Success is intoxicating.
The Flames won their first game of the 2015 playoffs, and oh what a victory it was. They took the lead with just under thirty seconds left, taking the lead for the first time in the game. Time and again they had proven to be masters of the third period comeback in the regular season, and they proved it again in their first playoff match in six years. It feels great to be a Flames fan right now!
There were a lot of positive things from the game. Jonas Hiller played exceptionally well in net; the only goal he did let in was a flukey double-deflection off of his own defensemen. The defense played well; while Vancouver did get a number of quality scoring chances, a lot of them developed from broken plays, and the defense did a great job of clearing up rebounds and making sure Hiller wasn’t tasked with anything too, too difficult. Offensively, the game seemed pretty even; the teams were tied in shots, and both teams had good chances. Ultimately, however, I think there was a simple reason why Calgary prevailed.
Calgary had a physical presence the Vancouver simply didn’t have yesterday. This is almost shocking for me to write, because I’ve gotten so used to a complete lack of physical play from Calgary over the years. But yesterday, it was there. And while it may not have been what necessarily won game 1, it will definitely be what wins game 6 or game 7. Playoffs are all about wearing a team down, and grinding out wins. The Flames set the foundation for that yesterday. Michael Ferland had a terrific game; he was an impact player on every shift due to his physical presence. (He almost made me forget we were missing Lance Bouma, and that is high praise indeed.) Sam Bennett, the highly touted prospect who the Flames drafted this year, played way beyond his years, and seemed like a power forward in his prime. (Crazy to think he’s the same age as me – that just blows my mind.) The Flames have a plethora of talent in prospects, and the future is going to be great down the road.
On a more short-term scale, however, I think things are looking very well. Important to keep in mind that only one game has been played, and not to let the success go to your head. That being said, the Flames played an ideal game in game 1, and I think if they play the way they did yesterday for the rest of the series they can take the series. But touch wood, right? Here’s to an even better game 2, and Go Flames Go!