The better team won Game 7 Tuesday night. If not in the Washington-Philadelphia series, then certainly in the San Jose-Calgary series, won 5-3 by the Sharks.
Led by reborn Jeremy Roenick, the Sharks dominated from the opening faceoff, overcame a 2-1 deficit and outworked, outwitted and outlasted the Flames. Roenick willed himself back into the lineup after getting scratched in Game 6 and led the way with two goals and two assists. Chalk one up for the old guy.
Full credit goes to the Sharks for rallying from a dismal effort in the sixth game to come through in the clutch. With the pressure on the favored team, it rose to the occasion.
So why couldn’t the Flames come through with the effort they put forth in Game 6? Well, they just couldn’t skate with the Sharks and when they ran into penalty issues in the second period, they completely crumbled like a bag of Hormel bacon bits. It wasn’t until desperation set in during the third period that the Flames put forth a concerted offensive effort.
Some questionable decisions by coach Mike Keenan didn’t help either. Keeping eighth defenseman Anders Eriksson in the lineup and giving him heavy minutes with Dion Phaneuf early on was inexcusable and smacked of desperation.
Eriksson was slow, flat-footed and hesitant. The Flames were shorthanded almost 10 minutes in the first period – four minutes due to penalties and 5:38 when Eriksson was on the ice. Yes, he was that bad.
Calgary escaped the first squared 1-1, but was outshot 14-5 and never really recovered.
Keenan also did a disservice to goalie Miikka Kiprusoff by pulling him in the second period when the Sharks went ahead 4-2. Did he honestly think the unlikely comeback could happen again like it did in Game 3? Instead, the Sharks scored a quick fifth goal on a cold Curtis Joseph and that effectively ended the game and series.
Moreover, Kiprusoff deserved more than to be pulled in the final game of the season. The Flames wouldn’t have made it to Game 7 without him.
THE KEENAN FACTOR
Calgary fans were hoping and expecting more from Keenan this season. Wasn’t Jim Playfair fired for last year’s first-round exit? What dimension did Keenan add? Tactical? Not likely. Motivational? Clearly not.
All season, the Flames lacked an identity and struggled with consistency. Yes, some players had fabulous seasons, but the team didn’t get any better under the experienced Keenan than it was under Playfair.
In an era when offense is supposed to matter, two of Calgary’s more talented player, Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay, regressed under Keenan. And two budding offensive prospects, Dustin Boyd and David Moss, never blossomed. Inexcusable.
Did the players tune out Keenan at some point? Did they ever tune him in?
So what becomes of Iron Mike now?
THN.com’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.