calgary dashed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before being extinguished in Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flames have put the Canucks, who haven't escaped the first round since a Finals appearance of their own in 2011, on the brink of elimination heading into Game 5. After splitting the opening two games in Vancouver, Calgary took the next two games at Scotiabank Saddledome -- their first home set since 2009 -- to take a commanding series lead.
It’s the hardest to win, though.
“It was my first message to them -- 'Hey, stay the course,'” Hartley said. “It has been our story all year, those seven-game segments and keep grinding away, keep leaning on them, keep pressuring them. We need one more, so there's no celebration. It's business as usual. That's one thing I really like from this group, it's our composure. Our leadership group, even our kids, no one is jumping.
“After the game, we're happy and everything, but we park it. I think that this year, we developed the ability, whether after a bad loss or after a good win, the next morning it was business as usual. The focus is on the next one.”
But Game 2, a 4-1 loss to the Canucks, is still firmly planted in Calgary’s memory.
It's the only blemish in the series for the Flames.
“I thought in Game 2 their crowd really amped them up a lot and they cam out strong,” Colborne said. “As we’ve tried to do with our crowd in Games 3 and 4 with our crowd, it will be important for us to get out there and try to continue our physical play. If we can do that, we will have a good chance to take Game 5.
“You have to realize that situations like this, opportunities like this don’t come around very often and you have to take advantage of them when they do. Even though we do have a few opportunities, it would mean a lot to get it done in 5 and give some guys a few extra days to recover. That could be big as the playoffs go on.”
CUTTING IT CLOSE
Brandon Bollig got a big head start on his playoff beard but the rugged Flames forward showed up to Wednesday’s optional skate looking clean-cut, much to the surprise of teammates, coaches and media members alike.
“I think he had a little mishap trimming his beard and took a chunk out and had to take it all off,” Dennis Wideman reported.
“Tried to do some maintenance and had a little trimmer malfunction,” confirmed Bollig. “I think I realized I use up all my goals from that other beard anyways, so it’s time to start a new one. Luckily, I think, in a couple hours I’ll have a better beard than most of these kids anyways. Unfortunate timing, but it’ll fine.
“Found a couple scars I didn’t realize I had. I found a pencil in there from grade school. It was nice to find a couple surprises.
“A few hours here and I’ll be back up in the top couple guys on the team.”
It didn’t take long for a tidied-up Bollig to be the butt-end of a few jabs from teammates.
“I had to do a quick double-take there,” Colborne said. “I didn’t notice it then I thought we had a new guy. This might be the only morning I can ever say I have more facial hair than Bolls. By the time we get off the plane he’ll probably have grown it passed me though.”
NOTES: The Flames held an optional skate at WinSport before traveling to Vancouver for Game 5.