Well, they knew they would be up against it didn’t they? Who cares that there isn’t a connection to be found (at least, any meaningful connection) between the Flames team of a decade ago and this incarnation? The players could say all the right things, but their actions would speak louder.
The Flames had to clear the mammoth of a hurdle that was beating the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim – something the franchise hadn’t done since 2006 – if they had any hopes of winning the series. Two games and two losses later, Calgary is heading home with its head down and its season on the brink.
Getting outscored by a combined 9-1 and having to replace their “starter” Jonas Hiller with “backup” Karri Ramo – or goalie 1a with goalie 1b – was perhaps worse than even the most negative predictions for the Flames. And it’s no secret why the series currently sits 2-0 in favour of the Ducks: they have played a more complete game.
That much has been made clear at various points in the first two games when it looked as though the Ducks were an NHL team playing keep away from a group of 10-year-olds. That the score after the first period of game two wasn’t greater than 1-0 for Anaheim was nothing short of a miracle, given the 20 shots that were directed at Ramo.
Unfortunately for the Flames they weren’t able to build off their goalie’s strong play, eventually surrendering two third period goals in what was a 3-0 loss (the first playoff shutout of Frederik Andersen’s career). Though a shutout loss is nothing to be pleased with, it was still miles better than the 6-1 throttling they took in the series opener.
The Ducks came out strong, clearly benefitting from the weeks’ worth of rest they earned after sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in round one. As he did in game two, Matt Beleskey opened the scoring in what was an onslaught by the Ducks. Before Sam Bennett broke Andersen’s shutout mid-way through the third, the 6-0 lead Anaheim built up had already secured the win.
Although there have been multiple issues in Calgary’s game – the suddenly anemic offence, the inability to play sound defence when they need it most, etc. – the area of biggest concern should be that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry seem to be able to set up at will and move the puck with great ease.
Through two games each member of the duo has registered six points – including four points from each in the series opener. Aside from the big two, the only other Anaheim forward with multiple points in the series is the aforementioned Beleskey who has two goals. And yet in spite of this the Ducks have found a way to win thanks to their defencemen.
The blue line has been a great source of offence with contributions coming from Simon Despres, Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen (each recording one point). Hampus Lindholm, though, has led the way with three points in two games, including the insurance goal in game two.
And, of course, let’s not forget Andersen who has been stellar in net thus far, stopping 53 of the 54 shots he has faced. Suffice it to say everything is clicking right now for the Ducks, and that doesn’t look to be ending any time soon.
If the Flames have any hope of getting back in this series they will need to pick up the pace up front to remove some of the pressure on the goalies. If they can’t do that, the writing is on the wall for a second consecutive Ducks sweep.