Be there or be square: Five reasons you can’t miss Flames at Sharks
When fire meets a water creature, it produces some amazing hockey memories.
Though the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames might not be the first rivalry you think of when it comes to either team, when you’ve been in a division together as long as they have, you’re bound to have made some interesting moments together.
You might be surprised to know that the Sharks currently hold a .500 record against their Pacific Division foes. With a record of 56-56-8-7, San Jose has an opportunity to take a winning record against Calgary when they host the Flames on Monday night.
But among those hundreds of matchups over the last 28 seasons, a few big memories stick out above the rest. Let’s take a look at four of the most memorable moments in Sharks/Flames history.
1991 - You Always Remember Your First
Somebody had to lose to the expansion Sharks first.
1991-92 was an exciting year for hockey fans in the Bay Area, but not because their brand new NHL franchise was tearing through opponents. Quite the opposite, actually.
After dropping their two inaugural games in a home-and-home with the Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks entered Game No. 3 at the Cow Palace looking to land their first victory in team history. The team of destiny was the visiting Flames, who’d captured the Stanley Cup just three seasons prior and had brought most of that winning core to South San Francisco.
The Flames took a 2-1 lead into the second period thanks to a pair of Robert Reichel tallies in the first, but late in the middle frame heralded rookie Pat Falloon scored his first NHL goal to tie the game. Then late in the game, after the teams swapped third period tallies, future Flame Kelly Kisio became the answer to a San Jose trivia question when he beat Rick Wamsley for the game winner with just over three minutes to go.
Huge props are in order for the man in the San Jose crease, Brian Hayward, who turned aside 36 of 39 Calgary shots to bring home the “W.” But the pandemonium in the Cow Palace that night made for an amazing memory in an otherwise rough first season, especially since the Sharks went on a 13-game losing streak immediately afterwards.
1995 - You’re a wizard, Whitney!
Jamie Baker’s stunning series winner to knock out the mighty Detroit Red Wings in ‘94 might hold the largest place in most Sharks fans hearts, but I think it’s worth arguing that Ray “The Wizard” Whitney deserves a much bigger day in the sun.
The Sharks weren’t able to post a winning record in the lockout shortened 1995 season, but they still managed to squeak into the playoffs thanks to the efforts of Ulf Dahlen, Sandiz Ozolinsh and the always lethal Russian combo of Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. Waiting for them was a Flames group in transition: Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk and Joel Otto still remained from the old Cup core, while 22-year-old starting goaltender Trevor Kidd was expected to take over the role vacated by the legendary Mike Vernon.
Every game in this series was an absolute barnburner. The winning team scored at least five goals in every game and the visitors took five of seven games. The goaltenders were in way over their heads; Arturs Irbe struggled mightily throughout the series and was replaced by Wade Flaherty in the final two games, while Kidd finished with an atrocious .856 save percentage.
Game 7 was a microcosm of the entire roller coaster series. The Sharks took a 4-2 lead into the final ten minutes before Nieuwendyk and German Titov tied the game and sent it to overtime. Enter Whitney, as he tipped a Makarov shot through the legs of Kidd in double OT to send San Jose to another surprising Round Two berth.
2004 - Kipper’s Revenge
Look, they can’t all be winners.
In 2003-04, the Sharks had plenty going for them. They’d won 43 games and finished second in the Western Conference. They had a budding young talents like Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo and Marco Sturm leading the offensive charge. And their young goaltending tandem of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala was so strong, the Sharks were able to ship off their third-string netminder, some Finnish kid named Mikka Kipprusoff, to the Flames in November 2003 for a conditional second-round pick in the 2005 draft.
Little did the Sharks know that decision would end up sealing their own fate.
After dispatching the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche in the first two rounds of the ‘04 playoffs, the Sharks ran into a Cinderella team in Calgary in the Conference Final. The Sharks dropped the first two games of the series to the Flames at home, including an overtime loss in Game 1, but were able to claw their way back to win both Games 3 and 4 in front of the hostile “C of Red” in Calgary.
That’s when Kipprusoff chose to cement his status as a Flames legend, shutting out the Sharks on HP Pavilion ice in Game 5 and stopping 18 of 19 in the series-ending sixth game.
If there was any consolation prize for the Sharks, they used the Flames’ second rounder they received in the Kipprusoff trade to select Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who remains a part of the team’s core to this day.
2008 - Seventh Heaven, Once Again
2007-08 was the calm before the true storm in San Jose. The franchise’s first and only President’s Trophy was still a season away, but the now Joe Thornton-led Sharks were well into their window for Stanley Cup contention. San Jose won 49 games and captured another Pacific Division title thanks to a 108-point campaign.
The Flames on the other side of the ice had a relatively similar feel to the 2004 team. Iginla and Kipprusoff were still the stars, but they’d been joined by a new supporting cast featuring Alex Tanguay, Dion Phaneuf and Kristian Huselius.
In an effort to bring some added veteran leadership to the team, the Sharks signed former Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick just before the season started. The 38-year-old posted 33 points in 69 games, but he made a crucial difference in the deciding game of their opening round matchup.
After squandering a 3-2 series lead thanks to yet another Kipprusoff Game 6 shutout, the Sharks took full advantage of having home ice advantage in Game 7 for the first time in their history. On the back of a four-point performance by Roenick, the Sharks put up four unanswered goals in the second period that proved insurmountable for the Flames.
San Jose would only last another six games in the ‘09 postseason, but fans still look back on Roenick’s big night as one of the best hockey games ever played in San Jose.
Keep the Rivalry Alive
The Flames will visit SAP Center on Monday night for a 7:30 p.m. start. The Flames have been middling this season after an intense playoff run last year and the Battle of Alberta heating up this season hasn’t seemed to light a fire under the Flames like it probably should have.
Still, the last time these two teams met was a surprising 3-1 win for the Sharks at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary and if that game was any indication, there should be some high-event hockey going down in San Jose on Monday.
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