Will and skill

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET


 We've heard it since Day 1 of the 2004 NHL playoffs.

 Skill versus will.

 The skill of the Vancouver Canucks against the will of the Calgary Flames.

 The skill of the Detroit Red Wings against the will of the Flames.

 The skill of the San Jose Sharks against the will of the Flames.

 And now the skill of the Tampa Bay Lightning against the will of the Flames in the winner-take-all Stanley Cup final.

 Turns out the Flames have proved they boast both the skill and will to win not only the Western Conference but also Lord Stanley's mug.

 It's true.

 Never was that made so clear than in Game 5 of the championship series last night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

 Skill propelled the Flames to a 3-2 overtime win, pushing the hometown heroes to within one victory of the coveted Cup.

 The Flames went toe-to-toe with the Lightning in the biggest game of the year and, to boot, on enemy ice.

 They didn't exactly play the physical game that has come to be expected of them.

 And that was especially true after Darryl Sutter's us-against-the-world speech Wednesday.

 You figured the choked Sutter's words would inspire his charges to come out firing on all cylinders, particularly with their renowned physical appetite.

 Instead, the Flames zapped the Lightning with the kind of skill usually reserved for the Bolts themselves.

 "It's not really our game and we kinda want to stay away from that," Flames feisty winger Craig Clark told CBC between periods. "But we've been able to keep up with them and challenge their defencemen."

 Heck, Clark and Co. completely dominated the skill and skating aspects of Game 5. Paying no mind to the high-octane Lightning, the Flames opted to gamble by boldly accepting the offensive challenge at hand.

 Sure, the Bolts were able to find the offensive spark when they needed it, particular right from the git-go in the third period to tie the game on a powerplay.

 But it was the Flames' fast-stepping by their foes and out-manoeuvring the opposition nearly all night.

 It resulted in at least 15 odd-man rushes for the Flames, which was hardly expected in such a tight series.

 In particular, Sutter's troops rolled the dice in the second period.

 With the Lightning looking to open up play, the Flames went with it to out-chance and out-score the hosts.

 The visitors consistently found the late man coming into the zone and moved the puck around at will to sidestep the would-be shot-blockers of the Lightning.

 In fact, the 2-1 deficit at the end of 40 minutes could have been worse for the Bolts if not for a number of stellar saves made by goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

 In particular, the 'Bulin Wall kept turning away Iginla until the Flames captain finally beat him on a surprise shot from the far boards.

 Call that goal and the OT marker -- and the game itself -- just rewards for an effort that put the Flames on the map as a team with more than emotion and perseverance at their command.

 They proved they know how to move the puck and find ways to beat Khabibulin in his best game (with the exception of Iginla's goal).

 That was supposed to be the Lightning's strength in trying to find holes in the amazing Miikka Kiprusoff.

 Yet the Flames claimed skill as their own to put themselves one game away from the Stanley Cup.

 No ... it's not just will stepping up to push the Flames.

 It's will and skill.


Videos

Photos