March 17, 2010
Wings believing, Flames unsure
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
Belief is easy to preach.
It's extremely hard to fake.
When the Calgary Flames hit the ice, the truth is obvious.
This is not a team that believes in itself. It might have faith the playoffs are still within reach, but belief and faith are very different concepts.
This isn't a religious debate, but all God-fearing Calgary Flames fans should be praying for spring hockey right now.
Faith leaves things in the hands of others. In this case, the Flames have to hope either the Detroit Red Wings or the Nashville Predators stumble down the stretch and leave a window of opportunity open for them to slip through.
Believers take matters into their own hands. They know, without doubt, they will succeed. Like, for example, the Red Wings.
Touring their locker-room before Monday night's big showdown with the Flames -- a 2-1 victory that put them in the driver's seat with a three-point lead over the Flames and cushy schedule that should allow them to pull further away over the next week or two -- there was a sense of entitlement.
They knew, without question, they were a playoff team.
You didn't hear phrases like "I think" or "I hope" come out of their mouths.
It was a fact. It was an air of confidence. It was an atmosphere, blanketing the entire visitors room.
On the home side, similar words have been spoken recently. Some might even believe them. But the atmosphere is one of uncertainty. There's an underlying current in that room that reeks of insecurity. In the world of professional hockey, doubt leads to disaster on the ice.
Should this season finish for the Flames without playoffs, it has to be considered just that -- a complete disaster.
How can two teams separated by just a single point before their biggest head-to-head meeting of the season be so different?
The Red Wings are comprised of winners who know no other way.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom has been to the playoffs in each of his 17 previous NHL seasons. He has won the Stanley Cup four times. So have veterans Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby.
Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood have hoisted the Cup three times.
Pavel Datsyuk has claimed it twice.
Henrik Zetterberg once.
Only four current Wings don't have their names engraved on Lord Stanley's Mug.
Only two of those weren't at least part of the team that won it two springs ago.
Not only do they believe they can raise their games to do it again despite their low spot in the standings, the Red Wings have the resume to prove it.
As for the Flames, defenceman Cory Sarich is the only player with a Cup to his credit.
Tearing the team apart mid-season, GM Darryl Sutter can't be helping their self-esteem. And it's not like he added winners.
A quartet of Toronto Maple Leafs, a couple of New York Rangers and an Edmonton Oiler are probably just happy to be in the hunt.
None of them have elevated their game to the point necessary to make a serious run at a playoff spot, and convince anyone they can do damage if they made it into the first round.
Neither have the core players -- including the big-money man Jay Bouwmeester, who has wilted in the Canadian spotlight after starring in Florida for so many years -- which is why Sutter felt it necessary to make such massive changes.
Faith is all that's left for the Flames when it comes to their playoff hopes. Appropriate, because it looks like it'll take a miracle for them to make it.