It’s not do or die yet for the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday — but the team has officially entered survival mode.
Losing 6-2 in Game 3 and letting 56 shots on net happen to their goalie Mike Smith was a fail for all phases of their game.
Only two players on the Avalanche’s bench didn’t get a shot on net, but the Calgary squad is confident that their best level of play is yet to come.
At practice ahead of puck drop on Wednesday, members of the team, including head coach Bill Peters, had the biggest smiles on their faces. They looked like they were having fun and unfazed by the mounting pressure of being down 2-1 in the series.
Peters confirmed that the energy on the ice was the best it’s been in weeks.
“I’ve been around our group for a year and that’s the most energy we’ve had in a month,” Peters said. “That’s a very good sign for us. It looks like we’re back. It looks like we’ve got a little bit of a jump in our step and we’re going to have some fun here tonight and it’s going to be 60 minutes of hard work, if not longer.
“It’s our biggest game of the year. They got us to this point and they deserve the opportunity to get this series tied at two,” Peters added.
Just like the avalanche did with rookie Cale Makar of Calgary, the Flames inserted a player into their lineup to provide them with their first taste of the NHL playoffs.
Defenceman Jusso Valimaki making his debut in the postseason for the Flames. The Finn playing alongside Rasmus Andersson on the blue line.
“It’s mostly excitement right now. I’m just pumped to get out there,” Valimaki said. “A couple of guys that you know have been [in the playoffs] before, they said it’s totally different, like it’s a different world… You can just see it in the stands, the atmosphere is so much more energized and it’s so much bigger. It’s going to be different but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Peters said Valimaki has grown a lot from his days playing for Stockton, the Flames’ farm team.
“He’s bigger, he grew, he was a kid, right,” Peters said. “So he’s leaner, he’s stronger and he’s quicker. Everything.”
The Flames have had plenty of meetings and reviewed game footage, so they are well aware of what they need to do better in Game 4 to come away with the game winner.
Along with a spark from their offence early, the plan is to have patience and avoid useless penalties. As for containing the Avalanche, it’s obvious who’s at the top of their list.
The Flames fly back to Calgary on Thursday and will play Game 5 on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.