The Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames meet in a second-round matchup featuring a contrast of styles—the size and strength of the Ducks against the speed and grit of the Flames. It is an unlikely and intriguing matchup because the Flames continue to be defy the odds.
The Ducks finished atop of the Western Conference with 113 points and then proceeded to sweep the Winnipeg Jets in four straight games. The Ducks dealt with the hard-hitting Jets and had the self-belief to turn losing situations into wins time and again.
The Flames, on the other hand, barely scraped into the playoffs, but were impressive in their elimination of the Vancouver Canucks in six games. As was the case in the regular season, against Vancouver, facing deficits never bothered the Flames.
Keys for the Flames
Jonas Hiller will need to bounce back after being pulled in Game 6 against Vancouver. The former Duck goalie gave up two goals on three shots before Karri Ramo replaced him. Flames coach Bob Hartley made it very clear who would start Game 1 in Anaheim. He knows what to expect from Anaheim.
“Jonas Hiller, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Hartley told the Calgary Herald. “I’m going to get bits and pieces, but I want him to focus on his own game.
“We had some scouts watching the Ducks in the first round. We played them so many times that we kind of know them and they know us. There’s not too many secrets left for playoff hockey.”
The top line featuring Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler needs to be more consistent. The trio was outstanding in Game 6, combining for 10 points, but only had seven points combined in the previous five games.
Micheal Ferland was a thorn in the Canucks’ side, especially Kevin Bieksa’s. He will need to be the same prickly self against Anaheim.
The former Brandon Wheat King junior gives the Flames a physical and nasty element that they will need against a bigger and stronger Ducks team. Look for Ferland to target either Francois Beauchemin or Hampus Lindholm as they both log heavy minutes on the Ducks blue line.
Keys for the Ducks
The second line needs to remain hot like they did against Winnipeg. Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano lit up the Jets in the first round, combining for 15 points in only four games.
What makes it tricky is that head coach Bruce Boudreau will sometimes replace Cogliano with either Patrick Maroon or Tomas Fleischmann on that line. With teams focusing on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the Kesler line could see more room on the ice and they can take advantage.
Frederik Andersen was solid against the Jets, posting a .924 save percentage and a 2.20 goals against average in the first round. Andersen knows he can’t rest on his laurels.
“Last year was back and forth. Now we have some consistency because the first round went good, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy the rest of the way,” Andersen told The Orange County Register. “You never know what’s going to happen. We have up to 21 games left, so anything can happen. We’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Andersen may need to step up his game as John Gibson is slated to return to the Ducks lineup, after missing the first round with an upper-body injury. Gibson came in for Andersen in the second round last season because Andersen struggled against the Los Angeles Kings.
Despite struggling in the regular season, Anaheim’s power play was very effective against Winnipeg with a 27.3 percent success rate. The Ducks were deadly when a man up and they will need to remain lethal against the Flames.
Conversely, Anaheim will have to be disciplined against the pesky Flames. Calgary’s power play was outstanding in round one, recording a 27.8 percent success rate. The Ducks penalty kill was admirable against Winnipeg, but the Flames are more dangerous with the man advantage than the Jets.
Controlling their emotions will be vital for Anaheim.
Anaheim goes into this series as the favourite. They are bigger, stronger, and have more depth. If Anaheim can wear down the Flames with their brute strength and physicality, they will win the series.
However, the Flames have shown not to be counted out. They have beaten the odds all season and their “Never say die” attitude has the fans in Calgary partying on the “Red Mile.”
If the Flames have more magic in them, expect the “C of Red” to light up the Calgary night.
Jeremy Wiebe has written for The Hockey Writers and other web sites. Currently residing in Winnipeg, his Twitter is @jstar1973