By Jesse Campigotto
So it all comes down to this.
After six playoff games, five of which were decided by one goal, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Calgary Flames meet tonight to decide who goes on to the next round and who shuts 'er down for the summer.
At the risk of offending Ducks fans (apologies to both of you), a win by the Flames would be, frankly, better.
For one, hockey has considerably more social import in the city of Calgary than in Anaheim. While a Ducks win would be greeted with (perhaps) feigned interest or (more likely) vaguely hostile indifference by most Southern Californians, a Flames win would send thousands of Calgarians stumbling drunkenly down the Red Mile.
To be fair, a Flames loss would also probably send thousands of Calgarians stumbling drunkenly down the Red Mile, but here's hoping the beverages served tonight in Cowtown are consumed in the spirit of joy and prosperity.
GAME OVERThanks for joining us tonight. We'll be back (and considerably more cheerful) Friday night when the free-wheeling Buffalo Sabres travel to Ottawa to take on the freer-wheeling Senators for Game 1 of their second-round series.
GAME OVERPlay-by-play man Don Wittman informs us that Anaheim had 3000 empty seats at their last home game. Let's see: empty seats down south, trapping teams advancing to the second round... yeah, this is really a Brand New NHL.
THIRD PERIOD, 20:00Final: Anaheim 3, Calgary 0. Mercifully, it's over.
THIRD PERIOD, 19:40Anaheim 3, Calgary 0. And that'll do it. Jeff Friesen buries an empty-netter from just past the blue-line.
THIRD PERIOD, 18:49Kiprusoff is out of the goal and the Flames are "pressing" for the tying goal with the extra attacker.
THIRD PERIOD, 16:57Just over three minutes to go and the Ducks strangling trap is proving nearly impossible to penetrate.
THIRD PERIOD, 14:01Time is a-tickin' and the Flames aren't a-scorin'.
THIRD PERIOD, 11:30As a wise friend once said, "Defence wins championships and all, but you've got to put the puck in the net."
THIRD PERIOD, 10:17The crowd is really frustrated. When the Flames break out of their zone, you hear a wave of excitement come over the fans before they realize it's Chris Simon carrying the puck and they immediately deflate.
THIRD PERIOD, 5:49Anaheim's Andy McDonald is called for roughing after cross-checking Stephane Yelle in the back of the head near the Flames bench. Yelle is down for a while before heading to the Flames' bench looking dazed.
THIRD PERIOD, 4:49Some hard forechecking by the Ducks keeps the Flames bottled in their zone. It's almost shocking how flat Calgary has looked tonight.
THIRD PERIOD, 0:56I'm off my soapbox and the third period is underway. Bryzgalov makes a good save amid a crowded crease to keep Calgary scoreless.
Okay, I want to talk about the whole "Should defencemen put their sticks in front of shots or just let them go through?" debate. Usually I'd rather get into debates on religion and politics because they're less emotional than this one, but here goes.
Yes, sometimes a puck hits a defenceman's stick and goes in, like last night when it happened to Montreal's Craig Rivet. But, much, much, much more often, the puck ends up 20 rows up in the crowd (or at least it did before they installed those ridiculous nets over the end glass).
The problem in making this argument, though, is that we'll never know what would have ultimately happened to those pucks had they been allowed to go straight through to the goalie. Maybe the goalie would have stopped them, maybe not. But the pucks that deflect into the net - we know what happens to them.
So there's more obvious visual evidence to support the argument that defencemen shouldn't try to deflect pucks than to support the argument that they should, making the latter argument much more difficult to make. But that doesn't mean it's incorrect.
SECOND INTERMISSIONSorry, just realized I'd been labelling the last few posts as "third period." It's not over yet, folks. It only seems like it.
SECOND PERIOD, 20:00Just a terrible period for the Flames. They were outshot 10-3 and outscored 2-0.
SECOND PERIOD, 19:01Anaheim 2, Calgary 0. Ruslan Salei wires a slapper from the point that goes off the post and in. How the Flames are going to score two goals, I do not know.
SECOND PERIOD, 17:35With Anaheim on a power play, the Ducks' Corey Perry goes down and appears to be in some difficulty. A replay shows Perry collided knee-on-knee with a teammate away form the puck.
SECOND PERIOD, 12:41While on a power play, the Flames register their first shot of the period. The power play, which expires seconds later, was again listless. On several occassions the Ducks beat the Flames to the dump-in and cleared the zone.
SECOND PERIOD, 10:02We're past the mid-way point and the Flames have not registered a shot on goal this period.
SECOND PERIOD, 9:29As Teddy KGB of Rounders fame would say, "Darryl Sutter's teams, they check, check, check, check all night. They trap me!"
SECOND PERIOD, 7:51Poor Iginla. He's got no help out there. At least last year the Flames had Craig Conroy. No matter what happens in these playoffs, hopefully they'll look for some offensive help this summer.
SECOND PERIOD, 5:12Anaheim 1, Calgary 0. This won't help. Teemu Selanne comes down the left wing and snaps a wrist shot past Kiprusoff on the short side. Maybe this will force the Flames to open things up a bit.
SECOND PERIOD, 2:20This is almost surreal. The Calgary crowd is out of this game. They're not even blowing those plastic horn things.
FIRST INTERMISSIONCan you tell I'm grasping at straws right now?
FIRST INTERMISSIONEver notice that, when you're drinking a can of pop, there's always a few drops at the bottom that you can't get out of the can? Why is that? It's perplexing.
FIRST INTERMISSIONIn an effort to electroshock us back into coherence, CBC rolls some much-needed classic Kings-Oilers and Kings-Leafs playoff highlights that include a great save by Kelly Hrudey and some nice goals by Wayne Gretzky. I feel better now. That was like a B-12 shot.
FIRST PERIOD, 20:00CBC's Steve Armitage notes that there "wasn't a lot of skating room" for either team in the first period. That's a nice way of putting it. Amazingly, though, each team managed 10 shots on goals. The Flames will start the second period with a 19-second power play.
FIRST PERIOD, 19:30With the Ducks' Joffrey Lupul off for high-sticking, the best word to describe the Flames' power play tonight is "anemic." Or "sluggish." Or maybe "listless."
FIRST PERIOD, 17:04We get a little bit of action when Niedermayer cuts in on goal and is stopped by Mikka Kiprusoff. The rebound goes right to Jeff Friesen, but he can't beat the always impeccably-positioned Flames goalie.
FIRST PERIOD, 17:04Yeah, yeah, I know. It's Game 7. Game 7's are full of "drama" and "passion" and "intensity." Unfortunately, none of that is "making any difference." This is dull hockey, folks.
FIRST PERIOD, 13:56The Ducks' Rob Niedermayer is called for the game's first penalty. The normally rabid Calgary fans, who, like the rest of us, have been all but lulled to sleep, barely muster a cheer.
FIRST PERIOD, 12:20The Flames get a decent chance as Tony Amonte takes advantage of a bad bounce and tries to feed Jarome Iginla in front, but a Ducks defenceman breaks up the pass with his stick. It doesn't sound like much, but this is probably the best scoring chance of the game so far.
FIRST PERIOD, 7:57Still no score, and the scoring chances have been something less than "glorious." With these two teams, it's hard to believe we'll see very much scoring tonight.
FIRST PERIOD, 4:10The Flames fans have that Sea of Red thing going again, where they all wear red shirts. It's looks terrific. One thing I'll never understand, though, is the people wearing team apparel that doesn't match the single-colour motif the crowd is going for. I mean, why wear a white Flames jersey? You're obviously a Flames fan, so I'm guessing you approve of the Sea of Red. Even if it doesn't have a Flames logo on it, just wear a red shirt. Thank you.
MOMENTS TO GAME TIME
It'll be Ilja Bryzgalov
in goal for the Ducks. Though he's a rookie, Bryzgalov was statistically similar to number-one man J.S. Giguere in the regular season and has been steady in the playoffs. With Giguere banged up, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle made the right call.
MOMENTS TO GAME TIMECBC brings us a live look (and listen) at the Flames dressing room as the players head out to take the ice. Predictably, the pre-game chatter is littered with f-bombs. Raw, unfiltered television at its best, folks.
5 MINUTES TO GAME TIMEThis is the second-straight season in which the Flames find themselves in a first-round Game 7. In 2004 they knocked off the Vancouver Canucks when legendary playoff Johnny-on-the-spot Martin Gelinas scored 1:25 into overtime.