As the regular season has come to an end, Last Word On Sports analyzes every playoff series. In the first installment, we take a look at the matchups in five categories: Offense, defense, goaltending, coaching and special teams. We also run down the players to look out for and give our final assessment on how the series will pan out. In the second portion, we will analyze what went down in the series, how the matchups led to the outcome and cover all important storylines.
Series Recap: Ducks Versus Flames
The Anaheim Ducks are finally going on a deep playoff run, something they have been unable to do in recent years. This will be Bruce Boudreau’s first time being a part of the final four, and he will soon have his hands full with the Chicago Blackhawks after his team was excellent in defeating the Calgary Flames in 5 games.
Game 1: The Ducks were all over the Flames in the series opener, scoring 2 goals in each period. Jonas Hiller didn’t get to face his former team for very long, as he was pulled early in the second period. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were dominant in this game, collecting 4 points each. Jiri Hudler and Michael Ferland had to leave the game early due to injuries, giving the Flames even more things to worry about heading into the next game as they lost 6-1.
Game 2: Hudler was able to play, but Ferland was held out. Karri Ramo was given his first career playoff start. Matt Beleskey opened the scoring for the second consecutive game, and it proved to be the winner. Frederik Andersen earned his first playoff shutout in the victory. The Flames’ road woes in Anaheim continued, as it left them still without a win in the Honda Center since 2006, and more importantly with a 0-2 hole in the series heading back to Calgary.
Game 3: Back at home, Calgary started the game off on the right foot, earning a quick 1-0 lead. The Ducks would score twice in the period to take the lead, then the teams would exchange goals in the middle frame. With the Ducks up 3-2 late in the third, rookie Sam Bennett thought he had the game tied with 6:22 left. One-timing a puck from in close, different camera angles appeared to show the puck crossing the goal line before Andersen flashed his pad. Eerily similar to the Martin Gelinas play 11 playoff years ago. The evidence was inconclusive and the Ducks caught their break. But, the Flames caught theirs when Sami Vatanen batted the puck out of mid air, sending it out of play, giving Calgary a two-man advantage with the goalie pulled. With only 20 seconds to go, Johnny Gaudreau found some open room moving into the left faceoff circle and tied the game. Just over four minutes into overtime, Mikael Backlund scored his first of the playoffs, in heroic fashion, making the Saddledome explode. It was a 2-1 series.
Game 4: The Flames were looking to carry the momentum from their win into this game, and even got Lance Bouma back in the lineup after he missed over a month due to injury. Anaheim opened the scoring, but it was Calgary that led 2-1 after the first. With under five minutes left in the second, Andrew Cogliano picked the rookie Gaudreau’s pocket in front of the Calgary net, which resulted in tying the game. The Ducks scored early in the third on the powerplay, and added an empty net goal to give themselves a 3-1 series lead heading home. The Flames left to a standing ovation from their fans, pleading them to force it back to Calgary for a Game 6.
Game 5: If the Flames wanted to extend their season, that meant that losing streak in Anaheim needed to finally come to an end. Hudler got his team on the board, then Ryan Kesler did the same, both goals coming from the powerplay. Gaudreau scored less than a minute after Kesler to take back the lead, a 2-1 lead that they had intact going into the third period. But, the Pacific Division Champions would not bow out. Beleskey tied the game in the opening minute of the third (he scored a goal in every game of the series) and this game would head to overtime. After being hit in the knee by Matt Stajan earlier in the game, there was concern if Anaheim sniper Corey Perry would be able to get back in the game. He did just a few minutes later, and in overtime, he sent everyone home happy, fighting for a loose puck in the crease and burying it behind Karri Ramo. The Ducks for the first time since 2007 and for the first time in Bruce Boudreau’s coaching career, were back in the Conference Final.
STORYLINES OF THE SERIES
Ducks Too Much To Handle
The Flames weren’t predicted by many to make the playoffs, and despite all the youth and inexperience in their lineup, they managed to reach the second round. The Ducks on the other hand, had high expectations, and they proved to Calgary why those expectations were placed on the team in the first place. The Ducks are a big, deep, and fast team with something to prove. All of that showed in this series. They chased Jonas Hiller in Game 1, which gave the reins to Ramo. Even though Ramo played well, he couldn’t have be expected to shut down all of Anaheim’s offensive weapons. When a team has Ryan Kesler as their third line center, one would see why. The Ducks were simply too much for the Flames to handle, especially in Anaheim, keeping the unbeaten streak alive.
Third Period Comebacks
The Calgary Flames became famous for being a great third period team, posting a and had numerous come from behind wins during the regular season, as well as comeback wins against the Vancouver Canucks in games 1 and 6 of the first round. The only problem? Anaheim is also a great third period team, and had many comeback wins of their own, as well as some against the Winnipeg Jets a round ago. After all the success the Flames had with third period wins, that was ironically the way their season, unfortunately for them, ended. They held the lead going into the third of game 5, but ultimately couldn’t hang on one last time.
SERIES PREDICTIONS FROM OUR HOCKEY DEPARTMENT
Brandon Altomonte: Flames in 6 (0 of 2 correct)
Markus Meyer: Ducks in 6 (1 of 2 correct)
Ben Kerr: Ducks in 5 (2 of 2 correct)
Tyler Shea: Flames in 6 (0 of 2 correct)
Shawn Wilken: Ducks in 6 (1 of 2 correct)