Terry Crisp wrote
a word on a notepad, drew a rectangle around the word, then drew more
rectangles around that rectangle until he ran out of room on the paper. Finally
Crisp, the coach of the Calgary Flames, spelled the word aloud.
"D-i-s-c-i-p-1-i-n-e," he said. "That's what we learned from
It was, more
precisely, what Crisp's team had lacked during last Thursday's 3-2 loss to the
Montreal Canadiens. Played before a full house of 20,000 in the Saddledome, the
game was a taut, chippy affair, pitting the NHL's two best teams in a possible
preview of the Stanley Cup final. Discipline, the virtue that had enabled the
Flames to enter the game with a league-leading 96 points, deserted them once
the puck was dropped.
Both the Flames
and the Habs boast stingy goaltenders, an outstanding corps of defensemen and
four strong, if unglamorous, lines. Once play began, however, the styles of the
two teams were easily distinguishable: The Flames always seemed to have one man
fewer on the ice. Montreal was whistled for just 12 minutes in penalties, while
the Flames were called for 43 minutes, most for needless offenses. Even Crisp
was nailed with a two-minute bench minor at the end of the second period for
haranguing referee Bill McCreary too vigorously.
At that, McCreary
could have called a few more penalties on Calgary, such as cocaptain and
leftwinger Jim Peplinski's planting an elbow on the mouth of Habs rookie
defenseman Eric Desjardins. The blow cracked the plastic in Peplinski's elbow
pad, shook several of Desjardins's teeth and induced him to take a brief nap on
tasted the elbow of Peplinski?" said Montreal defenseman Chris Chelios to
Desjardins after the game. "You'll find it's one of the harder elbows in
It was that kind
of inhospitable night in the Saddledome. As Montreal coach Pat Burns said,
"For the 67th game of the regular season, there was a hell of a lot at
And, indeed, with
the win and a 6-1 victory over Hartford on Saturday, Montreal moved a point
ahead of the Flames in the battle for the Presidents' Trophy, awarded to the
team with the most points for the regular season. By winning the rubber game of
their regular-season series, the Canadiens also presumably gained the
psychological high ground for their next probable meeting 10 weeks hence.
But, of course,
predicting Stanley Cup finalists with a month to play in the regular season is
a risky business. Last year at this time, these two teams seemed to be shoo-ins
for the finals, until they were rudely shooed from the divisional playoffs
( Calgary by Edmonton in four games and Montreal by Boston in five). Who's to
say either or both won't fold again?
Crisp, for one.
After last April's playoffs, Crisp and general manager Cliff Fletcher set out
to deemphasize the Flames' high-octane offense and, as combative right wing Tim
Hunter says, "become the best defensive team in the NHL." From day one
in training camp, Crisp preached the primacy of defense, and the players
quickly became converts to the new religion.
"Look at the
Stanley Cup winners," says Flames defenseman Brad McCrimmon. "There's a
common denominator. They are among the best defensive clubs in the