Based on the opening game of their first-round playoff series last night, the Calgary Flames are either underrated or the San Jose Sharks are seriously overrated.
The Sharks were nearly 3-to-1 favourites over the Flames and were chosen to win the Stanley Cup by Don Cherry and just about every other talking head who analyzes the NHL for a living.
Last night, though, the Sharks struggled in a 3-2 loss.
The Flames played well. Captain Jarome Iginla and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff were outstanding. But there also was an unlikely hero — Stephane Yelle, who scored twice. Yelle, who scored all of three goals all season, put the Flames ahead at 2:47, deflecting a Robyn Regher shot.
And then, with the Flames up 2-1 late in the second period, Yelle scored yet again.
“This is a great start to the series,” Iginla exclaimed. “Kipper was amazing. And what a game for Yelle.”
Actually, Iginla was largely responsible for Yelle’s second goal, which was controversial.
San Jose defenceman Brian Campbell, a major acquisition at trade-deadline time by the Sharks, lost the puck at the Flames’ blue-line to Iginla, who raced down the ice and, despite falling to a knee at one point, mustered up a shot at goalie Evgeni Nabakov. It was saved but the rebound came out to Yelle, who scored at about the same time as Iginla crashed into the post and pushed the net loose.
The goal was reviewed, but it counted.
The Sharks were upset but, in reality, they weren’t very good last night. Ryane Clowe scored both San Jose goals, the team’s big gunners were inconspicuous — including Joe Thornton. And this team has no chance of living up to the expectations of Cherry et al if Thornton continues to play as ineffectively as he did last night.