ANAHEIM – Ducks forward Corey Perry scoffed at the notion that Anaheim’s experience could in any way exploit the Flames in their second round series.
Even after a 6-1 beatdown of Calgary where the Ducks looked every bit the deeper, stronger, more veteran team, Perry did the humble hockey player thing and went easy on Calgary.
“You can throw all the experience out the window. It’s hockey,” he said. “You have to go out there and play the right way. They’re here for a reason, they’re a good team. They beat Vancouver to get here.”
Yup the Flames, who are in their first playoffs since 2009 beat Vancouver, who had its own group of graybeards. But there’s a difference between being old like Vancouver with the Sedins, Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller and mature like Anaheim. Especially a group of seasoned players like the Ducks who have grand designs of a Stanley Cup parade in the Honda Center parking lot.
It took the Flames 10:17 into the first period on a Matt Beleskey goal to realize Anaheim was a way better team than the Canucks – who they beat in six games in Round 1. Then they realized it again when Patrick Maroon struck at the 13:11 mark. And again when Perry notched his first of two goals (as part of a four-point night) early in the second period.
“Obviously they’re a little bit better of a team. They have a lot of skilled guys who can put the puck in the net and we have to find a way to shut them down,” Flames forward Sean Monahan said. “We’ve been matching up against everybody all year, so we’re used to that, but tonight just wasn’t our game, we can’t have an excuse for that, but we know we have a lot more.”
Yes they do. And Perry is right, a team doesn’t make the second round of the playoffs by being this bad. Was this the beginning of the end for Calgary or just one giant playoff stinkeroo?
Teams lose in the playoffs. It happens. And the postseason is always about adjustments. Anaheim looked great Thursday night. If Calgary wins Sunday at Honda Center, the Flames go home tied 1-1 and the series looks completely different. If you’re going to be bad, the first game is the best time for it to happen.
“We expect them to be really good on Sunday,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That’s not just because we won tonight, if you look at any team that loses fairly big, the next game they play they have a lot of pride and they play their best game.”
All year there has been this impending sense of doom around the Flames. Their advanced stats are mediocre. They don’t have defenseman Mark Giordano, out since early March with a torn biceps. Forwards Jiri Hudler (the team’s leading scorer in the regular season), and Michael Ferland exited the game with unspecified injuries and are day-to-day. Ferland was hurt in the first frame, Hudler the second. Yay for non-specified playoff problems!
If they’re indeed out for Game 2, Calgary’s chances to win the series look remote.
But some of the issues had nothing to do with Ferland and Hudler being hurt. It was simple stuff.
On one end a turnover turned into a scoring chance for Calgary before Ducks center Ryan Kesler swooped back to break up the play and send the puck toward the other direction. On that ensuing rush, Perry finished off a scoring chance with his first goal.
In the third period Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm nudged Flames forward Drew Shore off the puck in the Ducks' zone cleanly and started a rush up ice. In the playoffs, you hardly see an uncontested swipe like that, even when a team is getting wrecked.
Calgary was out-Corsi’d 64-57 according to War on Ice. But don’t we expect that from them now most games? They still normally find a way to stay competitive. Not manhandled like this.
“I think everybody knows that nobody was happy with their games,” Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller, who was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 14 shots on goal, said. “So everybody has to step it up. Normally we are a team that outworks the opponent, but I think we got outworked.”
And they’ll probably come back with a stronger effort in Game 2 as Boudreau predicted. The Ducks can’t win that contest 6-1 again. The sky is not falling for the Flames. It's really not, I swear. They've proved us wrong all year, so why start proving us right, now? But after that game we’ll see if they’re truly engaged in this series, or are completely outmatched by the Ducks.
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