CALGARY (CP) - The Calgary Flames may have been dealt a tough blow in drawing the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the NHL post-season, but it was a disappointing regular season that put them in that difficult situation in the first place.
Calgary was eliminated from the playoffs Sunday after a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings. For the Flames, the sting of the loss was compounded with the belief that the club never reached its potential in the regular season.
"We felt we had a good enough team to go a long way and I don't think we reached our potential all year," said veteran defenceman Rhett Warrener.
Despite Miikka Kiprusoff's heroic efforts Sunday night in which he made 54 saves, Detroit eliminated Calgary in six games as the Flames lost in the first round for the second straight season.
Perhaps it was expected after the Flames limped into the playoffs. Calgary lost its final four games and didn't clinch the final playoff spot in the West until the second last day of the regular season.
Considered by some as one of the teams to beat in the West after upgrading its offence over the summer with the acquisition of Alex Tanguay, Calgary never really found its groove.
"We felt from day one of the season that we had a good enough team to play against anybody. We certainly had the goaltender, so this definitely stings right now," Tanguay said.
The Flames were a successful defensive club under Darryl Sutter; they rode that style of play to the Stanley Cup final in 2004.
Calgary was much more dangerous team offensively this past season under first year coach Jim Playfair. However, the increased goal production seemed to come at the expense of its normally suffocating defensive style.
Detroit took advantage, outshooting the Flames in all six games, the shot disparity in excess of 25 shots in games one, two, and six.
"Miikka was great, the best goalie in the league," said Craig Conroy, a big part of Calgary's 2004 team who the Flames re-acquired at the trade deadline. "If anyone was watching those games, he's the only reason we had a chance, he was unbelievable.
"That's why you always believe if you're in Calgary, you've got a chance. The whole series, he did absolutely everything in his power to will us through."
In the end, the series played out much like the regular season for the Flames with them unable to win or generate the faintest bit of momentum on the road. Calgary had the worst road record (13-20-8) of the 16 playoff teams, and it showed as they were outscored 12-3 in the three games at Joe Louis Arena.
"There's such a fine line between winning and losing," said Tanguay, who won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001. "The teams I've been a part of over the years, it's not a switch you turn on when the playoff time comes around. We tried in every different way to be better on the road, to play up to our potential on the road, but I don't think we got to the level that we thought we were capable of playing on the road."