Khabibulin can quiet the crowd
ESPN's Darren Pang looks at what each goaltender must to to help himself and his team in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals:
|Clement: Power play adjustments|
Calgary is also having trouble adjusting to the philosophy used by Tampa Bay's penalty-killing units. Unlike most teams, the Lightning play the puck rather than a man in shorthanded situations, attempting to get between the puck and the offensive player in order to deny him possession.
If a Flames player is down near the paint around the goal the Tampa penalty killers will leave him there and try to get between him and the puck to prevent chances from down low. That also creates traffic in the shooting lanes, so Calgary's point men must move laterally along the blue line to change the launch point of long shots and make it harder for defenders to block them.
Controlling rebounds also lets the Tampa defensemen worry about picking up a man rather than going after the puck. Khabibulin allowed his defensemen to play the puck rather than wandering after it in the Lightning's 4-1 win, making for better communication and more stability in the Tampa end and another way to prevent the Calgary crowd from getting revved up.
As for Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, he made some tremendous saves in Game 2 but needs more help from his defensemen. Calgary likes to box out the opposition in front of it's net, and as long as Kiprusoff is getting the kind of protection we saw in Game 1 he can settle in at the top of the crease and focus on the puck. But when Tampa gets inside position around the goal like in Game 2 he has to fight the urge to force things.
That means Kiprusoff needs to take one peek around a screen and keep his body in a tight position so he is able to make the right move when the puck gets to him. He failed to maintain that position in Game 2 and was beaten when he tried to spread himself out across the crease. Kiprusoff can also make things easier on his teammates in Game 3 by using the angle of his stick and pads to steer rebounds to the side or into the corners.
Navigating a sea of red
Some Tampa Bay Lightning players list Montreal as the loudest crowed they've played in front of on the road this postseason, and they know the Saddledome crowd has the potential to put Canadiens fans to shame. Still, they say they're not intimidated by it and relish the opportunity to play before such fervent supporters, even if the fans aren't their own.
"You hear it," said Lightning defenseman Nolan Pratt. "At times it's tough communicating with one another, that might be the biggest thing about the noise level. But that's for both teams. Once you get into the game, you're playing a game and I think guys enjoy having the crowd on top of them. The derogatory comments always give me a little extra jam, so I don't mind it at all."
The air up here
While there is certainly a difference in air density between Tampa, which ranges between sea level and 179 feet above, and Calgary, which has an elevation of 3,556 feet above sea level, it's not expected to have an impact on the outcome of the game.
"What can you do? Short shifts?" Lightning winger Martin St. Louis said. "I'm sure we'll feel it, but right now, after playing so much hockey, you're lungs are in really good condition. But if your lungs are going to go, you can't be wasting your energy in bad areas."
The time is now
Like all athletes, hockey players have their routines. The Lightning and Flames have had to alter their schedules a bit to accommodate the shift from an 8 p.m. local time start in Tampa to a 6 p.m. start in Calgary.
"Feel rushed all day," St. Louis said. "But it's six o'clock for both teams. I don't think it's going to affect the outcome of the game. You just go to bed a little earlier, take a nap a little earlier, eat a little earlier and prepare yourself a little earlier."
Hey it's not just the players that are tough.
Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle knows that hockey players often have to play hurt this time of the year. It's part of the code. Boyle also knows that media scrums this time of the year are extraordinarily large and sometimes dangerous what with all the cameras, boom mics and assorted equipment flying around the locker rooms.
Which is no doubt why Boyle kept his injured and heavily taped thumb tucked under a protective wooden rail in his locker Saturday morning in the visiting locker room of the Pengrowth Saddledome at the morning skate.
"I'm not hiding anything," he said. "I just need to be a little more cautious with you guys in here."
He knows both towns
Walk down the Saddledome corridors and you'll fine everything from notes and poems from school children wishing the Flames well to pictures of the last great Calgary moment in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a signed picture of the 1989 championship team.
In the forefront of that group photo is Terry Crisp, the former Flames coach who directed that team and who is now a radio analyst for the Nashville Predators.
It's a time of mixed feelings for Crisp. He was the first coach in Tampa Bay Lightning history and is like a proud father seeing the organization grow into a Stanley Cup contender. At the same time, Calgary was the scene of his greatest coaching success.
"I know what you're going to ask me," he said. "Don't ask me."
Having been fired in both cities, it could be a toss up, but we think he's leaning toward the Flames. After all, when you're the coach of the only Stanley Cup winning team in franchise history, the legend grows and the community remembers you in a somewhat kinder fashion.
This year is different
For several seasons now, the lack of fighting in the playoffs as been a mantra point of emphasis for people seeking to have it removed from the game altogether.
This playoff season there has been more than a few fights, culminating (at least for now) in a third-period semi-brawl during Tampa's Game 2 win.
"You guys (the media) make a big deal out of that third period," said Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella. "I think that third period is just playoff hockey. I don't think there's a big deal at all that went on there...To me it's just a part of playoff hockey.
Perhaps, but it doesn't happen all that often in the playoffs largely because no team wants to take a crucial penalty that could change the course of the game. In many a playoff series the "enforcer" on a team doesn't even always get to dress for the game.
What's different in this series is both teams are still dressing players who can and do fight. They can play a little too, but if you're in the lineup and the game is out of hand, well, there are always a few scores that have to be settled at some point.
A matter of preference
Tampa defenseman Cory Sarich grew up in nearby Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, played the bulk of his junior career in the West and lists Calgary as his favorite NHL city (outside of Tampa of course).
Still, he shocked a great many in the arena when he said his favorite team growing up was the Montreal Canadiens. "I just liked the way they played," he said. "That and I used to love watching games (on TV) from the Montreal Forum."
Calgary coach Darryl Sutter on his influence on his players since he arrived here: "It's not rocket science. I have said it before, I'm not a psychologist and I wasn't there when the game was invented. There are a lot of people that were there, but I'm not one of them.
The biggest change you have with our team is they are a team. It was -and I have said this hundreds and hundreds of times before-it was so unfair when I came here last year, so unfair the pressure that was put on two or three players win or lose. Hey, it was their whole deal and it was totally unfair to those players.
"There was nobody else being held accountable, nobody other than those two or three players. It's easy to talk about accountability, but it's a lot tougher to do something about it and I don't think that was what was going on, so, if that helps some, fine."
Notable & Quotable
That's what friends are for
Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle lost all his clothes in the fire that caused $300,000 in damages to his house on Tuesday night during Game 1. His teammates have been lending him clothes until he can do some shopping himself.
"Brad Richards lent me a suit. I don't think it was one of his best ones," Boyle laughed. "I'm not too happy about that."
For comparison's sake
"These guys are right up there will all the other opposition (Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose) we've faced. The top guys are as good as anyone in the league. And they're not afraid to get physical and work for things, that's for sure."
-- Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr, when asked to compare Tampa Bay to Calgary's previous playoff opponents.
ESPN.com NHL writer Jim Kelly, NHL editor Sherry Skalko and assistant editor Rico Longoria contributed to this report.
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Tavares' 4 lead All-Star record 17-12 victory
- Jackets' Johansen wins All-Star MVP fan vote
- Columbus' Johansen steals show at skills event
- Sources: NHL mulls Ryder Cup-style tourney