Where's the character now?

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

The Calgary Flames should've learned a thing or two Saturday from Maxime Talbot.

The same day the diminutive Penguins forward sparked a five-goal comeback by initiating a fight he was sure to lose against Dan Carcillo, the Flames quietly took their lumps at the United Center.

And no one pushed back.

While the superior skill and speed of the Chicago Blackhawks led to a 5-1 humiliation of the Flames, nobody outside of Adam Pardy elected to do anything to suggest the Flames have any fight left in 'em.

The only apparent message sent by the Flames actions was this series is over.

Be it tonight at home or Wednesday in Chicago, the Flames appear destined for their fourth-straight, first-round exit.

As easily predicted by their late-season disintegration and injuries woes, the Flames are once again on the brink, having nothing left to show for an otherwise solid NHL regular season.

Credit the Blackhawks for taking it to the Flames in Game 5 with an awesome display of controlled aggression, skill and poise far beyond their years.

Shame on the veteran Flames for coming out flat and failing to come up with an emotional response to the beatdown.

Unable to generate anything offensively, Jarome Iginla of all people should've taken it upon himself to spark his squad by dropping the mitts as he did every round on the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup final. Instead, like the rest of his squad, he went quietly into the night.

The one advantage the Flames were supposed to have in this series was character: Something they lacked terribly in Chicago. If they have any left, tonight is obviously the time to show it.

Now more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if even the staunchest of Dion Phaneuf critics are hard-headed enough to believe his apparent concussion is a blessing of some sort.

AROUND THE HORN

Coming soon to a bookstore near you: Do As I Say, Not As I Do -- The John Tortorella story. It's dedicated to Sean Avery and features a foreward by Eliot Spitzer on the art of hypocrisy ... Like or dislike his bombast, Pierre McGuire has officially replaced Don Cherry as the country's most insightful and relevant authority on the game. Granted, Cherry is still the most entertaining ... As good as the young Blackhawks are, they'd be infinitely better had GM Dale Tallon not squandered almost $13 million a year in salary to nab free agents Cristobal Huet (four years, $22 million) and Brian Campbell (five years, $35.7 million). One is a backup goalie and the other a soft powerplay specialist who essentially amount to unnecessary spare parts this year. That money could have been spent so much better. Word is both were signed following a misguided directive from Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz.

PARTING GIFTS

Just when we thought the Ice Girls' shovels were the last possible place the Flames could find to sell ads, the Dome's media elevator is now logoed up and brought to us by the good folks at HSBC ... The Pittsburgh Penguins' series-winning goal by Sergei Gonchar Saturday summed up perfectly why the Flyers are destined for failure until they land a legitimate starting goalie. No way should an unobstructed slap shot from just inside the blueline beat a goalie at the NHL level, especially when the season is on the line ... Jeremy Roenick, 39, when asked if he'll return next year: "Ask him," laughed Roenick, pointing at teammate Joe Thornton when here last month. "He's going to have to take a pay cut for me to be back next year." Thing is if the Sharks lose, Thornton is the one who may not be back.


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