They want it all

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET


 Two wins away from the Stanley Cup.

 Who'da thunk it of the Calgary Flames?

 Nobody, in September.

 Nor in December or March, despite the fact they showed incredible signs of improvement and stretches of consistency over the NHL season.

 But here they are on the verge of fulfilling the ultimate hockey dream.

 How do they not get excited about it?

 "I've always been that way," said feisty Flames winger Chris Clark with a shoulder shrug. "I don't like to dream because I don't like to get disappointed."

 Dare to dream now, Chris.

 Because with a win tonight in Game 4 over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flames take a 3-1 stranglehold in the final lunge for Lord Stanley's mug. The improbable drive would then be just one stop -- one win -- short of destination Stanley.

 If it seems amazing to think of such a triumph given the last seven woeful seasons of hockey here, that's because it is.

 Even the players admit as much.

 "It has kind of amazed me and it has been a little bit surprising to me how even-keeled the guys have been," said Flames defenceman Andrew Ference.

 "It's contagious throughout the locker- room about how, 'Boys, we're not satisfied. That's two wins. We played better this game but there's still more.' There's still that constant want for improvement and for that next win. That's been key.

 "Guys aren't jumping around going, 'Oh, we're so close.' It's really a determined group. From top to bottom, it gets passed along."

 GM-head coach Darryl Sutter has praised his group for such mental toughness since the early days of the playoffs.

 His charges gutted it out through the first-round heartbreak in Game 6 against Vancouver -- a triple-overtime loss -- and have since refused to look back.

 For the most part, it's a product of the championship savvy brought to the team by champions such as Chris Simon, Martin Gelinas and Stephane Yelle.

 But now it's a team-wide trademark.

 "From one game to another, you build confidence, you build trust in each other and you build trust in the system," said Gelinas, in his fourth Stanley Cup final series.

 "But I just feel we've been taking it a step at a time, a game at a time. Every game's a new challenge. Every game's a fresh start."

 It doesn't matter they're just two wins from the ultimate prize.

 In fact, the focused attitude is even more important with the dream so close at hand.

 "We expect more of ourselves than ever," agreed Ference.

 "It's grown every series. That's just been the progression of our goals as a team. Making the playoffs was our huge long-term goal. And then after that, the first series was great and we've went from there. It's just been tiny little baby steps. I mean ... we weren't looking at the Stanley Cup final when we beat Vancouver, by any means. But we did believe as a team that we could have great success if we stuck with our plan."

 And even if they don't show it, there is indeed excitement regarding that success.

 "We're excited -- I'd be lying if I told you we weren't," Ference said. "But I can guarantee there won't be any big celebrations or lots of high-fives around the the dressing room. It's not just a front when guys tell you we're really focused and we're not going to be satisfied until we go all the way. It's the truth."

 Besides, Clark added: "We're only a couple of games away. We know it's there, so we want to push as hard as we can."


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