Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,
If you’re a Wild fan, you’re not in terrible shape. They almost certainly need to win tonight, and probably again in Game 4 on Thursday. That won’t be easy against a Hawks team that looks to finally be shifting into Stanley Cup mode right on time. But they’ve got a shot.
The Flames have a weaker case. They’ll no doubt get a boost from a loud crowd tonight, but the Ducks went into a raucous building in Winnipeg in Round 1 and did just fine. Calgary’s biggest problem is that they just don’t look like they’re good enough to keep up with Anaheim. They’ve still got a puncher’s chance here, but not much more than that.
And then there’s Montreal. The Habs certainly didn’t fare well in the various categories that made up this post, and after Sunday night they looked like a team that was closer to a full-scale meltdown than a comeback. So it’s tempting to write them off completely … until you remember Carey Price. The guy is going to be MVP for a reason, and if anyone can single-handedly steal a series his team has no right to win, it’s him. And the way they’re playing right now, the Canadiens might need exactly that.
from Travis Yost of TSN,
One of the big reasons why Calgary has had such a problem against Anaheim has to do with the Ducks’ newfound depth – an element the organization didn’t really possess just a few years ago. The forward crop has been lined with young, cheap talent, and the blueline has been bolstered with a slew of talented puck-movers who can jump-start the attack.
Perhaps the most interesting addition, though, has been that of Ryan Kesler.
Acquired via trade with Vancouver in the summer of 2014, Anaheim brought in Kesler to ease some of the burden off of the Anaheim top line. The working theory was that Kesler and a couple of talented wingers would create a pseudo-checking line – one that mitigated offensive production from the opposition, allowing the Getzlaf group to run wild on others.
It’s no surprise that, through the first two games of the Calgary/Anaheim series, Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on the Kesler trio to suppress the number of offensive chances for Calgary’s vaunted Sean Monahan line, which has regularly featured Jiri Hudler and, to a lesser extent, Johnny Gaudreau/David Wolf. On the road, they couldn’t get away from the Kesler group.
Below, a quick visualization of the competition Sean Monahan saw in the first two games of the series. For the sake of this piece, we’ll limit it to forwards – I already ran the numbers on defensive match-ups, and Monahan saw a pretty even spread of Anaheim’s pairings.
from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun,
The Flames can’t be criticized for being down 2-0 in a second-round playoff series they’ll have a hard time prolonging past Friday.
These are simply two teams with different goals.
This Anaheim Ducks team has been carefully constructed for years with only a Stanley Cup in mind.
The Flames focus this year was simply making the playoffs — a large enough step in itself.
Try as one might, it’s damn near impossible to deny the ultimate demise of the Flames will be at the hands of the big bad Ducks — a team that utterly dismantled the Flames in the first 120 minutes of this Western Conference semifinal series.
Former Ducks boss Brian Burke, the head honcho of the Flames, would likely tell you as much over a beer as he’s been on record many times before his self-imposed silence as insisting the Flames simply aren’t hefty enough to skate with a team as big and truculent as the Ducks.
Not yet anyway.
from Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun,
The Calgary Flames haven’t celebrated a win in Anaheim in forever.
But they also haven’t lost at the Saddledome during these Stanley Cup playoffs, and that will certainly be their selling point as they head home from Disneyland empty-handed.
It wasn’t nearly as ugly as the lopsided series-opener, but the Flames dropped a 3-0 decision in Sunday’s Game 2 at Honda Center, digging an 0-2 hole in this second-round showdown with the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s not ideal,” admitted Flames right-winger David Jones. “Obviously, you want to try to split on the road and go home with one win. We’re in a hole. We’re going home now, and we can’t lose at home. We’ve gotta to try our best to get Game 3 and then see what happens.”
The Flames have now suffered 21 consecutive setbacks just down the street from the so-called Happiest Place on Earth, a losing skid that dates back to April 25, 2006.
What’s more worrisome for the current cast from Calgary is that the Ducks have rattled off six-straight victories in the latest instalment of the NHL’s playoff party, a streak the Flames must snap in Tuesday’s Game 3 at the Saddledome.
Below are the game highlights...
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
The laundry list of what the Flames need to do differently to compete with the Ducks does not require an advanced math degree. Defensively, they need to get better inside position on the Ducks’ forwards, who steamrolled their way to the net at will against Calgary’s smaller rearguards.
Offensively, they needed to get far more traffic in front of Ducks’ goaltender Frederik Andersen, who had a solid and efficient night in goal, but except for an early breakaway save against Josh Jooris, wasn’t tested much.
A superhuman effort from Ramo in goal wouldn’t hurt, either. The Flames were underdogs heading into the series and usually the underdog’s best chance occurs when a goaltender morphs into the second coming of Georges Vézina and just stops every puck.
Naturally, Ramo was excited to get his first-ever playoff start, after two consecutive appearances in relief of Jonas Hiller, noting that while the Ducks are “talented and skilled and not afraid to go the net … it’s still just a hockey game.”
Hartley was in there, promoting good cheer, the way he usually does.
“I can’t fault the effort on our team,” Hartley said. “Those guys, they always prepare well. They always go hard. Are we the perfect team? No, we’re still a young hockey club and we’re learning every time we step on the ice. That’s the way it is. Our players try to play the right way. Will we always have our execution as good as we like, or play our best game? No. But it’s a game of mistakes and those guys go through the wall for us.
“This team has no quit.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
For most of five days, Calgary Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller was talking about the challenges of playing his former team, the Anaheim Ducks – and to be fair, he stressed how difficult the task would be. The Ducks are big, fast, mean, skilled. They’d swept the Winnipeg Jets out of the playoffs in the opening round. They were hungry, motivated, a well-rested team.
It wouldn’t be easy to play the prohibitive favourites in the series.
But in Hiller’s wildest dreams, he probably couldn’t have imagined a result quite this grim. The Ducks scored three times on 14 shots in just over 22 minutes – and Hiller’s night was over just like that.
Anaheim kept pouring it on against his replacement Karri Ramo too and in the end, rolled to a ridiculously easy 6-1 victory Thursday night in the best-of-seven Pacific Division final. The Flames have two days to lick their wounds before the series resumes Sunday night in Anaheim – and they’ll need a complete reset to put the memory of Thursday’s nightmarish performance behind them.
“Everybody’s got to get better, me included,” said Hiller. “They outworked us tonight. They were hungrier than we were. That was always our staple – to outwork our opponent. We don’t have the skills to let them outwork us and think we’re going to win. The good thing is, it doesn’t really matter if we lose 1-0 or 6-1, it just counts as one win – and we’ve got a chance to be better next game.”
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
The Ducks have a decided size and weight advantage over the Flames, but Boudreau wasn’t prepared to write off Calgary’s willingness to engage in a battle. Defenceman Deryk Engelland played for Boudreau in the minors, and Boudreau also singled out Brandon Bollig and Micheal Ferland as two players who can play a physical game. Combined, the trio had 89 penalty minutes in a volatile opening round victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t hit,” said Boudreau. “In playoffs, everybody plays bigger than they are. I don’t think it’s a mismatch at all. I think it’s going to be a physical series. I think they’ll come out at us and do what they do. When they’re fore-checking, they’re physical all the time. At the same time, we don’t want to change our DNA either. We want to be a big, physical tough-to-contain team – and we’ve got the size where that’s potentially possible if we play the game right.”
from Rich Hammond of the OC Register,
The NHL and the calculator have become bedfellows in recent years. It’s been a slow, awkward relationship, yet from front-office executives to bloggers, many in hockey have embraced analytics to help explain it.
Most agree on one thing: the Calgary Flames don’t “belong’’ here, in the second round of the playoffs against the Ducks. It’s not that the Flames have cheated, or that there’s some league conspiracy. It’s just that the pesky and scrappy Flames have taken reams of statistical data and tossed them in the recycling bin.
“We’re getting so many stats right now,’’ Flames coach Bob Hartley said recently, “pretty soon the manager of the arena is gonna come and tell me how many cases of beer they sold after the first, second and third periods. We’re in the business to win games.’’
Calgary ranked 28th in the regular season in “Corsi’’ percentage, a possession statistic that essentially tracks how many shots a team attempts in comparison to its opponent. It’s far from exact science. Consider that the Kings finished with the top Corsi percentage but missed the playoffs.
from Scott Mitchell of the Calgary Sun,
The thing about playoff hockey is the longer you play, the harder it gets.
Minutes after dispatching the Vancouver Canucks in six games thanks to a rousing come-from-behind 7-4 win at the Saddledome on Saturday, the Calgary Flames quickly turned their attention to the Anaheim Ducks.
And the Honda Center.
It’s been a house of horrors for the Flames, who haven’t won in Orange County in the regular-season since 2004.
They did pick up a win at The Pond in the playoffs back in the ’05-06 season, but lost that series in seven games.
“Thanks for reminding me,” quipped Flames winger Jiri Hudler, whose sensational two goal, two assist performance in the clincher helped book the date with the Ducks.
Can they change their fortunes in Southern California?
“We hope so,” Hudler said. “We’re going to play hard and we’ll see what happens.”
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
Most everyone is all over Mikael Backlund for his post-Game 5 comments about how there’s no way the Flames will lose to the Vancouver Canucks back in Calgary Saturday night.
In Van they’re outraged because of the arrogance, and in Calgary they’d like to shut him up much the way Vancouverites would have loved to stuff a sock in the mouth of Kevin Bieksa when he was saying Michael Ferland was irrelevant.
Flames fans don’t want Backlund providing any extra motivation than should already exist. So he’s hearing it from everyone now, which is why quotes from hockey players at this time of year generally tend to be even more bland than usual.
But perhaps people are not giving Backlund the credit he deserves. It just might be that he is a hockey historian of some repute and is simply examining the facts, which is to say the road history of the Canucks of late. It is not a pretty picture, and if you take a very close look at it, you might conclude just what Backlund boldly proclaimed.
If history is any kind of guide, there would be no way for Backlund’s Flames to lose Game 6.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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