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Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

What can be learned from the Flames/Ducks season series?

The Calgary Flames lost four of their five regular season matchups with the Anaheim Ducks. Considering the circumstances of those games, the results aren’t exactly encouraging – the Flames twice faced the Ducks on the second half of back-to-backs and had three home dates against them.

What can we learn about the upcoming series from their five previous meetings? Is there a pattern that can emerge that might shed some light on the adjustments the Flames need to make to come out of the first round victorious?

Nov. 6: Calgary 1 at Anaheim 4

The Flames were at the tail-end of a four-game road trip, the night after a walloping by the Kings in Los Angeles, and were as decimated by injury as the club would get this season – Hunter Shinkaruk and Freddie Hamilton dressed. The Ducks were at the end of a homestand and were generally quite sharp.

How did the matchups look?

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Chiasson were matched by Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik were matched by Vermette – Rakell – Cramarossa
  • Shinkaruk – Bennett – Brouwer were matched by Ritchie – Perry – Getzlaf
  • Ferland – Stajan – F.Hamilton were matched by Wagner – Garbutt – Boll

In general, Kesler was used to shut down the Monahan line and Vermette was used against 3M (who had not yet really cemented themselves as offensive movers and shakers at that point). Functionally, it seems Carlyle’s hope was to stay even with his stop two lines and then use the Perry/Getzlaf line to exploit Calgary’s weaker third line.

From the recap, why did the Flames lose?

The Ducks weren’t particularly great, but the Flames were bad in precisely the ways they’ve been bad all year to this point. A defensive zone lapse turned into the first goal. Defensive zone penalties and a really hapless penalty kill turned into two more goals. Four players getting caught up ice on a rush led to the other goal heading back the other way.

The Flames keep making mistakes at key times that end up in the back of their net.

Dec. 4: Anaheim 3 at Calgary 8

The flu-ridden Ducks were playing their third road game in four nights, while the Flames were fresh and finishing off a three-game home stand. This game was not close, particularly since Jonathan Bernier couldn’t stop a beach ball on this night – he was only kept in because John Gibson had diarrhea, according to Carlyle.

Since the Flames had last change, the deployments and assignments were a bit different:

  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik were matched against Ritchie – Getzlaf – Perry
  • Gaudreau – Bennett – Chiasson were matched against Silfverberg – Kesler – Cogliano
  • Versteeg – Monahan – Brouwer were matched against Cramarossa – Vermette – Perry
  • Ferland – Stajan – Hathaway were matched against Shaw – Garbutt – Kase

In part because of shaky goaltending and in part because of matchups, the Flames were better than the Ducks in every situation. From the recap:

The Flames were simply more energetic, better and luckier than the Ducks tonight. Anaheim was the victim of circumstances here on the back end of a back-to-back, but the Flames made a lot of scoring chances happen with smart individual efforts – half of Calgary’s goals were preceded by nice back-checking or battling on the boards. But it also helps that the Ducks seemed completely terrified of the Flames when they had the puck, particularly after the Flames got a 3-1 lead.

They managed to out-score the Ducks both at even-strength (5-2) and on special teams (3-1). When you do that, you should win most of the time.

Dec. 29: Anaheim 3 at Calgary 1

This was a bit of an odd one. The Flames were coming back from the road for their first home game after the Christmas break. The Ducks were heading out for their first road game after Christmas (and were in the first game of a back-to-back).

The match-ups were a bit odd:

  • Gaudreau – Bennett – Chiasson were matched against Perry – Vermette – Rakell (but also saw a lot of Kesler’s line)
  • Versteeg – Monahan – Ferland were matched against Ritchie – Getzlaf – Kase
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik were matched against Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg (but also saw a bit of the Vermette line)
  • Bouma – Stajan – Hathaway were matched against Shaw – Cramarossa – Boll

After the Flames got down a goal, though, Gulutzan functionally abandoned tactical line-matching mid-game in an effort to generate offense, focusing on zone starts rather than specific matchups. Granted, the Flames were also missing Dougie Hamilton due to illness. It also doesn’t help that the Flames kept taking penalties, which really hurt their ability to generate chances at even strength. From the recap:

In my preview, I noted that the Flames needed to stay out of the box. Regardless of the circumstances, they gave Anaheim six man advantages. They scored on two. That’s the game. Obviously teams can’t be pushed around, but they also can’t take too many retaliatory penalties.

In addition, the Flames were missing their best pure defenseman – or at least the one that’s added the most to their lineup this year – and really seemed to struggle generating much off the rush. Once they got down a goal, they really struggled to get much going and it made life easy on Anaheim.

April 2: Anaheim 4 at Calgary 3

In their first game following clinching a playoff spot, and the finale of a four-game home stand, the Flames faced the Ducks in their third and final home meeting. The Ducks had played the night before in Edmonton. It was a tight game dictated by defensive miscues by a Flames team that seemed a little too loose.

Gulutzan’s match-ups:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland were matched against Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik were matched against Ritchie – Getzlaf – Eaves
  • Versteeg – Bennett – Chiasson were matched against Rakell – Vermette – Perry
  • Bouma – Stajan – Brouwer were matched against Wagner – Thompson – Shaw

This was one of those games where the Ducks’ depth and the Flames’ defensive wonkiness – previously seen in November – were on display. Calgary’s attention to detail just wasn’t there, leading to turnovers, penalties and many scoring chances against (regardless of matchups). The game basically came down to the Ducks’ fourth line generating more offense than the Flames’ more expensive fourth line.

From the recap:

The Flames had very little going on at even strength. They’re healthy and had last change at home, but they really seemed to have no answer for Anaheim’s pressure at 5 on 5. It also doesn’t help that they were occasionally very bad in their own end, frequently just tossing the puck up the boards from behind the net and hoping that Anaheim wouldn’t grab the loose puck.

It’s a shame, too, because while this wasn’t a game they had to have it was up for grabs in the third period and they just couldn’t grab hold of it.

April 4: Calgary 1 at Anaheim 3

Just two days after their loss in Anaheim, the Flames headed to Honda Center for the Ducks’ third game in four nights. To the surprise of few, they did not win. The Ducks had last change and oddly seemed to be fine with using the same general matchups that Gulutzan chose 48 hours prior:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland were matched by Cogliano – Kesler – Silfverberg
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik were matched by Rakell – Getzlaf – Eaves
  • Versteeg – Bennett – Chiasson were matched by Ritchie – Vermette – Perry
  • Bouma – Stajan – Brouwer were matched by Shaw – Thompson -Wagner

The game was generally pretty close, but the Ducks took advantage of a few miscues by the Flames to get ahead. And then the third period degraded into a clown show of fights, intimidation and silliness after Mark Giordano’s (inadvertent?) knee-on-knee collision with Cam Fowler.

From the recap:

There are two big reasons. Goals and stupidity.

The Flames were the better team for the first 25 minutes of this game. Even when the Ducks started taking the game over, because they’re pretty good, the Flames had four power play opportunities – including a 48 second 5-on-3 advantage in the third period. They had six shots and zero goals. In a game that these guys had to have in order to avoid playing Chicago in the first round, that’s unacceptable.

The other reason was stupidity, in that the Flames allowed themselves to be sucked into the hugging and punching of the final 12 minutes of this game. The Ducks are a big, mean veteran team. They have the ability to drag teams into the muck if you let them. Just as they did in that awful game the Flames played against Los Angeles last week, the Flames let the Ducks drag them into the muck.

The takeaways

The Flames lost four of five games against Anaheim. The common threads in their defeats seems to be the following:

  1. The Ducks were patient and took advantage of defensive mistakes that the Flames made.
  2. The Ducks generated more from their special teams opportunities than the Flames did. (And the defensive mistakes the Flames made often led to them taking penalties.)
  3. Once they got a lead, the Ducks were good at leaning on the Flames and grinding things out until the clock ran down.
  4. The Ducks did not seem to care about matchups, with the focus seemingly being letting two of their top three lines negate the Flames’ top lines (Monahan’s line and 3M), allowing their third line and fourth line to eke out enough offense at even strength to get the win.
  • The Doctor

    The other big factor not listed in your takeaways is STUPIDITY. Key to this series will be the Flames not taking stupid penalties, not being sucked into the Ducks’ greasy, ugly game. If the Flames play their own game, they win. If they play the Ducks’ game, they lose.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    I don’t understand why GG hasn’t been able to reign the guys in so they don’t take so many unnecessary penalties. What good is possession-based hockey when undisciplined acts cost the game? It’s like clockwork with this team – not if but when. Good possession teams are supposed to be causing other teams to take dumb penalties. It’s a head scratcher but maybe GG doesn’t want to do this because it will mess his hair?

  • Raffydog

    Gaudreau to small to be effective in the playoffs.
    Monahan has no points in last 4 games so looks like he is getting ready for a slump at the wrong time. Ferland hasn’t been good last 15 games or so. 3M line hasn’t been playing well, they seem to be getting pinned in there own zone for most shifts lately. Defence and goaltending has been below average last 15 games or so. My prediction; Flames might win one game at home so Ducks take the series in 5.

      • Raffydog

        Hope your right, but I doubt it. I’ve watched this team fail countless number of times since they moved to Calgary. Even when they were favorites to win it all, they just never seem to want it more than the other team, which has been a fundamental flaw in the entire organization since they moved from Atlanta.

        • Legend of Weevil

          Why are you even a Flames fan? Like seriously. “they never seem to want it more than the other team”. The whole 2004 cup run was based on them playing their hearts out. Iggy’s “the shift” is proof of that.

          Two years ago they shouldn’t have even made the playoffs, after Gio got injured they could have just stopped trying and said we shouldn’t make it anyways. Instead the whole team stepped up and Calgary made the playoffs and beat the Canucks despite their first defence pairing having Engelland on it.

          This year they had a horrible start. Johnny, Monny, Brodie, Elliot all played terrible. People were calling for the coaches head and to trade Hamilton. Instead they stuck with their game, persevered and made they playoffs when at christmas no one would have predicted that.

          “They never want it as much as other teams”

          Okay bud, stop trolling

          • Raffydog

            I’m not trolling dude, and yes I am very pessimistic, I think that comes from cheering for the Flames since I was a little kid. I just don’t think they have what it takes to be successful this year. Future looks bright, making the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years is a good accomplishment, but there is no way this team beats the Ducks this year, for reasons I’ve already stated

        • Avalain

          I do that understand this comment. They have a fundamental flaw in the organization since they moved from Atlanta? But they have a cup win since then. And they haven’t been favorites to win it all since back in 89, so I dont understand what you mean here either.

    • Legend of Weevil

      Lol what? Gaudreau was Calgary’s best forward in the playoffs two years ago and was the main reason they won game 4. And is also coming off an amazing last 3 months

      Ferland plays his best hockey in the playoffs and the last 3 games meant literally nothing to the Flames.

      Do you really think the Flames are going to do any better than they did 2 years ago despite being an infinitely better team?

      They got Frolik, Tkachuk, Elliot, Stone, Barkoski, Hamilton, Versteeg and Giordano. All of these players are better than their counter parts of 2 years ago.

      The Flames top defensive line 2 years ago was Engelland Brodie and their goalies were Ramo and Hiller, two goalies who aren’t even in the NHL anymore

      • The Doctor

        Couldn’t agree with you more that the Flames are a significantly better team than two years ago. To me, a lot of this will come down to coaching, execution and discipline. If we have a good game plan and execute it, then we’ll be fine. Ducks will be doing everything they can to take us off our game, and that’s where discipline comes in.

      • Raffydog

        Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just being realistic. Flames don’t stand a chance in hell in this series. Hope I’m wrong, but if not for a brain cramp for a 5 minute stretch by the ducks, they would’ve swept the season series as well. I think the last 15 games of the season is a true indication of where this team is. To small, no heart, no chance.

        • Legend of Weevil

          You’re not being realistic.

          Firstly, im not sure if you watched any of those games but Calgary was very close in both of those games. The first of those last games they only lost because Elliot let a bad goal in with 3 minutes left. The second they dominated the first two periods and only lost because Elliot had no warm up because Johnson got injured (also the game meant nothing)

          Stats have shown that how a team does the last 10-15 games has no bearing on how a team does in the playoffs.

          Im not saying that every Flames fan needs to think they need to win. Personally I’m predicting the Ducks win in 7. But stop spewing pessimistic garbage and straight out lies. (Gaudreau is statistically one of Calgary’s best players and saying Johnny isn’t half of what Kane is)

      • jakethesnail

        2 years ago Giordano was injured and did not play vs Ducks and add more experienced Johnny, Monny, Ferland and even Bennett who has picked up his game lately. Stone definitely better than Wideman…as well as Elliott!!

    • Legend of Weevil

      Also Gaudreau is too small? Haven’t we heard this before? And Guardeau proves people wrong over and over again.

      Patrick Kane is similar size and he’s one of the most effective playoff players in the whole league

        • Legend of Weevil

          Well seeing as you only gave the argument that it won’t be effective because he is small, which is just blatantly wrong.

          Kane’s points per game is 1.0 with 65% of his starts in the offensive zone
          Gaudreau is 0.80 with 58% of his starts in the offensive zone

          considering Gaudreau is way younger, has yet to hit his prime and has played on a bad team instead of the best team in the league for all those years that’s pretty damn close.

          Kane himself has praised Gaudreau for being one of the best players in the league. Im not sure you love the Flames or watched any of their games because Gaudreau is one hell of a player.

          • Raffydog

            Ya Gaudreau is awesome no doubt, but come on, Kane can take over a game on his own, JH isn’t quite there yet, not to mention, Kane has two Stanley Cup rings, can’t really compare the two. Maybe one day, but not this day.

    • jakethesnail

      FYI Sportsnet Hockey Central at noon today (Tuesday), Millard picked the Flames in 6, Kypreos the Flames in 7, while Maclean picked the Ducks in 7….what does Maclean know anyway?? lol

  • Greg

    My eyes glossed over after I saw we had Shinkurak-Bennet-Brouwer matched up against getlzaf and perry in game 1. Let’s just not ever do that again, k thanks.

  • RKD

    If they played that first period like they did outshooting and outchancing the Ducks for more than a period in this series they have a really good shot. They need to play like that as often as possible, not engage the Ducks and retaliate let them take the penalties and score on our power play.

  • MontanaMan

    Mods: You either need to get control of this site, or you will lose any semblance of intelligent hockey discussion. Standing by idly while idiot Connor Mcdavid flaps his gums demonstrates you aren’t interested in hockey comments, but will tolerate 14 year olds who offer nothing to the discussion. Ban some people and you might see the IQ level of comments return.

    • shaner

      i just ordered up the wwwaaaaaambulance, we need to get those hurt feelings all healed up before game time. Im kidding……..kidding……….honestly, hoping for flames and oilers to beat california. announce to the league that in future years the cup is coming from ALBERTA. Also if both teams have good runs, we become even more legit and quality players will want to play and pick there sides and the teams will be even better. I love the Oil but would love to see a really strong flame team also because it will make the BOA that much better!