As we’ve continued our walk down memory lane this week, reflecting on the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs as we prepare for the Calgary Flames’ second round series with the Anaheim Ducks.
So far, there’s been a common thread, and I’m prepared to make a fairly bold declaration.
Matt Stajan was Calgary’s most valuable player in the opening round.
First and foremost, Stajan scored the goal that sent Calgary to the second round. That makes him a sentimental favourite, as it was his first playoff goal and after the last couple years that he’s had to endure as a hockey player and as a human being, it’s great to see a guy as genuine as he is rewarded. (Aside: he’s one of the better guys in the Flames locker room at explaining team dynamics. Smart cat.)
But if you look at his overall play over the six games, Stajan was very good all series.
He was easily Calgary’s best face-off taker, and the best of all the regular centers for either team in the first round. That gave Calgary a huge advantage, as he was able to help negate the offensive prowess of the Sedins by making it tough for them to get the puck.
Another way Stajan made it tough for the Sedins was with physicality. Primarily a depth option this year, playing center on the fourth line, Stajan’s played a smart, physical brand of hockey all season. He brought that to the post-season, easily matching the physical style of linemates Micheal Ferland and David Jones. In addition, his hockey sense also aided his line-mates, as he was able to distribute the puck well and create chances for his wingers.
Many Flames were good in the opening round, but Matt Stajan was their best player.