Monday, April 23, 2007


Flames Continue OT Legacy

Well, another spring and another early exit for the Flames. This is hardly surprising, but what's even less surprising is the fact that the Red Wings polished them off in overtime. Calgary has an esteemed tradition of failure when the game is on the line after 3 periods of play. Lets have a look back:

This tradition dates back all the way to the days of the Atlanta Flames, Calgary's predecessor. In their very first playoff appearance in 1973-74, the Flames were swept by the eventual Cup-champion Philadelphia Flyers. The decisive Game 4 ended 5:40 into OT on a goal by Dave "The Hammer" Schultz. It was one of 8 career playoff goals (in 73 games) for a man more well-known for fighting than scoring.

The Flames made the playoffs several more times while in the American south, but never managed to get out of the first round. Their final season saw them pitted against the New York Rangers in the opening round best-of-five. Game 1 went the Rangers way via a Steve Vickers marker just 33 seconds into the OT. The Flames went on to lose the series 3-1, then packed their bags for Calgary.

After going deep into the playoffs in their inaugural season in Calgary, the Flames had high hopes for the 1982 playoffs. But an opening round 3-0 sweep by the Vancouver Canucks ended things quickly. The Canucks won Game 2 in OT thanks to the heroics of Dave "Tiger" Williams. Williams ended his career with 12 goals in 83 playoffs games, none bigger than this one, as it was his only OT goal.

Next year, the Flames got revenge by taking out Vancouver in OT in the first round, but they were punished severely by the hockey gods for this, as Edmonton blasted them out of the second round, winning two of the games by the embarassing scores of 10-2 and then 9-1 in the season-ending Game 5.

The hard-luck Winnipeg Jets only won two playoff series' in their history, both of them against Calgary. The first of these was in 1985. The Jets' Brian Mullen got the party started in Game 1, beating the Flames in OT and giving the Jets a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

In 1986, the Flames reached the finals for the first time after defeating St. Louis in Game 7 of the semi-final. But they almost didn't get there after Doug Wickenheiser capped off a miraculous Blues comeback in Game 6. His fourth and final career playoff goal gave St. Louis a 6-5 win despite Calgary holding three-goal advantage in the third period. By reaching the finals, the Flames allowwed themselves to become the answer to a trivia question: Who scored the fastest OT goal in playoff history? The answer is Brian Skrudland, who's goal gave Montreal a 3-2 victory in Game 2 after just 9 seconds of extra time. Yvon Corriveau (Hartford) and Joe Sakic (Colorado) have scored goals 24 seconds into OT since, but nobody has come any closer to this record that may well stand the test of time.

By 1988 the Flames were considered a Stanley Cup contender. They faced the Oilers in the Smythe division final, and many expected them to knock off the defending champions from Edmonton. But Wayne Gretzky scored short-handed in OT in Game 2 to send the Oilers home with a 2-0 series lead, paving the way for a humiliating four game sweep.

The Flames finally won the Cup in 1989, but Ryan Walter scored for Montreal in double OT in Game 3 of the final to give the Habs a 2-1 series lead that Calgary needed to overcome.

And now things begin to get exciting or excruciating depending on wether or not you like the Flames. Until this point, failures in OT had been experienced, but nothing any worse than most other teams go through from time to time. But after winning a Stanley Cup, things took a turn for the worse.

The Flames defense of their '89 Cup was short-lived. They played Los Angeles in round one, and the series turned in Game 3, where Tony Gronato's OT tally gave the Kings a 2-1 series lead. The Flames were back in LA for Game 6, where former Oiler Mike Krushelnyski floated a shot over a sprawling Mike Vernon to eliminate Calgary.

1991 was the last time the Flames and Oilers met in the post-season, and is considered by many to be one of the best series ever played. Calgary forced a game 7 after Theo Fleury scored in OT in Game 6, but that was as much OT magic as Calgary was going to experience. In Game 7 the Flames gassed an early 3-0 lead before Al MacInnis scored to tie the game 4-4 and send it to OT. But Esa Tikkanen's hat-trick goal gave the Oilers the series 6:58 into the fourth period.

1994 would provide the pinnacle of OT playoff failure in Cowtown. The favoured Flames took a commanding 3-1 series lead on Vancouver, and looked poised to win their first series in 5 years. But ex-Oiler Geoff Courtnall, Trevor Linden, and Pavel Bure took turns burning the Flames in OT as Vancouver stormed back with three consecutive OT wins to take the series on Bure's breakaway goal in double OT in Game 7, leaving the Saddledome in stunned disbelief.

The Flames soldiered on into the spring of 1995 looking to finally shed the label of choker and do some damage in the playoffs. But San Jose's Ulf Dahlen struck in extra time in Game 2 to give the Sharks a 2-0 series lead heading to California. Over the next three games the Flames peppered the Sharks for a whopping 20 goals to grab a 3-2 lead in games. But Calgary blew their wad too early, and San Jose came back to force a Game 7. Again the final game was in Calgary, and again it went to double OT. And again the Flames lost. The hero this time was Edmonton native Ray Whitney.

By 1996, the Flames were a team in decline. The great regular season teams of the early 90's had performed shamefully, so little was expected this time around. And little was given, as the Chicago Blackhawks swept Calgary in four straight games. Still, as if their fans hadn't been punished enough, the Flames teased them in OT again in Game 4. The Flames hung on as the game dragged long into the night. Finally in triple OT ex-Oiler Joe Murphy did them in, marking the third consecutive year the Flames had been banished from the playoffs in OT on home ice.

Calgary took a long break from the post-season after this, not seeing the playoffs again until 2004. The Flames were looking to close out the Bertuzzi-less Canucks on home ice in game 6, but history struck again in the form of a Brendan Morrison triple OT goal. So it was back to Vancouver for Game 7, where in a single showing of mercy by the hockey gods, Calgary actually won the game in OT. They marched all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, and won game 5 in OT in Tampa Bay to come home with a chance to win the Cup on home ice. But in exchange for this brief repreive of OT disaster that the Flames enjoyed, they would pay dearly.

In perhaps the single most agonizing loss in team history, the Flames had their cup dreams dashed in double OT by Martin St. Louis of the Lightning, a player who was cut loose by the team just four years previous. Calgary couldn't recover and lost the Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay two nights later.

After the lockout, the Flames were back at it in 2006. Many expected them to walk all over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, their first round opponent. They had a chance to take a 3-1 series lead in Game 4, but Sean O'Donnell (5 playoff goals in 65 games) scored in OT to tie up the series. Calgary was shut-out at home in Game 7 a few days later.

And finally we reach the final chapter of a seemingly endless saga. April 22, 2007: Despite being dominated by Detroit in almost every conceivable way, the Flames still found themselves at home for game 6 in OT, with a chance to force a Game 7 back in Detroit. But who was kidding who? An unheralded Swede by the name of Johan Franzen struck for Detroit a few minutes into double OT to send the Flames to the golf course for another year.

I almost piss myself laughing every time I read this
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