The Calgary Flames face a familiar foe as they move onto the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the form of the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are the Pacific Division champions, and the one team among the entire division that the Flames didn’t beat in the season series.
The Ducks are riding high, having swept the Winnipeg Jets and shattering the hearts of Canadian hockey fans. The Flames have a chance to avenge their Western Canadian brethren and move on to the conference finals, a round the club has only ever been to four times in its history.
Here are five reasons why the Flames will win this series.
They Survived The Top Line Going AWOL
Let’s be blunt here: whether it’s because Vancouver really focused in on them or the likelihood that at least one of them was injured or sick to begin the series, Calgary’s top line was largely a non-factor in the series. Heck, they didn’t create a whole lot until the very last game.
But hey, despite all that, the Flames won three games because of their depth. Presuming the Ducks focus in on the Monahan line like Vancouver did, the Flames probably have confidence that they’ll have a shot to win because their depth guys can deliver in the clutch.
They Relish The Physical Game
The Ducks blew through a four-game sweep of the Jets. They threw their bodies around a fair bit, but the series was a relative sprint. Calgary, on the other hand, did their best to turn their series with Vancouver into a trench war, succeeded, and won a protracted series.
Calgary knows that they can survive a war. Can Anaheim?
The Match-Up Game
Well, Calgary won three games at their own arena. How? Well, Bob Hartley is a pretty good coach, and he and his staff observed what worked and what didn’t in terms of match-ups in Vancouver and made adjustments.
As a result? The Flames figured out which players were able to neutralize the Canucks’ dangerous players – the Sedins – and they won enough games at home to move on. Hartley’s done it once, so there’s no reason he can’t do it agan.
Granted, the match-ups are gonna be a lot tougher against Anaheim than against Vancouver.
Rest Versus Momentum
What do you wanna do when you’re winning all the time and everything’s going your way? You probably want to keep the good times rolling. Thanks to the NHL’s playoff schedule, by the time the Ducks are back in action on April 30, they’ll have been idle for 8 days.
That’s a long time to sit.
The Flames? They’ll have sat for five days with ice packs on them after putting the Canucks through a physical hellscape. The rest-versus-momentum scale probably hurts the Ducks more than it hurts the Flames.
There’s No Pressure
The Ducks led the Pacific Division for the majority of the season and captured the pennant. It’s the third consecutive season they’ve won the Pacific. They lost in the first round in 2013 and the second round in 2014. But they have some great players on their team, in their prime, and should be expected to win something at some point, right?
Calgary? Nobody thought they would be here. If they lose, they lose to the division-winning team and end up miles ahead of where anybody thought they’d be. But if they win? If they win, they will have leaped from finishing fourth-from-last in the NHL to finishing in the NHL’s final four.
The pressure is squarely on Anaheim, and the Flames are playing with house money.