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Playoff daily: The Day After

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The National Hockey League playoffs have arrived. The Calgary Flames are taking on the upstart Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Each week of the playoffs we start a new Flames Playoff Update page.



It includes Calgary Flames news, notes, quotes and anecdotes updated throughout the week with information from practices, games and morning skates. We might even throw in some information about the Flames opponent. Consider it your daily dish of quick playoff information.

Below is the Flames Playoff Update for the week beginning April 12, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009
 
The Day After: The Good, the Bad, and Whatever Else

The Good


Jonathan Toews: The young Blackhawks leader staked his claim in the competition for the future leadership of Canadian hockey with his performance last night. With his club reeling after a strong Flames first, Toews delivered two highlight goals and led his team to victory with his fire, focus, and finesse.



HOW TO GET PLAYOFF TICKETS
The Calgary Flames, Calgary Coop stores and participating Sport Chek stores will make at least 1,300 tickets per game available for the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
 

  • 600 tickets, various price ranges in an online draw. Register at calgaryflames.com by clicking here
  • 500 Sport Chek section tickets. Ballots available April 10, 2009
  • 200 tickets, random draw, at local Calgary Coop stores. Ballots available April 9, 2009

Jarome Iginla: Iggy started strong, scoring his first goal of the year against the Blackhawks and temporarily curing the team's power-play blues. As the game progressed, he worked diligently to try and spark the Flames, but was thwarted by Nikolai Khabibulin. No player on the Flames was more upset than Iggy in the aftermath of Game 2; let's see if getting home will enable him to find yet another gear.

Miikka Kiprusoff: Steady for most of the night, Kipper managed to keep his team afloat during the Chicago surge, and did his best to match his counterpart save for save. The Flames goalkeeper has played exceptionally so far this series, his team needs to work harder and help get him a W.

The Bad

60 Minutes of Hockey: Rather than try to pick apart different components of the game, one thread has run through the series so far. The Flames have been consistently inconsistent. The team has started both games very well, but have allowed Chicago to eventually dictate game play over the course of the 60 minutes. The frustration of the whole group was apparent following last night's loss.

"That's two games in a row." fumed Jarome Iginla. "That's totally unacceptable... When you're up 2-0 after totally outplaying them the first period, you know they're going to come back with a big push in the second. We know that. But we still didn't respond."

"We came out the way we wanted to... we've gotta be smarter and a lot harder," agreed Adrian Aucoin.

"They're a young fast team and it was just a matter of us giving them too much room... you don't wanna give anyone a free pass."

The two games have allowed the Flames to figure out what style of play is effective for them, and which style allows the Hawks to flourish. Now back on home turf for two games, the Flames need to use that knowledge effectively, and play the game to their advantage.

Whetever Else

Kris Versteeg was screaming at the Flames during the pre-game skate and continued trying to egg them on throughout the game... Cory Sarich, who missed the previous seven games with a lower-body injury, saw just over 7:00 of ice-time and did not see any action at all in the third period... Dustin Byfuglian had seven hits in the scrappy game, the most on either team. James Vandermeer led the Flames with five...

Inspirational Message

Aucoin

Adrian Aucoin on regrouping at the 'Dome in front of a raucous Calgary crowd:

"We have a tough building to play in... We owe them a little bit better."


Saturday, April 18, 2009
 
Cammalleri Avoids Further Punishment.

Mike Cammalleri started the third period off poorly when he gave Martin Havlat a quick punch to the jaw during a faceoff. He received a two-minute penalty for high-sticking, but concerns abounded following the game that he would receive supplementary punishment for the act.

Cammalleri


The night before, with only seconds left in the 4-1 Pittsburgh win over Philadelphia, the Flyers Dan Carcillo delivered a similar punch to the Penguins' Maxime Talbot, and was given a one-game suspension as a result.

Cammalleri will not receive a similar suspension for his act, the difference in the eyes of the league seems to be the timing of the Carcillo incident, as well as his status as a repeat offender.


Sarich Almost Ready for Action.

Flames' defenceman Cory Sarich is one of only three current Flames, along with Andre Roy and Anders Eriksson, who have hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads. His playoff experience, along with his strong defence, will provide a major boost to the banged-up Flames blue-line once he can sort out his own injury concerns.

Sarich accompanied the team to Chicago for the first two games of the series, and has been skating regularly for over a week.
 

Sarich

"Oh, it's coming," he said. "Every day, it keeps getting better. I get a little more strength in there," Sarich told the Calgary Herald.

The team are playing the most exciting and important games of the season, and Sarich is anxious to get out on the ice and get in on the action.

"I don't like watching hockey games," said Sarich. "I'm a lot more nervous in the stands than I am out on the ice. I don't like that feeling. You get itchy this time of year. You want to be in there helping out your teammates."

When he does get healed up and returns to the lineup, his steady defensive play can only be a benefit for the blueline, and his experience playing winning playoff hockey will be a benefit for the whole team.



Friday, April 17, 2009
 
Chin-up Boys

The Flames suffered a disapointing loss last night against the Blackhawks last night in Chicago. After getting out to a fantastic start, the team eased up a bit and let the young Chicago team hang around. The result was two goals from Martin Havlat, the second one coming a mere 12 seconds into overtime to claim victory.


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We did a lot of good things tonight...It is what it is, we've got to get ready for Game 2 - Jordan Leopold

The group was frustrated by the final result, but they are doing their best to move on quickly and getting ready for Saturday's game two matchup.

"We did a lot of good things tonight... this one's in the books already, we've got to move on," said Jordan Leopold. "It is what it is, we've got to get ready for game two."

Despite their desire to put the game behind them, there was plenty to be encouraged by in the tough loss Thursday. The Flames had the 'Hawks playing their game for most of the contest and know a more consistant effort will earn them a win in game two.

"We've got to take some good things out of this, there was lots of good things," said Leopold.

The Flames proved to themselves Thursday that they can keep up with the speedy Blackhawks, now they need to bounce back with a little bit extra on Saturday.

Crease Controversy

The overtime winner last night did not come without some controversy, as the 'Hawks Andrew Ladd stood over Mikka Kiprusoff in his crease when Martin Havlat buried the game winner. Ladd was initially pushed towards the net by Jordan Leopold, but whether or not he attempted to avoid Kiprusoff is up for debate.

Following the game head coach Mike Keenan was fuming at the lack of response from the refs following such a quick end to overtime.

"The officials either saw (the goal) differently or didn't make the call," said Keenan. "The back door (to the players' bench) was open and the parade was on."

Keenan felt the Blackhawks consistantly invaded Kipper's space throughout the game, but if the officials continue to leave their whistles in their pockets, the Flames' defense is going to need to take care of business themselves.



Thursday, April 16, 2009
 
Five Burning Issues

Gameday is finally here. The ups and downs of the regular season are now a distant memory as the playoffs begin for the Flames tonight in Chicago (6:30 pm TSN, The Fan 960). The series against the Blackhawks promises to be one of the best first round matchups in this year's run to the Stanley Cup, and the Flames want to get out to a strong start in the 'Windy City.'

"We want to have a great first game, we really want to set a tone," said Craig Conroy.


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The Blackhawks gave the Flames fits during the regular season, winning all four games, but the team knows a great deal has changed since the two teams last met.

"The teams have changed since we've played them. We've made two valuable additions to our hockey club... there's been changes in personnel from both sides that would impact the series for both teams," said head coach Mike Keenan. "We do respect them and respect their ability, but at the same time the teams have changed and the circumstances have changed."

The Flames are entering the series confident, yet aware that their opponents are going to be tenacious and resilient, that they will have to put forth a strong and cohesive effort to compete with a young and hungry Chicago team.

With that in mind here, in no particular order, are the five burning issues that will dictate the success of the Flames in their series against the Blackhawks:

1. Power Play- The Flames finished the season 0 for 43 in the last ten games, but the 'Hawks suffered a similar drought, going 2 for 33 in their final nine contests.

"We deserve that scrutiny (surrounding the PP) and need to be better, and we will be better," said Jarome Iginla.

Iginla

Converting on the man-advantage is going to be essential to keep Chicago off-balance, and given their frustrations with Khabibulin, the Flames need to take goals where they can get them.

2. Physical Play vs. Speed- One of the real strengths of the young Blackhawks squad is their team speed. While the Flames are no slouches themselves, they cannot afford to engage in a track-meet with their opponents. The team knows they need to play their physical, punishing brand of hockey to slow Chicago down.

"We're going to be hard on them. Whenever they touch the puck, we're going to have to play the body," said former Blackhawk Rene Bourque.

"If we play our game we'll be a hard team to beat, we just have to do it," agreed Andre Roy, who won a cup in 2004 with Tampa Bay.

3. Leadership- For fans of Canadian hockey, the Iginla/Toews matchup is a tremendous opportunity to see the player who currently personifies all the ideals of an on-ice leader in Iggy, go up against one of the players considered to be a top future leader in Toews.

"(Iginla) is our key component. When Iggy goes, the team goes," said Todd Bertuzzi.

Iginla has been there before and excelled; he admits that this year's team is the best he's played for, and he has every opportunity to shine. Toews is young and hungry and has quickly endeared himself to a Chicago team that appears ready to follow him anywhere. Sounds like the makings for an intriguing, yet underrated, matchup.

4. Goaltenders- Much has been made of 'Hawks' goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin's career record against the Flames. (22-5-2), but Miikka Kiprusoff and his 45 wins on the year are nothing to be taken lightly.

"One thing that's going to be intriguing about this series is that you've got two excellent goalies." Keenan

The two netminders last met up in the postseason during the 2004 Stanley Cup finals, and Kipper will surely be looking to even the score.

5. Who plays- See if you can follow along. Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross are expected to play tonight. Cory Sarich and Mark Giordano have been skating all week and are with the team but remain day-to-day. Rhett Warrener is waiting for physicians' approval to play. Dustin Boyd, Anders Eriksson, Matt Pelech, John Negrin, Brett Suter, David Van der Gulik, Kyle Greentree, and Warren Peters were all called up from the farm, placed on the roster and flown out to Chicago with the team.

With the secrecy surrounding injuries at this time of year, the Flames have stacked the deck with reserves that have almost all played for the big club at some point in the season.

The Flames had two pre-game skates this morning, one for those expected to suit up tonight and another for the rest of them.

The health/experience/performance of role players and how the team responds to any newfound roster adversity will play a large role in dictating their success against the Blackhawks.

Keetley Recalled
Thursday the Flames recalled goaltender Matt Keetley from Quad City meaning that both goalies from the Flames AHL team have been recalled.

Keetley



Wednesday, April 15, 2009
 
Jarome Song Gone Viral

Flames fans are the best in hockey, their passion for their team is unmatched in its ferocity or the range of ways it is expressed. One tradition that takes on a new form for almost every playoff run is a Flames inspired song.

This year's tune is an ode to Jarome Iginla titled 'Hey There Iginla.' The side-splitting lyrics were written by local Flames fan Arun Lakra to the melody of the 2007 song 'Hey There Delilah' by the Plain White T's. Lakra had his brother-in-law (and Oilers fan) Shubh Sindhu provide vocals, and they filmed a video using an Iginla bobblehead doll. Among other topics, the song pokes fun at other top-tier NHL stars, and the lack of exposure Iggy recieves throughout the league.

With over 50,000 hits already the clip is spreading by the hour from inbox to inbox, through the facebook pages and twitters of Flames' fans around the city, country and planet. Check it out for yourself, have a giggle, pass it on, and get psyched.

It's playoff time baby!!!!!


Go-time for Bertuzzi

When Todd Bertuzzi chose to sign in Calgary last summer, he did so knowing the Flames were a team with playoff aspirations and expectations. Now that the postseason has arrived and those aspirations and expectations have risen, Bertuzzi is anxious to begin the run for the Stanley Cup.

"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well and it's time to answer the bell. You can only do so much talking and now it's time to go play," said Bertuzzi, who believes starting the series in Chicago can help the team.

"We're going in to play our game. It's a good thing we're starting on the road, we can go in there and try to steal a couple."

Bertuzzi's playmaking ability, playoff experience, and play-affecting toughness are all going to be needed for the group to advance to the second round. One area where Bertuzzi's style of play can be particularly effective is with the man-advantage, where the Flames finished the season 0 for 43 in the last 10 games. He feels turning the power-play around is not far off.

"It's just getting more shots (is needed on the PP), keeping it simpler, and getting more movement around," said Bertuzzi. "We've become stationary and it's pretty easy to kill when guys are in certain positions the whole time and not moving around."

Another storyline Bertuzzi is well aware of is Khabibulin's excellent record against Calgary, having gone 22-5-2 since his days as a Winnipeg Jet. As this is his first year with the team, Bertuzzi doesn't put much stock in that particular statistic, and is ready to help reverse the trend.

"One key thing for us is to make sure we get guys stopping at the net... if we can get that and get second and third chances he's a goaltender that sits back in his net so there's gonna be rebounds in the high slot."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glencross Skating

After missing the final two games of the season with a mysterious illness, Curtis Glencross was back on the ice Tuesday practicing with the team and doing his best to quickly shake off the rust.

"Felt pretty good out there, I'll get a couple of days of skating in before we kick it all off and get my legs back under me," said Glencross. "I'm all healed up now and ready to get 'er going."


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This year will be Glencross' first trip to the postseason, and he is confident in the Flames' ability to compete with the Blackhawks despite the one-sided regular season series.

"I think we match up (with the Blackhawks) pretty good. We've got more experience here than they do," said Glencross. "Hopefully we can play tough and push them out of the game a bit. That's gonna be our game plan, to go out and be hard on those guys."

Glencross will be a key on th forecheck and getting pressure on the young Blackhawks defence as well as one of the key players on the penalty killing unit.

The Khabibulin Factor

The Flames will face a familiar foe in their series against Chicago, Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. The 'Bulin Wall' has played exceptionally well against Calgary dating back to his days with the Winnipeg Jets, amassing a 22-5-2 record with a 2.06 goals-against average, and a .931 save percentage. Khabibulin was also the Tampa Bay backstop in 2004 when the Lightning outlasted the Flames in the Stanley Cup final.

Head coach Mike Keenan is aware of the skill level the Chicago netminder possesses, but feels Miikka Kiprusoff will be just as difficult for the Blackhawks to deal with.

Bourque

"Obviously he's a competent goalie and he's been playing well right now. He's had two shutouts in his last four games," said Keenan. "One thing that's going to be intriguing about this series is that you've got two excellent goalies."

Rene Bourque understands the challenge at hand all too well, having played with the Blackhawks for his first three years in the league.

"When (Khabibulin) is playing on his game he's hard to beat... he's one of the best goalies in the league," said Bourque.

"It's not going to be easy to get (pucks) by him, but we're going to have to find a way."

Curtis Glencross knows that solving Nikolai Khabibulin will be essential to the teams' success.

"Our biggest mindset is getting traffic in front of him and getting shots through," said Glencross. "You have to get in there and get in his face every whistle. During play he likes to go and cut down his angles quite a bit. Guys like myself will be there at the top of the crease... it's tough for a goalie to be on his game when he can't see the puck."

Eriksson joins Flames

At 10:00 am this morning Anders Eriksson cleared waivers and officially joined the playoff roster. Eriksson was recalled from Quad City of the American Hockey League yesterday, but had to pass through re-entry waivers.

Eriksson

Any team lower in the standings than the Flames could have claimed Eriksson before the 10:00 am deadline, but he wouldn't have been eligible for their playoff roster.

In 64 games this season, the veteran blue-liner recorded 49 points. The native of Sweden has played 552 NHL games and brings valuable experience from his days as a member of Detroit’s 1998 Stanley Cup championship team.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Warrener not cleared

Enquiring minds wanted to know: Is Rhett Warrener going to dress in the playoffs?

"Ihave not been cleared to play," said Warrener, the veteran defenceman who has been sidelined for the enitre season with a shoulder injury.

Warrener


The rough and tumble defenceman has been practising with the team and, because of injuries on the blueline, there had been some thought that he would join the team for the first round playoff series against Chicago.

"I feel pretty good. But I have to get the doctor's permission first and that has not happened," said Warrener.

Asked about playing in Chicago, though, and Warrener's eyes lit up.

"That place will be rockin' and rolling," he said. Can you imagine how loud it will be?"

He also had a suggestion as to how to deal with the noise. "The best remedy is to shut them up with a couple of early goals, quiet them down."

Meanwhile, the Flames added to their roster by calling up forwards Brett Sutter, Dustin Boyd, Warren Peters, Kyle Greentree and David Van der Gulik as well as goaltender Leland Irving from Quad City (AHL).

At practice on Monday, Greentree and  Boyd, who spent most of the season with the Flames, drew in on the Flames third and fourth lines.

Keenan's perspective

With their opponent clearly in their sights, the Flames have a few days to size up their opponents before puckdrop Thursday evening in Chicago (6:30 pm, TSN, The Fan 960). The season series between the two teams was one-sided, with the Blackhawks taking all four contests. Despite their regular season frustrations, head coach Mike Keenan knows the team need incorporate a little selective amnesia in regards to their regular season contests.

"You can ask that question of them and they say no, and we're gonna say yes," was Keenan's response to whether or not the team would cast aside their record this year against Chicago.

The Flames went 0-4 this year against the Blackhawks, but without trying to excuse his team, Keenan believes the group's play was affected by forces beyond their control.

"A couple of games we got into Chicago at four in the morning and played a game. We came back here (to Calgary) after back-to-backs and they were sitting waiting for us, so there were some factors in the scheduling."

Despite his insistance that the regular season statistics were skewed, the coach has a great deal of respect for a Chicago team that seems to have shed it's 'up and coming status' and arrived as one of the powerhouse Western Conference teams.

"Chicago has revitalized their franchise and brought it back to life which is great for the league, great for the game," said Keenan. "They've got a very good team, a youthful team, we look forward to a good challenge and a competitive series from both teams."

Keenan enjoyed success as a head coach in Chicago, where he was the Blackhawks' head coach from 1988 to 1992, taking them to the conference finals twice. Keenan is one of the many in the Flames' organization who has a history in the mid-west, a plotline the coach seems to enjoy.

"Darryl (Sutter) and I and a number of our coaches, Rich (Preston) and Jimmy (Playfair) have all had experiences in Chicago as former players and/or coaches, and that makes it that much more fun for all of us."

Regardless of the past, both recent and distant, the Flames as a group know they have a tough draw for the first round and are going to need maximum focus and effort to compete with their opponents.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Looking for more power

There are two ways to look at the Flames power play these days. In the glass half empty



HOW TO GET PLAYOFF TICKETS
The Calgary Flames, Calgary Coop stores and participating Sport Chek stores will make at least 1,300 tickets per game available for the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
 

  • 600 tickets, various price ranges in an online draw. Register at calgaryflames.com by clicking here
  • 500 Sport Chek section tickets. Ballots available April 10, 2009
  • 200 tickets, random draw, at local Calgary Coop stores. Ballots available April 9, 2009

scenario, the power play woes, which saw the team go 0-43 over the final 10 games down the stretch, will cause the Flames even more grief, and losses, in their first round outing against Chicago. In the glass half full scenario, the power play is due to snap out of its funk and be a force in the first round series.

"The one thing that has been hurting us lately is the power play. I think it is something that we hven't really connected with," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin. "I'm hoping that once it starts clicking we will really start rolling with it and whoever we play will struggle with it."

Aucoin said the power play is "doing the right things" but not finising off the chances.

"We have the players for it. But until it happens it is something we have to deal with," said Aucoin.

The Flames lost all four games to the Hawks this season and were one for 20 on the power play.

"We haven't played our best against thme yet, either," said Aucoin.

Roster expands for series against Chicago

The Flames, a team that has been playing shorthanded because of injuries and salary cap complications, no longer has to worry about the salary cap. It does not apply to teams once the playoffs begin. That means the Flames will be able to have the full compliment of 20 players dressed for Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks. Expect the Flames to make some call-ups as early as Monday from the Quad City farm team, whose season ended on the weekend.

The Flames had iced fewer skaters than the 18 permitted because of a rash of injuries which also created cap room troubles.

The Flames also have a number of players in sick bay. Players in the dressing room have hinted that both Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich will return to the Flames blueline this week although the official word on rosters tends to blur once the regular season ends. Other players, including forwards Rene Bourque and Andre Roy, may also be ready for action against Chicago when the series opens up later this week in the Windy City, possibly on Thursday.

The Flames Playoff Update is compiled by calgaryflames.com staff and freelance writers

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