Playing even a Flames strength

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:51 PM ET


 Forget the powerplay.

 It's even-strength where the Calgary Flames boast the real advantage in their first-round playoff series with the Vancouver Canucks.

 In fact, in the first four games, the Flames have outscored the high-octane Canucks 5-1 when both teams have sported an equal number of skaters on the ice.

 And that's not including two goals tallied by the Flames while shorthanded.

 "Really? I didn't even realize that," said assistant captain Craig Conroy. "That's lucky on our part and that's (goaltender Miikka) Kiprusoff coming up big, too. We've got to continue that, though. That's our focus."

 Always has been, according to the Flames under Darryl Sutter.

 On many occasions, the straight-shooting GM/head coach has said five-on-five play is his team's strength.

 "It's a fact -- it's not an opinion," Sutter said. "The reason we're a playoff team is because we're such a good five-on-five team."

 Added Conroy: "We feel like if we can beat them (at even strength) and stay out of the penalty box, we're going to have a chance to beat them every night.

 Staying out of the penalty box is key because the Canucks powerplay is among the best in this spring's Stanley Cup chase (6-for-23).

 "They have the best powerplay in the league and we have to be aware of that," said Flames winger Ville Nieminen.

 "We need to keep the game (at even strength) because we feel like we don't give up too much five-on-five and, for sure, our strength is playing five-on-five.

 "We know that and teams know that about us. I think it's pretty good to stick to that game plan."

 "That is something we want to play as much as possible," agreed Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

 "When we're five-on-five, we feel we're a good skating club that loves to play physical."

 They're pretty good at keeping the other team off the scoreboard in those situations, too.

 "We want to keep going in that direction," Conroy said, "because they do have a lot of firepower."


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