They Advanced: How The Heck Did That Happen?

In a season that keeps getting more and more interesting – and has remained pretty interesting to watch and write about – the Calgary Flames have advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by virtue of their conquering of the Vancouver Canucks.

They capped off their six-game victory with a whirlwind 7-4 win over the Canucks on Saturday night.

In a season where many pundits, observers and even a fair number of fans expected the Flames to be “Connor McDavid Bad,” they’ve advanced further into the post-season then they have in over a decade.

How the heck did that happen!?


The six-game series featured three games in Vancouver and three games in Calgary. In Vancouver, the Canucks generally out-played the Flames. In Calgary, the Flames generally out-played the Canucks. Specifically, the benefit of last change meant that the Canucks’ dynamic duo of Henrik and Daniel Sedin were able to run roughshod in Vancouver over the Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler line.

But in Calgary? The Flames threw plenty of physicality at them in the form of Michael Ferland, Matt Stajan and David Jones. The Sedins weren’t nearly as able to establish their passing game in Calgary and, not unrelated, the Flames won all three games at the Saddledome.

And they managed to squeak out the last-minute win in Vancouver in Game 1.

Game over.


It was a tight series. The Flames narrowly out-shot the Canucks at even-strength (11-10), but this slim advantage was widened by their special-teams play.

Calgary’s power play produced a goal on 27.8% of their advantages, amassing 5 goals. The Canucks only scored on 18.8% of their chances with the extra man, scoring just 3 goals. In a small sample size that’s not really a terribly significant number from which to extrapolate trends, but in a six-game series, those two goals were pretty important.


Calgary blocked a lot of shots in this series. They leaped in front of 133 Vancouver shots, compared to just 81 for the Canucks over the six games. Individually, Deryk Engelland led the way with 29 blocks, with Kris Russell just slightly behind with 28. Dennis Wideman (17) and T.J. Brodie (14) also were in double-digits.

If you’re thinking, “Man, the four guys that play the most for Calgary blocking slap-shots probably isn’t a great idea long-term,” you’re probably right. But it was pretty key to winning them the series.


Calgary really wore down the Canucks with physicality in this series. They threw 162 hits at Vancouver, only absorbing 118 in the process. Of note, Michael Ferland had 41 hits credited to him over the six games. The only other Flames in double digits in this category were David Jones, Joe Colborne, Deryk Engelland and Matt Stajan. (Sam Bennett had 9.)

Hitting the other team a lot seems to be a stronger long-term strategy than blocking shots. Both are physically taxing, but at least hitting wears down the other team as much as it does the Flames’ players.

  • Will we be able to sustain the same type of physicality against a bigger Ducks team? We might be able to get away with it at home with last change as we did in Round 1… but when we’re away, it’ll be Getzlaf and Perry shadowing our top line instead of the Sedins. A much more terrifying prospect imo.

    • mk

      Not so scary. Getzlaf and Perry are lazy. It’s why they haven’t seen past the second round in years. When they won the cup it was still Selanne’s team. This is just a bunch of arrogant people with talent. Add Kesler to the mix and this team will be just as easy to dislike. Perry’s sarcastic dirty plays, Kesler’s bully diving, Getzlaf’s lazy play. Like Vancouver, few people like Anaheim outside of orange county and they will have few supporters if Calgary gets off on the right foot.

      Talent fails to work when they get outworked. Only thing I fear is coming out flat or tentative against this team. There is no time for that. Calgary has the skill, they just have to have the jump. If Hartley outcoaches Boudreau like most suspect he can, that may be just the edge they need.

      • If I had to choose the 2 players on my team (skills wise) from the Sedins or Getzlaf and Perry it would be the latter even though I very much respect the Sedins skills. Getzlaf appears lazy at times and almost lulls you then makes an interception, sneaky pass or shot and you are down another goal. Perry is a sniper AND will get his nose dirty doing it.

        Lazy? wow.

        • MonsterPod

          Yeah, ‘lazy’ is just dumb. Love the homer sentiment, but get real.

          These boys were third line in Vancouver 2010 Olympics and they were not lazy. They were huge.

          Anaheim is loaded, and that’s okay. We beat them twice this year.

          Honestly, I do not want to face Minny, Chicago, or St. Louis. Of the remaining teams, I want to face the Ducks.

          We can use our speed and our top 4 D. If we get stellar goaltending, we actually have a chance in this series.

          Hartley is gonna have to be smart. Boudreau has never been past this point.

          It’s gonna be good. Let’s dig in and enjoy.


      • RedMan

        Man I have a hard time believing you have ever even watched a full hockey game with comments like that.

        Also the whole hardworking team with heart thing is getting old. Because the other teams still in the playoffs didn’t work hard to get there right? They don’t have heart right? Only good old calgary flames boys work hard and have heart!

  • mk

    Who do you think sees the Getzlaf line match-up? Do the Ducks try to go power-v-power (Hudreauahan) or do they put the Kesler line against our top line?

    Loxeus is probably right – Getzlaf and Perry will be the ones playing against Hudreauahan. Does the Backlund line get the Kesler matchup? Or the Stajan line?

    • Parallex

      I think they mostly go PvP and occasionally send out the Kesler line for d-zone starts. Something like 75-25 would be my guess. That’s at the Honda Center I think the Backlund/Stajan lines face them more in the Dome.

  • mk

    Nice to see someone that works here attempt to do a root cause on why we actually won rather than just saying we lost the Corsi battle and won because of “luck” as we have seen time and time again…this is refreshing and certainly welcomed.

    This is the “analytics” part of advanced “statistics/analytics”. After all, the data means nothing without someone that has the ability to interpret all of it to correctly identify which data correlates to actual success on the ice.

  • mk

    The challenge will likely be to break-even with ANA’s Top 2 lines, and then try to get some bottom six scoring.

    Pitting Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler and Ferland-Stajan-Jones to neutralize Maroon-Getz-Perry and Belesky-Kesler-Silferberg is a huge(!) challenge.

    Both of their top 2 lines have size, skill, speed. Belesky and Ferland are a match for hitting (Belesky singlehandedly turned around the games in WPG or the Ducks with huge hits).

    Bottom 6 match-ups feature Bennett-Backs-Colborne against Cogliano-Rakell-Palmieri and Bollig-Jooris-Raymond/Granlund facing Etem-Fleishman-Jackman.

    Line-by-line comparisons tilt in Anaheim’s favour.

    The one area where the Flames may have the advantage is Top 4 D. While the Ducks are able to play all 6 D, if the Flames Top 4 are able to contribute offensively this could make the difference. The rest will be up to belief, trust and finding the will to win!


      • Burnward

        Absolutely. Goaltending may be the biggest swing factor in favour of the Flames in this match-up.

        While Andersen is no slouch, he’s still young and his playoff experience last year wasn’t pretty against LA. Also Gibson is hurt and LaBarbera is backing up…if the Flames can get to Andersen early & often chances are Boudreau will leave him in, but at the risk of Andersen’s confidence/psyche.

        Meanwhile Ramo was a road warrior and Hiller is motivated against his old team. Flames 1A 1A tandem has the advantage.

        Getting a split in Anaheim with the goalies stealing one would be priceless!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Calgary is seeing the fruits of hard work, discipline, fighting through adversity, and a winning attitude.

    Our reward? A trip to the second round of the playoffs.


    The Oilers are seeing the fruits of undeveloped high end talent, incompetent management, internal conflicts and disenfranchised fan base.

    Their reward? A generational talent in Connor McDavid.


    • KiLLKiND

      By the time McJesus gets to play his first NHL Playoff game with the oilers, Sammy, Johnny, Ferly and Mony will have played ____ playoff games in ___ years! Fill in the blanks.

      I will wonder how long it will take for Peter C to trade off one or more of the “Core”, high draft picks who have never reached their perceived potential! I can’t imagine Peter having the patience with Taylor Hall and his habit of skating off the ice as the opposition is carrying the puck into the Oiler’s zone.

      Flames and Anaheim in 6 games….4-2 Flames…..Hey, I know the Ducks are big and strong but the Flames are the little engine that could!

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    It’s funny to see someone who writes for this FN credit hits and blocked shots for a teams success. This flies counter to the advanced stats Corsi/Fenwick crowd that would say these are bad things to be leading in because you don’t have the puck.

    I can understand that perspective but as a Flames fan I would appreciate more analysis that looks at why the they win without being lazy and just chalking it up to luck BS.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    That Ducks lineup scares the hell out of me. Jebus, Etem and Fleishman on the FOURTH LINE?

    We have to play fast. Real fast. Their players aren’t the swiftest, especially their d-men. We should be able to do the transition pass easier against them than the Canucks.

    Coaching will be very important, I’m hoping Boudreau will do that thing where he somehow verbally destroys his goalies’ minds.

  • KiLLKiND

    I honestly think Calgary can win this Hiller will be highly motivated, and Anaheim’s goaltending is not the most reliable tandem. However we still need to break the curse and I hope that doesn’t play into the minds of our team.

  • beloch

    Engelland’s average shift length was 42 seconds during the regular season. Saturday night — at a critical juncture in the game, he ends up caught out on the ice for 3:22 or nearly five-times that.

    Stuck with the longest path to travel — trapped on the opposite end to the Flames bench and on the opposite side of the ice also, the right defenceman just couldn’t get to the bench no matter what. The home bench must have looked like it was located in Red Deer, it seemed so far away.

    During that period of furious pressure for the Canucks, Vancouver had 10 shot attempts — four shots on goal, five more blocked (two by Engelland) and one sailed wide.

    Engelland played against all 18 Canucks skaters that shift including the Sedin-Sedin-Hansen line two separate times and the Verbata-Bonino-Baertschi line twice also. Vancouver nearly went through two full rotations of their three defence pairings.

    Darren Haynes

    I remember being on the edge of my seat during this sequence, but I didn’t realize Engelland was trapped out there the whole time! Absolutely unreal. I’m not a big fan of Engelland. I’m inclined to think it’s his slowness that kept him from changing. However, he played well that shift and didn’t make any fatal errors despite being utterly drained.

    The Flames are a very flawed team with huge limitations, but they’ve played around them to a degree that’s simply amazing. The Canucks should have scored during Engelland’s shift from hell. They should have been able to take advantage of one of the Flames’ least mobile defenders being pushed beyond the limits of endurance. They didn’t. That’s pretty incredible.

    • Burnward

      I read that from Darren Haynes to, praise for Engelland usually falls on deaf ears around here or just gets trashed.

      For the record I’d rather have Engelland on the ice for that than Diaz or Schlemco.

      • mk

        As anyone who’s seen my posts will know I haven’t been an Engelland fan throughout the year. But he has stepped up his game since Gio got injured. Playing with Brodie has certainly improved Engelland’s game. But most of the improvements have come from Engelland himself. I’ll give credit, where credit is do. And I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. Engelland has gained my respect by stepping up when we needed him, much like the rest of the Team. He’s got heart and leaves it all out on the ice!

    • mk

      They were talking about this with Dennis Wideman on the Fan this morning – they asked him if he was the jerk teammate who saw that shift and then took a 20 second shift right afterwards. “Oof that was a doozy.” 🙂 I guess its good he didn’t do that.