Today is the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs series between the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks. This is not the first playoff for either team, but the Ducks have won the Pacific Division five straight seasons, without winning the cup, or even getting to the finals. This is a team with a lot of expectations on its back.
After least season’s disappointing exit from the playoffs the Ducks replaced coach Bruce Boudreau with former Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. It was with Carlyle that Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Maybe a return to the old school coach is what the Ducks need to hoist the trophy in June.
The last time Calgary won the Stanley Cup was in 1989. In 2004 they made it to the Stanley Cup Final, losing an exciting seven-game series to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That season few people expected the Flames to go deep into the post-season, let a lone to the Finals, so it was a thrilling year for the NHL. Can Calgary do the same this year? Both teams are hungry for a Stanley Cup — as all teams are — but both have plenty of playoff disappointment to fuel their desire to win.
The trouble the Flames will find themselves in is contending with Anaheim’s big centers: Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell, Andrew Cogliano, Antoine Vermette and Nate Thompson.. Any combination on the ice can and will hurt Calgary
Where the Flames might have an edge is in their wings. Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk on the left plus Curtis Lazar and Kris Versteeg on the right match up well with Anaheim’s wings, led by Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg.
The Ducks will be missing defenseman Cam Fowler and that could be a big issue for Anaheim, but they have proven to be a durable and successful team when dealing with injuries.
The goaltenders are good for both teams, and maybe Anaheim’s John Gibson has a slight edge. Brian Elliott of the Flames has a 26-18-3 record with a .910 save percentage and Gibson is 25-16-9 with a .024 save percentage. Both will be at the top of their games tonight and throughout the series. Both teams have good backups as well should the need arise.
If there is an edge that plays a part in this series it could be this: Calgary finished the regular season with a loss to the Sharks in San Jose while the Ducks finished at the Honda Center with an overtime win against their freeway rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. Plus, Anaheim beat Calgary twice this month; the first time in Calgary on April 2 and then in Anaheim April 4. The recent histories of the teams is in Anaheim’s favor.
Calgary will be continuing a long road trip once the puck drops tonight. Their last three games have all been played in California. Can they surprise the NHL once again? A win tonight at the Honda Center could send that signal.
Below are two of Claudia Gestro’s video reports of the Flames vs the Kings and then the Kings vs the Ducks.
•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••
UPDATE: The Ducks won Game 1 Thursday night, 3-2. They jumped out to a first period lead and then the Flames came back to tie and the take the lead in the second period.
The Ducks came back in period, led by Ryan Getzlaf, to regain the lead with a goal by Rickard Rakells. Getzlaf got the assist on the goal. Jakob Silfverberg scored the game-winning goal late in the period, taking advantage of a slow shift change by the Flames.
Ryan Getzlaf scored on a power play for the first goal of the game, putting Anaheim ahead. Sean Monahan got a power play goal for the Flames to tie up the game. Sam Bennett put Calgary head with the first goal of the second period.
Ducks goalie John Gibson had 32 saves and Brian Elliott had 41 saves for Calgary.
Photos by Claudia Gestro