The Calgary Flames lost a hard-fought battle on Monday night to end their season but showed their determination, grit and character by playing through a laundry list of injuries.
GAME IN A MINUTE
THE NUMBERS GAME
44 - Shots on goal for the Flames
2 - Power play goals for the Hawks
1 - Goal of the playoffs for Todd Bertuzzi
THE BIG HIT
Cory Sarich gave the C of Red something to scream about during the penalty kill when he creamed Martin Havlat at the blueline. It wasn't quite on par with last season's hit on Marleau but it was Sarich's biggest hit of the postseason.
THE BIG SAVE
Miikka Kiprusoff stacked the pads to deny sniper Patrick Kane's wrist shot. The Finn was on the ice after making a blocker stop and the rebound bounced right to Kane. The Hawk ripped it towards the yawning cage but Kiprusoff threw his legs over just in time.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Flames outshot the Hawks by a margin of 3-1 but superb goaltending by Nikolai Khabibulin thwarted any comeback the team tried to make. They took a few undisciplined penalties and the Hawks made them pay for them.
OUR THREE STARS
1. Boyd - Did not quit on a single play
2. Nystrom - Gave 110% for 60 minutes
3. Sarich - Very strong on the backend
Injured players included Dion Phaneuf (undisclosed), Robyn Regehr (lower body), Mark Giordano (shoulder). Wayne Primeau (foot) and Rhett Warrener (shoulder) are out indefinitely. Scratched players included Andre Roy, Jamie Lundmark, Brett Sutter, Kyle Greentree, Matt Pelech, John Negrin, David Van Der Gulik, Leland Irving, Matt Keetley.
"The attrition grew as the playoffs went on," head coach Mike Keenan said, citing the loss of their key defensemen as playing a major role in the series ending.
"You take Keith and Seabrook out of their lineup ... it's a whole different series."
In addition to Robyn Regehr and Mark Giordano, the Flames were without Dion Phaneuf in the contest. The rugged blueliner was hit hard by Troy Brouwer in Game 5 on Saturday and suffered an upper body injury.
"Dion brings a lot of offense, brings a lot to the game and once again, we missed him tonight for sure," sighed Adam Pardy.
The club has been hamstringed with damages for the past couple of months and the banged-up crew just wasn't able to muster the energy and speed that the relatively healthy Blackhawks possessed. Despite the obvious up-hill climbed, the team would not allow themselves to use their ailments as an excuse.
"We're not going to use it as an excuse," a somber Jarome Iginla said.
"I thought the guys on our D played great."
Craig Conroy, with ice packs strapped across his chest and shoulders, wouldn't allow the injury talk to be a factor in the 4-1 loss.
"Well, no," when asked if the team was too beat up heading into Game 6. "We felt like we were going to throw everything at them. We tried to be physical - not as physical as we have been - and forecheck and turn pucks over and get things accomplished. It's frustrating that we didn't accomplish our goals."
Calgary went into the postseason with players hitting ice in substantial pain. Phaneuf, Pardy, Rene Bourque, Daymond Langkow, Cory Sarich and Conroy didn't let their battered bodies get in the way of lacing up.
The defense corps was the main victim in the plethora of injuries sustained. Regehr, Giordano, Adrian Aucoin, Sarich and Phaneuf being hit with a variety of ailments and Keenan let it be known that his depleted blueline was playing with injuries that were far from minor.
"Cory was playing with a broken foot," he said with a deep sigh before saying that players like Langkow and Conroy were also much-more banged up than they were thought to be.
It was the long-term injuries that crippled the club. The Flames really missed shutdown defenseman Regehr against the speedy Hawks throughout the series.
"When you look at their status in the league, Robyn is probably one of the best shutdown D," said Pardy, sporting a swollen and bruised face.
"To not have him in the lineup, you're missing a big piece of the puzzle. We certainly missed him ever since he got injured."
The forwards didn't escape the pain either. From February on, Bourque, Langkow, Conroy, Todd Bertuzzi and Curtis Glencross all missed games with injuries ranging from a high ankle sprain to an virus.
Bertuzzi, with a very swollen right lip, briefly faced the media but was too overcome by the loss to say anything other than the fact he was very disappointed in the way his season ended.
The silver lining to the continuous stream injuries? Several players had the chance to step up and elevate their games to a new level. David Moss and Eric Nystrom were given more minutes and responsibilities and they responded. Moss hit the 20-goal plateau and Nystrom has become known for his clutch performances that have won crucial games.
"I always believe in myself and my abilities and I'm just trying to push the coaches hands to give me some more ice time. That's what every player is trying to do out there, they're pushing the guy ahead of him," he said when asked about his game throughout the year.
"But personal stats mean nothing."
Pardy also stepped to the plate in the face of injuries, showing that he has what it takes to make it in the NHL. The Bonavista product will likely be a familiar sight on the blueline next season.
The Flames call-ups showed great promise and players like Matt Pelech, Warren Peters and Jamie Lundmark made valuable contributions to the team. Many rookies even looked like they were ready to make the jump to the big league full-time.
Those are the positives that fans need to take into the offseason with them instead of dwelling on the first-round exit. That and their team played their hearts out in the face of adversity.