STORY OF THE SERIES
The energetic, grating play of the Flames continues to win games. It's about as much fun to play against Calgary as it is to chew on a ball of tinfoil. The Flames are fast, they hit, they push and they don't back down. Calgary has gutted out two one-goal victories, and Detroit's 5-2 win in Game 2 didn't faze it at all. Already, the Red Wings are calling on one another to up their collective intensity level, which should make for a superb second half of this series.
SURPRISE OF THE SERIES
That the Flames have not collapsed in a collective heap at center ice. After their grueling seven-game series win against the Canucks in Round 1, the Flames have needed every ounce of their energy to contain the potent Red Wings. It's exhausting just watching Calgary play. After key defenseman Rhett Warrener went out with an eye injury in Game 2, the Flames essentially used only five defensemen in Game 3, with Robyn Regehr and Andrew Ference each playing 28 minutes. Somehow the team had the strength and will to hold off a Detroit push in the third period. Calgary coach Darryl Sutter, who settles for nothing less than all-out, has been truly moved by his team's refusal to quit.
THE FLAMES WILL WIN IF ...
Jarome Iginla can chip in the odd goal, even as he attracts so much attention from the Red Wings' checkers and defensemen. Detroit's preoccupation with Iginla has helped free up little-known players (Chris Clark, anyone?) to score key goals, and Calgary is going to need contributions from role players as the series wears on. The Flames also need to avoid too many penalties: The Red Wings' power play is what spurred Detroit's offensive explosion in Game 3.
THE RED WINGS WILL WIN IF ...
They get their intensity level up. The Wings need to be more of a presence in front of both nets in order to create some of the ugly goals that playoff success depends upon. Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph has looked shaky at times, and the Wings need him to be solid and not give the Flames any more life than they already have. The Red Wings can't lapse into excuses -- coach Dave Lewis complained about the officiating after Game 3 -- and have to simply concentrate on raising their game to the level of their superior talent.
Eventually, Calgary will start to wear down, and as the grind of this series continues over the next few days, we'll see some breakdown that Detroit can exploit. The Red Wings responded to a wake-up call against the Predators to win Games 5 and 6 of the first round. And while it won't be nearly so easy to pull out a series win against the Flames, Detroit's talent ultimately will prevail in seven games.