You know the how saying goes. Third times the charm right? Well in the case of the Calgary Flames, they may want to re-evaluate that saying.
On Wednesday night Calgary fell 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks in game four of their first round series, giving the Ducks the four game sweep and series victory. It’s the third straight series win vs Calgary and the frustrating part for the Flames was they were in every game.
So what was the downfall of the Flames? Was it their continued struggles in Anaheim? Lack of experience? Or goaltending?
Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames First Round Series Recap
Let’s get this out of the way. The Ducks owned this series from start to finish. Despite all of the games being close on the scoreboard, they weren’t all that close. Anaheim set the tone early and often with their physical style of play. Including the playoffs, Anaheim has now won seven straight games against Calgary. in those games they’ve outscored the Flames 24-14.
Randy Carlyle‘s Ducks are hungry to win. Anaheim is 10 years removed from its first, and only Stanley Cup Championship. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Carlyle are the only members of that 2007 team that are still with the Ducks. Veterans players like Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa (both members of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks team that lost to the Boston Bruins in the Cup Finals) are aging and still looking for their first Stanley Cup win.
The most intriguing aspect about how the Ducks won, was that they did it without their top two defencemen. Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen were both sidelined with injuries. They won with depth scoring. Of the Ducks 14 goals in the series, eight different players recorded a goal.
Experience Was The Key
As highlighted in our preview, the Ducks are the veteran team and the Flames full of young players. Anaheim used their experience to gain control in every game. Case in point was game three. With the Ducks down 4-1, it would have been easy for Anaheim to pack it in and try again in game five.
But the Ducks fought back, led in large part by their veteran core. Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and company sparked Anaheim’s resurgence. Veteran players just seem to know how to win in the playoffs. They know when to make the big hit, when to agitate, and they come up in the clutch with big goals and plays.
Randy Carlyle out coached Glen Gulutzan in all four games. Using game three as an example again. He formed the line of Perry, Nate Thompson, and Rickard Rakell. The trio produced seven points in the historic comeback. Carlyle’s call to continue having Thompson center Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry together after their impact in the historic comeback made the coach look like a genius just 68 seconds later.
Gulutzan, on the other hand, made the wrong call leaving goalie Brian Elliott in the net too long in game three, and the was criticized for pulling him after one goal in game four.
We know the story. Calgary gets dismantled by Montreal on January 24, the Flames finished the season with a 21-9-1 record. The reason for Calgary’s turn around? Brian Elliott’s outstanding play gave the Flames brass, players and fans hope heading into the playoffs that would solve their woes in Anaheim and finally beat the Ducks.
Elliott, who was so good down the stretch for Calgary, struggled in this series, finishing with a dismal .880 save percentage. He was pulled less than six minutes into Wednesday’s series finale after allowing a soft goal by Anaheim’s Patrick Eaves that drained the Flames energy, and left the Saddledome awe struck at the events that had just transpired.
The Ducks proved why they’ve won the Pacific Division five straight years. Anaheim is built for the playoffs, and still have the team for a deep playoff run. The Flames should take time to lick their wounds but all isn’t bleak in cowtown.
Assuming they shore up their goaltending, whether that be another kick at the can with Elliott and Chad Johnson or two new goalies, then it wouldn’t surprise me if the Flames have a similar season next year.