The importance of a strong start for the Calgary Flames is something that can't be understated.
The Flames had success in the past two games and much of it can be attributed to not falling behind early. Memories of Game 2 when the Canucks took an early 2-0 lead into the locker room after the first period are still fresh in the minds of Calgary.
"We know the building is going to be rocking," Flames forward Josh Jooris said. "We know they’re going to come out. Their backs are against the wall. If we can get a good start, get some physical play in early and set the tone, match their intensity and hopefully get that first goal, that’ll be big for us."
The early success the Flames had in Game 4 is exactly what they'll try to replicate tonight.
"You can always hope for starts like that, but we are facing a team with lots of character and they understand the situation too," Bob Hartley said in his morning media address. "I keep repeating to our players for the last two or three months to recognize the situation. We are not smarter than anybody else in this league. They know the game as well as we do."
DOING IT FOR THE C OF RED
Calgary is going crazy for the Flames.
The buzz surrounding the city and support the fans have given the players extra motivation to get the job done and move on to round two for the first time since 2004.
"It’s unbelievable the support we have back home," Jooris said. "It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable to play in front of them and we know how much this means to them. If we can get this game tonight it’ll be big for the city. We just want to keep it going for them. It’s a lot of fun for them back home being able to follow us this far into the playoffs. We want to keep it going for them."
Jonas Hiller will look to continue his mastery over the Canucks tonight in Game 5.
In perhaps his best performance of the post-season, Hiller surrendered just one goal and stopped 28 shots to lead Calgary to a 3-1 series lead. He has produced a .938 save percentage and 1.79 goals against average.
Holding off the Canucks attack to begin the game is foremost for Hiller.
"We want to go out there and don’t want to get scored on first," Hiller said. "As a team, we recognized what happened in Game 2 and I think we came out pretty strong in Games 3 and 4. We’ve got to do the same thing on the road again and put them on their heels and don’t give them any life."
The winner of the Flames-Canucks series will go on to face the Anaheim Ducks -- Hiller's former team -- who disposed of the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday.
"I barely noticed last night," Hiller chuckled. "At the end we’ve got to do our job to move on. We can worry after that. We definitely want to finish the series as soon as possible. I think it will be tough again. Every single game has been close, so I expect the same tonight."
There's a good chance Calgary's group of young players is oblivious to the magnitude of what the're facing.
That ignorance has morphed into an advantage for the youngsters who seem to be handling the pressure of playoff hockey reasonably well -- which seems to be a rare occurrence.
"Look at Sam Bennett, Johnny [Gaudreau], [Sean Monahan, Josh Jooris, Tyler Wotherspoon --we probably have some others," Hartley said of his rookie skaters. "They’re playing their first playoff games. It seems like its business as usual. They rise up. I feel that the intensity, they get it. It’s not something that they’re sleeping on top of the playoffs. They’re enjoying the moment. I think again, I gave them credit all year so I’m not going to change."
Hartley has tremendous confidence in the rest of the group to get the job done.
"I’ve seen many playoff games before," he said. "This group has been remarkable all year. Whether we were riding some good waves, we never got out of our plan. When we rode that eight-game losing streak, there was no panic."
"We don’t control who Willie puts on the ice. One thing is certain. Ryan Miller has experience in the playoffs. He’s a competitor. He’s played many big games in Buffalo. They earned their spot like we did in the playoffs. This is Game 5 and we’re playing a seven-game series." - Bob Hartley
Game 5 will be broadcast on CBC (TV) and Sportsnet 960 The FAN (radio). Game time is 8:00 PM MT.
The Calgary Flames official Twitter account (@NHLFlames) will be live-tweeting the game and providing pre and post-game content. Fans can also follow along on the Flames official Instagram account (@NHLFlames) for exclusive, behind-the-scenes content.
The Calgary Flames official app is another way to follow along with the action, with goal and period summary notifications. The app is free and available to download on iTunes and Google Play.