The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived, so have Puck Daddy’s preview of all playoff series. Enjoy!
In the final week of the regular season, the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames met for a home-and-home series. Anaheim swept the two games; however, they lost one of the biggest pieces in their lineup in the second game. Cam Fowler and Mark Giordano connected knee-to-knee on the ice. Fowler, the Ducks’ leading scorer on defense, was diagnosed with a knee sprain that has him out of the lineup from two to six weeks. The game finished with the teams fighting every ten seconds (at least it felt that way).
Giordano was not subject to supplemental discipline on the play, and Ducks GM Bob Murray was less than thrilled. Murray called the play ‘dirty’ and singled out Giordano as a player that takes out guys knees. To which the Flames GM Brad Treliving responded by stating, “Those are asinine comments.” Treliving also added, “You’re either intoxicated or you’re trying to influence officials.”
(BARN FIGHT PART 2, ANYONE?! Yeah, it’s not the Oilers, but it’s the same province.)
The Flames’ (45-33-4; 94 points) road to the first Wild Card in the West got off to a slow start. Glen Gulutzan was installed as the new bench boss in the offseason.
The team acquired Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues to be their No. 1 netminder with Chad Johnson backing up. Elliott, like the Flames, struggled out of the gate. In his first thirteen starts, he was 3-9-1. Fortunately for Calgary, Johnson was able to hold the team competitive while Elliott worked to get his confidence back. The team started to turn it around with a six game win streak Nov. 30 – Dec. 10. From mid-February to mid-March, the team went on a 10 game win, 12 game point streak.
During that time, Elliott was 12-0-1 in net. He finished the season 26-18-3 with .910 save-percentage and 2.59 goals-against.
In the same game as the Fowler injury, Johnson (18-15-1) sustained a lower-body injury in an unrelated event. Johnson skated on Monday and came with the team to Anaheim. Per Gulutzan, the netminder is day-to-day.
Johnny Gaudreau’s contract holdout kept him out of camp until right before the start of the regular season. In mid-November, he was slashed (repeatedly) in one game by the Minnesota Wild leading to a fractured finger that kept Gaudreau out of the lineup for 10 games. When he returned, he immediately had 11 points in seven games. Gaudreau finished the season leading the Flames scoring with 61 points.
Sean Monahan, who also signed a new deal in the offseason, led Calgary in goals (27) and was second to Gaudreau in scoring (58 points). Mikael Backlund was second to Monahan with 22 goals and third in team scoring at 53 points. Dougie Hamilton was the top scoring defenseman with 50 points.
Matthew Tkachuk emerged as the upside of the Flames missing the 2015-16 playoffs. With their first round, sixth overall draft pick in the 2016 draft, they took Tkachuk. He stayed with the team past the 10 game mark and once he got a hold of play at the NHL level, he had a huge impact. Not only was Tkachuk annoying to play against (earning his first NHL suspension in March), he ended the season fifth in team scoring at 48 points. He also sparked a war of words with Drew Doughty. He brought tears to his father’s eyes on more than one occasion.
Tkachuk, along with perpetual annoyance (to Kevin Bieksa) Michael Ferland, are expected to play a big role in getting the Ducks off their game and into the penalty box.
Shortly after the Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13; 105 points) were unceremoniously bounced from Round 1 of the 2016 playoffs by the Nashville Predators. In Game 7. At home. For the fourth straight year. The team fired head coach Bruce Boudreau.
GM Bob Murray wanted to bring in a proven winner, so he chose the guy he didn’t really want to fire and replace with Boudreau back in 2011 – Randy Carlyle!
It looked like a great decision when the team started 0-4. The team was equally as terrible a season prior, but were able to string together extended point streaks. This team, not so much. They struggled to find a rhythm; however, they were fortunate that the rest of the Pacific Division was dumpster fire and could climb back into contention as other teams faltered.
Anaheim was without the services of Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell during the team’s ‘meh’ start. Both Swedes were restricted free agent holdouts through camp and the beginning of the regular season. Lindholm returned after missing 13 games and restored normalcy to the Ducks defense. Rickard Rakell returned after nine games. He was a much needed spark to the Anaheim offense. Rakell finished the season fourth on the team in scoring (51 points) and first in goals (33).
Once again, the Ducks relied on the ‘second’ line of Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano in pretty much all situations. Silfverberg set new career highs in goals (23) and points (49). Kesler was second on the team with 58 points; 20 of his points came on the power play, tying him for the team-high with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
As for those two, they were definitely different under Randy Carlyle. For the first time since his 2006-07, in a non-lockout shortened season, Corey Perry failed to hit 20 goals, finishing the season with 19. Perry had stretches of 18 and 13 games without a goal. He made up for it in assists (34) and still finished third on the Ducks in points (53). It’s his lowest point total since 2014-15 when he had a knee injury and the mumps.
Getzlaf wasn’t terrible in the first half of the season, but he wasn’t great either. He really didn’t hit his stride until the team acquired Patrick Eaves from the Dallas Stars just before the trade deadline. In 19 games with Anaheim, Eaves has 14 points, 11 of those are goals. During that same 19 game period, Getzlaf has 27 points. Yes, 27. Both Eaves and Getzlaf come into the playoffs on five game point streaks. Thanks in large part to that incredible streak, Getzlaf finished with 73 points.
As for the goaltending, the Ducks sent Frederik Andersen off to Toronto and in a separate trade, received Jonathan Bernier from the Leafs. The trade marks Bob Murray’s undying loyalty to draft-and-developed netminder John Gibson.
Gibson had a decent first year as Anaheim’s No. 1 goalie. He finished 25-19-9 with .924 save-percentage, 2.22 goals-against, and six shutouts. Yet he started to break down towards the end of the season. From late-February to mid-March, he missed six games with a lower-body injury. Gibson returned for one game and went out for another seven games with a different lower-body injury.
Prior to Gibson’s injury, Jonathan Bernier was seeing minimal action and usually saved for the second of back-to-backs. He didn’t inspire much confidence in Carlyle (shocking given their history, right?) until the coach had no choice but to use him when Gibson went down. In the final 13 games he played, Bernier was 11-0-2.
Now if Boudreau were faced with a goalie playoff conundrum such as this, he’d make whatever decision Bob Murray didn’t want. Randy Carlyle is going with Gibson, and if necessary, has a relatively confident Bernier in the wings.
Anaheim rides into the playoffs 8-0-2 in their last ten games. As for Calgary, they’re 4-6-0, but by virtue of the schedule they received an extra day off.
Anaheim Ducks (P1) vs. Calgary Flames (WC 1)
- Thursday, April 13, 10:30pm ET: Flames @ Ducks | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
- Saturday, April 15, 10:30pm ET: Flames @ Ducks | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
- Monday, April 17, 10:00pm ET: Ducks @ Flames | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
- Wednesday, April 19, 10:00pm ET: Ducks @ Flames | USA Network, CBC, TVA Sports
- *Friday, April 21, TBD: Flames @ Ducks | TBD
- *Sunday, April 23, TBD: Ducks @ Flames | TBD
- *Tuesday, April 25, TBD: Flames @ Ducks | TBD
3 KEYS FOR CALGARY FLAMES
1– SPEEEEED! Anaheim’s defense is even slower without Fowler in the lineup. The Flames can skate circles around the Ducks when they get their speed game going. This is especially important for Johnny Gaudreau. Anaheim can’t hurt what they can’t catch.
2– Be annoying. There is nothing that will get the Ducks off their game more than the most subtle post-whistle shenanigans. They will retaliate every single time and that’s what the officials catch.
3– Win on the road. (See ‘5 Stats of Note’ as to why this might be difficult.)
3 KEYS FOR ANAHEIM DUCKS
1– Be physical, to a point. Anaheim was second in the NHL in hits. They love to hit to the point some (Bieksa) will go out of position to hit leading to odd-man opportunities for the opponent. The Ducks should destroy the Flames physically, but be smart about it.
2– Wake up, Corey Perry. No doubt this is a frustrating season for Perry. The playoffs are a blank slate. The Ducks have been fortunate to get goal scoring outside of Perry, but they need him to wake the eff up and start scoring if they expect to go anywhere.
3– Show the problem was Boudreau. Bob Murray called out the players when he fired Bruce Boudreau for post-season failures. Now they have to prove it was Bruce because many of the players are leaning dangerously close to ‘choker’ status.
5 STATS OF NOTE
1– 25 straight road losses in Anaheim. The last time the Flames won at Honda Center was in Jan 19, 2004. The Ducks were still ‘Mighty’ and the building was called ‘The Pond.’
2– That 70’s period. The second period is the most productive for both teams. During the regular season, the Flames scored 78-goals for and Anaheim netted 79 GF. They also allowed a period high 74 and 75 goals against, respectively, in the second.
3– The Flames power play is 20.2-percent (10th overall) and the Ducks are 18.7-percent (17th overall). Monahan leads Calgary with 17 power play points. Followed by three 16-point players: Gaudreau, Backlund, and Kris Versteeg. Anaheim have three 20-point power play producers in Kesler, Getzlaf and Perry, but are far less consistent.
4– Anaheim’s penalty kill gets a lot of work, and finished 4th in the league at 84.7-percent. As for Calgary, they’re 12th overall at 81.6-percent. The Ducks had the most times shorthanded on the road (148 times), and the Flames were shorthanded the most at home (137 times).
5– The Ducks beat the Flames in the season series 4-1. The two teams combined for 156 penalty minutes over those four games. They do not like each other.
Ducks in 6. Calgary will have to get over the yips at at Honda Center and win a couple games there to take this series. The Ducks finished 29-8-4 at home, making it highly unlikely.