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!?
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE
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.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUCCESS
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.
BODIES THROWN AT PUCKS
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.
BODIES THROWN AT BODIES
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.