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FN Mailbag – April 10, 2017

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Playoffs.

If it was a bit of a bumpy road and the Flames are still something of an unfinished product, but they’re back in the postseason nonetheless. Even though Calgary struggled out of the gate, Glen Gulutzan’s version of the club took a much-needed step forward over the Hartley iterations.

This year isn’t a repeat of 2014-15, where Calgary rode a confluence of improbable breaks to the dance. All of the club’s underlying numbers have improved this season, from possession to expected goals, meaning the Flames are a more deserving Stanley Cup participant this time around.

That doesn’t mean they are contenders yet, of course. This season merely represents a solid step forward towards that goal. Whatever happens in the first round, Flames nation should be satisfied with the returns of 2016-17 and excited about the future.

In the mailbag today we look some of the key considerations heading into the first round, including goaltending, depth players, and whether the Flames can hang with the rough stuff or not.

I have faith in Monahan. He has the hair of a Hollywood teen heartthrob and the voice and cadence of a grizzled 40-year old. Surely he can muster a beard.

Other alternative: Monahan takes a few inches off the top and Gaudreau glues the strands to his face.

Goaltending is the least of my worries for the Flames. Both Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott had a few rough patches this season, but we have years of evidence that shows they are quality NHL netminders. Plus Elliott was one of the hottest goalies in the league for the final couple months of the year.

Calgary also has a couple of decent AHL netminders to lean on if Johnson can’t go for the first round in David Rittich and Jon Gillies.

“Not disappearing” is up to Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, not their winger, whoever that might be. Remember, though, that Gaudreau was probably the Flames’ most dangerous player against the Ducks in the second round a couple of years ago.

If GG can manage his bench properly, I think the Flames’ top offensive line will get its chances.

I suppose, but the chances of that making a big difference are slim. Garnet Hathaway can be more of a “disruptive presence” than Lance Bouma, so maybe he could help draw more penalties or get the Ducks off their game a bit. In terms of the nuts and bolts (shooting, scoring, passing, possession, etc.) Hathaway probably isn’t an upgrade.

Calgary’s third pairing is an issue that will need to be carefully managed in round one, regardless of the opponent. TheĀ Ducks have heavy hitters who can exploit the Flames’ weak bottom end, so it will be up to the coaching staff to dictate matchups accordingly.

We’ll have more on this topic this week.

No chance, really, unless Matt Bartkowski has a terrible first couple of games. The club has shown a strong preference for Bart since he arrived over the kids, so he likely gets the benefit of the doubt unless something goes terribly wrong.

My preference would be for Brett Kulak personally, but for now, the veteran is the incumbent. As for Tyler Wotherspoon, I’m not sure the team considers him a prospect anymore.

The Flames have had a hard time riding the line between “standing up for themselves” and actually playing sound hockey. Twice in the last couple weeks, Calgary was dragged into an alley fight by the Kings and Ducks. They lost both games.

While the team will want to avoid being run out of the rink, they also can’t allow the rough stuff to take precedence over their game plan and execution. I have no doubt the coaching staff has stressed the same thing in the wake of those two defeats.

Whether they can actually manage that or not remains to be seen.

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  • Sanintarious

    A huge issue for me is still some of GG urge to start Brouwer in periods. Especially on the road. Yes, perhaps its better than a D-zone start, but this also gives the Ducks team something to built off of. They start the game at an advantage and can get the team going early on.

    For this Flames to win this series, they obviously have to win 1 game at the Duck pond, which means they need to be very smart on how they deploy their lines and pairings.

    I hope the “YOU CAN’T WIN HERE” chants fired this team up, and they bring it to the Ducks in gm 1. Winning one of the first 2 games on the road gives the Flames back home ice advantage!

  • redwhiteblack

    Win one of the first 2 games and we have a shot. I think they are beatable. The fact we lost twice recently might be motivation. Where you fail try again. Thankfully we get to try again. “Whatever happens in the first round, Flames nation should be satisfied with the returns of 2016-17 and excited about the future.”

  • Truculence

    The Ducks are not a scrappy team. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to list anybody on the Ducks that could take either Ferland or Engelland in a scrap. They are, however, a team full of pests that can play physical. But the Flames also have a lot of players that can play that style: Ferland, Tkachuk, Bennett, Brouwer, Bouma, and Chiasson. The key is to not take penalties and get the other side off their game. Let’s see what happens.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Manson appears to be a pretty scarey fighter… In the Ferland and Engelland category. The 2 players that scare me are Kesler and Rackell….Perry and Getzlaf are past their prime. Patrick Eaves seems to be a playoff type player that compliments that line. I would bring in Hathaway to irritate Kesler.

      • Truculence

        Manson gives up a lot of size to either Ferly or Engelland. He seems to be more of a middle-weight like Bouma and, surprisingly, Bennett. I don’t think there are going to be any fights, however. I’m talking about physicality, and I think the younger Flames can keep up a more physical pace throughout the series than the veteran Ducks. We’ll find out soon enough what Gulutzan’s strategy is going to be.

  • kid presentable

    i hope to god gg stops rolling 4 lines and 3 pairings equally, but based on the way he’s managed ice time this season, i’m not counting on it.

    still puzzled to no end by the bartkowski being in the lineup. he brings absolutely nothing positive for the team. please be off the roster fast enough not to hurt the flames more.

    i hope next year i won’t have to hold my breath when the 4th line and the 3rd pairing come on (because all the trash will be off the team). that unit gets demolished like they used to under hartley, with none of the speed and counter-attacking

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Engelland has been an effective PK’er, s no doubt he gets more than the standard 3rd pairing guy would. Bart is being showcased (was anyway) so that LV will select him over Brouwer. Not that great a strategy. I do also believe that the line rolling was more to manage the gas tanks of the top 9 players and top 4D. Brouwer will get minutes in the playoffs, as long as he does something. The best thing would be to occasionally play him on a top 9 line than give the same minutes to Bouma and Stajan.

  • flames2015

    Line matching is going to imparative in this first round. 3rd pairing of defense need to play 3rd line minutes. The tough guys on our team need to play physical. Maturity here will be a huge thing for the young guys as no doubt Kesler and Perry’s mission will be to rattle our boys and get them into penalty trouble. They’ll be going after Johnny too no doubt.

  • Parallex

    “I have no doubt the coaching staff has stressed the same thing in the wake of those two defeats.”

    See this is where I have real concerns… surely the coaching staff would have stressed the same thing after the 1st defeat… and yet two games later they let themselves get suckered into it again. If we play that game we’ll lose and we’ll deserve to lose.