For the first time since 2014-2015 the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames will play each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the third all-time meeting between the two clubs and just the second in the first round. The Ducks have won the previous two series between the two clubs, the last being in 2015 when Anaheim defeated Calgary in five games.
Anaheim won the regular season series with wins of 4-1 on November 6th, 3-1 on December 29th, 4-3 on April 2nd, and 3-1 on April 4th. Calgary’s lone victory was an 8-3 decision on December 4th.
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames First Round Series Preview
Home Sweet Home
Just how long has it been since the Calgary Flames last won at the Honda Centre? Well the last time Calgary won in Anaheim, Twitter wasn’t yet a thing, Usher’s hit song “Yeah” was the top song, and Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk was the ripe old age of six.
It’s honestly astounding when you think about it. It’s been over a decade since the last win, and 13 years since the last regular season win. The Flames have suffered 26 straight setbacks, winning their last game on April 25, 2006, when they beat the Ducks 5-2 in Game three of the Western Conference quarterfinal series. Anaheim went on to win that series on their way to a Western Conference Finals appearence.
If Calgary wants to go anywhere in these playoffs, they’ll need to first win at least one game at the Honda Centre. Just like so many times in years past, Honda Centre has been the downfall of Calgary. Two years ago in their second round series, the Flames dropped all three games there.
Experience Is The Key
This truly is a battle of young against old. The Ducks are a veteran laden team that has plenty of playoff experience. Combined, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Antoine Vermette, Patrick Eaves, and Kevin Bieksa have played in 512 Stanley Cup Playoff games. These players know what it takes to win in the playoffs. Getzlaf and Perry have won a Stanley Cup. Vermette, Bieksa, and Kesler have all been to the Finals and know what it takes to get there.
For Calgary they have two players that have lots of playoff experience. Both Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg have played over 80 games in the postseason and were part of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks team that won the Cup. Michael Frolik has big game experience as well, also winning a Cup with Chicago (2013).
Players like Sean Monahan, John Gaudreau, and Sam Bennett only have 33 games between the three of them. While experience does help in situations like this, it could be a good thing for the Flames. The Ducks top players have a lot of mileage to them and Calgary is a speedy team that could wear down their opponents in a battle of attrition.
Even on the coaching side of things Anaheim has more experience. Randy Carlyle is no stranger to playoff hockey. He has coached in over 60 playoff games, he guided the Ducks to their first and only Stanley Cup in 2007, and managed to get the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the postseason after a nine-year drought. On the flip side, Glen Gulutzan has never coached a playoff game. It’ll be an interesting battle to see who wins.
In a way this is almost the opposite of the previous section. Despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury, John Gibson is the go-to guy for the Ducks. In 52 starts this year Gibson was 25-16-9, had a .924 save percentage, and a 2.22 goals against average. Those are pretty good numbers for any starter, let alone a guy who is still just 23 years old. In the past, Gibson split the net in the playoffs with Frederik Andersen. But now that he’s gone to the Leafs, the net is truly Gibson’s. His playoff numbers suggest that there is still more to come. In six games Gibson is 2-4 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average. His backup Jonathan Bernier has only appeared in one playoff game, and that was in relief back in 2012.
The Flames will counter with 32-year-old veteran Brian Elliott. After a sluggish start in Calgary, losing his job to Chad Johnson, Elliott rebounded nicely and finished the season with a 26-18-3 record, .910 save percentage, and a goals against average of 2.88. While the numbers aren’t stellar, its a reflection of just how well he’s played since the early days of the season. In the playoffs Elliott has played 35 games and gone 15-19, with a .911 save percentage, and a goals against of 2.49. Johnson has yet to play in the playoffs in his career.
Both teams will look to exploit the struggles of the others goalie and try and get to the backup as quickly as possible. Both Gibson and Elliott have something to prove. Calgary has the edge in between the pipes, but only slightly.
This should be an entertaining series. The Ducks are big and skilled, while the Flames are speedy and skilled. Don’t be surprised if this goes to seven games. The Ducks will want this to end early but it is very likely that Calgary wins at least one game at the Honda Centre and takes it in seven.
Ben Kerr: Ducks in 5
Markus Meyer: Ducks in 5
Patrick Alan Dejbjerg: Ducks in 6
Sean Merz: Flames in 7
Kyle Cushman: Flames in 7
Griffin Schroeder:Flames in 6
Charlie O’Connor Clarke: Ducks in 5
Hunter Hodies: Flames in 6
Graham Anderson: Flames in 5
Rachel Halliwell: Flames in 7
Nic Hendrickson: Flames in 6
Spencer Lussier: Ducks in 7
Jake Howorth: Ducks in 6
Nicholas Di Giovanni: Ducks in 5
Kenneth Stapon: Ducks in 7
Brandon Piller: Ducks in 7