Ready or not -- Game 6

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

"We weren't ready."

A big question must come to the mind of every Calgary Flames fan who heard those words coming from the rubble that was their team's 5-1 trouncing at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night.

How is that possible?

How could they not be ready?

Let's get this straight:

- The Flames just dug themselves out of a two-game deficit by winning both meetings in Calgary to even the best-of-seven series at two wins apiece.

- The all-important swing game is on the docket.

- You're up against a young, inexperienced Blackhawks team which may very well start to panic for the first time in this series if you get the upper hand within minutes of puck drop.

And then the Flames come out like a crew of dopey teenagers awoken too early on a weekend morning.

So the answer emanating from all the guilty parties, especially the captain, to explain the disaster is: "We weren't ready." Really?

Sure makes you wonder what were they doing up until that point.

There were two full days between games, and they had a full day in Chicago to prepare, so in nearly 70 hours, they couldn't get ready?

Hogwash.

This isn't a case of not being ready. It's a case of being overwhelmed early by a team that outskated, outworked and outplayed them.

For the Flames to say they weren't ready is an inexcusable cop-out.

They were ready for the game but weren't ready to take three quick uppercuts -- three first-period goals in less than two minutes -- that left them stunned like a punch-drunk boxer praying he'll somehow arise from the canvas.

Certainly Flames fans have every right to wonder whether their team will be ready tonight.

You'd think so, seeing as a loss tonight puts an end to the season that was going along so well just a couple of months ago.

Yesterday, when the Flames gathered at the Saddledome for off-ice sessions and meetings, the vow was to be better prepared for a game that will spell the end if they lose.

"We're not going to dwell on it --it's gone," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla about their Game-5 performance. "It's winning our next game, winning our home game and forcing Game 7.

"We wanted to go in there and have a huge game, but we had a terrible game. Today, we've just been reloading. As the day goes on, we will -- and get ready for tomorrow.

"It's gone, it's 3-2, and it's one game, so it's our job to make it 3-3."

At least, after what transpired, there's more than a wee bit of anger throughout the dressing room.

Instead of being able to shrug off a 3-2 overtime loss with some of the "Oh well, we tried" words, they know they were humiliated on all levels, and vengeance can be powerful stuff.

Head coach Mike Keenan had another idea, too.

Show some honour.

Asked what emotions he wanted to see in his charges -- Anger? Frustration? Determination? -- Keenan replied: "I would prefer the word pride -- play like they're capable of playing.

"The expectations for Game 5 -- the teams I've worked with in the past -- the expectation was to be prepared to play in an NHL game and to play well and play as hard as you can play and give us an honest effort.

"Be prepared to play to their level of ability and expectations of everyone, that we have of them and -- more importantly -- what they have of themselves."

Rest assured, that message was relayed to the players, too.

Tonight is the test.

"In the playoffs, whether you win or lose, you pretty much park that one and move on to the next," said Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin.

"Obviously, we have one (game) and another one coming after that, but this is the important one.

"Being through this before, the do-or-die situations, you really make sure you're prepared."


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