Flames have belief system

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET


 DETROIT -- Go ahead, admit it. You can't fathom how it got to this point.

 You can't believe the Flames waltzed into The Joe and regained control of a series that looked as hopeless as George W. Bush two days earlier.

 Somehow outworked by the best team money can buy in Game 4 to tie the series, the prospect of a best-of-three showdown played mostly on hostile ground seemed, well, even too much for these dream weavers to handle.

 The suspension to Ville Nieminen; the insertion of 39-year-old Dave Lowry; the uncertainty of Rhett Warrener's status; the mounting work ethic and momentum of the Wings; the fact Calgary has been outshot and outchanced two-to-one all series long. It gave even the staunchest supporter reason to fear Game 5.

 However, it's just then, when it appears Darryl Sutter's magical mental manipulation of their young minds will falter, they rope, they dope and voila -- the doubters are proven wrong again.

 They respond with a 1-0 win. A "10 out of 10," as Sutter marked it.

 "I'm sure there were people who figured we were going to be done and I don't blame them because we haven't been here in a long time," said Game 5 scoring hero Craig Conroy.

 "Heck, they're the Detroit Red Wings. It's just like the Vancouver Canucks when we tied it 2-2, people figured that series was pretty much over too. That's why we have to play the games. Of course, people are going to be a little skeptical because they are one of the best teams in the NHL. We just have to believe in ourselves and it never hurts to have Kipper in net."

 There's that word again: Believe.

 Over the course of any pre- or post-game stint in the Flames locker-room, it's something you'll hear more often than "thank God for Kipper," "pass the ice bags," or "110 percent."

 Don't take my word on it, just listen:

 "We know after Game 4, some people thought, 'It was a good run and they won some games' but Calgarians don't believe that," said Conroy, convinced no true Flames fans wavered in their belief.

 "That's what's nice. Just like in this room we believe, they believe, too. It makes it so much more fun for us. Darryl challenged us before (Game 5). He said we could be happy to be here or we can come here to win -- we wanted the latter. We've got to believe in the room and execute."

 They do and they did and suddenly there are even more disciples than ever before.

 "It's natural, it's sports," said Jarome Iginla when asked what he'd say to those who stopped, um, believing the Flames could maintain their resiliency.

 "Our fans have been very supportive but the Wings are the Presidents' Cup winners and each game is very close. To be honest, I haven't felt the (momentum swings) go either way in either series. We see each game as a new challenge."

 He didn't feel the squeeze when Vancouver won Game 6 in overtime or when the same foe sent Game 7 into extra time? He didn't get a lump in his throat when the Wings unleashed their power in Game 2 or regained championship form in Game 4?

 Kids today.

 Still, no one in that Flames room is naive enough to suggest they don't realize how dangerous any entity can be when backed into a corner -- especially when it has powerful Wings like these.

 "What a great chance we have in front of us and we're going to be prepared," said Iginla.

 "It was a good lesson last time in Game 6 (against Vancouver) when we had the same chance (to close the series) and came out flat. We'll prepare better and realize Detroit will be even more desperate and even hungrier and we have to match that, if not beat it."

 Tonight skeptics beware -- optimism is as high as the decibels that will shake the 'Dome.

 Although adversity cannot be used as a motivator tonight, best believe Sutter will impress upon his troops the work to be done will be tougher than ever before.

 "We realize it's a long way from being over but the one thing is that everyone in here believes in our team," said Lowry.

 Well, um, how could anyone have ever doubted that?


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