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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Playoff FGD: Flames vs. Ducks, Game 4

It’s entirely possible that tonight will the final game of the 2016-17 Calgary Flames season. The Flames enter Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Anaheim Ducks down three games to none. Through 182 minutes of hockey, the Flames have held a lead for 60 of them. Unfortunately, they haven’t had the lead at the end of any of them, which is why they’re down three to nothing in the series.

Tonight is the Flames’ Waterloo. It’s Custer’s Last Stand. It’s do or die. Throw out any other wacky “win or you’re done” cliches you’d like. We’re going to learn an awful lot about the Flames and who this team is, in their guts, by the end of these three-plus periods of ice hockey at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on CBC (with Rick Ball and John Garrett) and Sportsnet 960 The Fan (with Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias).

THE FLAMES

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

Despite losing three in a row, and despite giving up a few tough goals in the past two games, Brian Elliott is back between the pipes tonight (with Chad Johnson backing him up). Elliott was shaky throughout the third period of Game 3, and early in Game 2, but I would imagine the logic behind going with him is that he’s gotten the team this far. Why not let him try to keep them alive, right?

Two lineup changes for this evening: Freddie Hamilton and Curtis Lazar are in for Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan, who join Dennis Wideman on the sidelines. That means it looks like the Flames will be storing roughly $10.6 million in regular season cap hits in the press box for the most important game of their season. Presumably Hamilton and Lazar jump into the penalty killing rotation as well, but that’s not a definite.

Why not more significant, seismic changes after losing the first three games? At his morning press conference, head coach Glen Gulutzan was fairly succinct about his thought process:

I don’t know when blowing things up really works. At the end of the day, we feel our lines have played well against other lines, have out-chanced other lines five on five. Our power play’s clicking. We were disciplined, we didn’t take a penalty in the last game other than the coincidental. I just think you stay to the road map. You don’t get off on a good road.

The Flames have played well in each game played in this series. Heck, you can make a very good argument that they were the better team in Games 2 and 3. But the team just gets in their own way far too much; via penalties, via losing focus, via bad goaltending and via taking their foot off the gas last game. Say what you will about the officiating or goal reviews or whatever other aspects of the series you’ve hated, but teams that go far in the playoffs don’t let those things derail them.

In terms of their metamorphosis into a potential powerhouse, the Flames are not there yet. But they might not be done for the season quite yet.

THE DUCKS

Lines via Daily Faceoff:

We’re still awaiting confirmation on Anaheim’s starter for this evening. John Gibson was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots in Game 3 and Jonathan Bernier was perfect on 16 shots in relief for the win. It’s basically a coin toss in terms of who goes, as both guys are capable of grabbing the Ducks a win. For whatever it’s worth, Gibson was first off the ice at morning skate.

Update: Gibson confirmed as starter.

The Ducks have been pretty hamstrung in terms of having a beaten-up blueline. They’ve been without Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and Clayton Stoner, and there’s no way Kevin Bieksa is 100% after leaving Game 3 a couple times after big hits. But despite playing a very inexperienced defensive group, they’ve been good enough to win each game so far. The Flames made moves to add some speed to their fourth line, but we’ll see if that’s enough to overcome how solid the Ducks back end has been.

THE NUMBERS

FLAMES DUCKS
Wins 0 3
Goals 8 11
Power Play 38.5% 27.3%
Penalty Kill 72.7% 61.5%
Score-Adjusted Corsi 51.6% 48.4%

KNOW THY ENEMY

Some Ducks follows for tonight’s contest:

SUM IT UP

The Flames desperately need a win to stay alive in the postseason. Expect them to lay it all out there for 60 minutes tonight. If they can’t get some bounces, though, it may not be enough.

        • everton fc

          Would you trade Johnny to NJ straight up for Hall? Would you trade him somehow for Tavares?? Give this some thought. I think he’s committed, but his “game” has been figured out. If he turns out to be a guy who scores 15-20 goals and 40-50 assists… Can we live w/this??

          • Newbietwo

            The reality and stylist of he NHL is that Johnny is getting $6.75 million.. now when you take away his power play points he’s a 35 point player a year which means Johnny is a NHL 3rd liner for $3.75 million a year max.. he has no grit, he disappears in games that matter year after year, he has no defence and he has work to do on his shot.. I would take a Hall yes at this point it is what’s best for the team overall long term.. for the points he brings his line gives up in points because he’s a defensive liability

          • Skylardog

            Right now JG reminds me of the Sedin twins. Amazing hockey players all of them, can get you to the playoffs, but once you are there, will disappear for fear of being run over.

    • Franko J

      Plenty of soul searching come this offseason for many of Flames. Too bad the season had to end on such a sour note. Tonight’s game was a moot point. Mondays game against the Ducks was when the season came to a crashing halt.

  • cgyokgn

    I’m more disappointed about last game when they had a 4 – 1 lead and couldn’t hold on. We’re the only team in the playoffs not to win a single game. Embarrassing and unacceptable.

        • Skylardog

          True – and he will be the scapegoat. But the problems run much deeper and have been exposed in the playoffs. There is a MAJOR problems in how this team is run. As said all night, the love for Brouwer, Bartand & Eng killing penalties. Starting Elliott with no confidence he was the right guy. D Hamilton not out with the goalie pulled. Ferland sitting in favour of Brouwer, and Chaission the 3 games before (he’s getting 12:00 minutes of ice per game). Grossman making the lineup at the beginning of the season.

    • everton fc

      Good news, though;

      Bennett is good in the playoffs. This is important.
      Much more so – Monahan is very good, period. Playoffs included. Ditto Versteeg. And Ferland.

      There’s a future here, fans – though our farm team “ain’t” deep.

  • Skylardog

    The Key guys head out with the goalie pulled. Brouwer playing but not Tkachuk, Frolik, Bennett, Ferland. Versteeg not D Hamilton, Versteeg could have taken off Brouwer, Hamilton out on the point. Wow. We rode Brouwer all the way to round 2

  • Skeittari78

    It was a nice ride as long as it lasted. Actually, we never made it on the freaking saddle. Well, stretch your sack and grab the golf bag. See you on the training camp!

  • FOS

    Well, other than the two rubbish goals to start, the boys did everything they could tonight. On to next season now, it was fun while it lasted. Lets just hope the ducks are out next round and the streak ends next season, I’m over it and the Ducks

  • shaner

    truth is, you guys have a great young team. get a goalie and a few more breaks and you will be a force next year. but 4 and out sucks but a lot of bright spots. good season, something to build off

    • Franko J

      Sounds good, but I’m not buying what you are selling. Just like many fans and media who predicted the Flames would be more competitive against the Ducks this time around. I saw a team that was maybe more skilled, but lacked grit and finishing. Sure we can blame terrible goaltending, bad bounces and inadequate referees the bottom line is that the Flames were out coached and our best players did not come to play.

  • Skylardog

    When you are one of the last into the playoffs, you are 15th out of 30. All that means is you are the best of the worst. You are also the worst of the best. Swept in 4 sure proves that to be true.

  • Rocket66

    Heads better roll now in the off season. A pathetic performance by coaching staff. Some bad signings Brouwer was a huge mistake. The most frustrating year I remember as being a flame fan. Anyone who thinks Vegas will grab Brouwer is a true fool. They are not looking for over paid floaters. We are stuck with him unless they buy him out. Hopefully a new coach will limit his time with no pp next year

  • everton fc

    I don’t think this was such a bad season. But we made some bad moves;

    1. Signing Brouwer. Unless they can unload him to Vegas, how do BT and BB justify this horrendous “howler”?
    2. Signing Bartkowski. Should have been Kulak. Or one of the kids on the farm. Another contract we don’t need.
    3. Brouwer on the PP over Ferland. Words fail here. Makes no sense. Ferland would have cleared 20 goals if he could have been parked in the crease over Brouwer, who is simply not as good these days, as Ferland.
    4. Bennett did well the last part of the year. He and Ferland were not deployed properly, nor with the right linemates, most of the season.
    5. Gaudreau. Sub 20 goals is not good enough. Simple as that.

    Things I liked;

    1. Versteeg. They need to re-sign him.
    2. Ferland. Look for 20-plus goals, next season.
    3. Monahan. The playoffs proved he’ll be a great Flame, for years to come.
    4. Chiasson. Re-sign him. He’s still young. Same age as Hathaway. Give this some thought. I think a 4th line of Freddie H-Lazar-Chiasson would be interesting. Of course, I’d like to see Jankowski centering Lazar and Chiasson. We shall see.
    5. Freddie H. He didn’t play much, but when he did, he gave 100%. I wonder how he’d do, given a full season on a 4th line here?
    6. Jankowski. He had a good season on the farm. He may be our 4th line centre next season, particularly if Stajan gets picked via expansion (please pick BROUWER!!)
    7. Gulutzan. For all the crap he took here, he got us into the playoffs.
    8. Dougie Hamilton & Gio. No need to add to this.

    Future;

    1. I’d consider re-signing Elliott, but what if we went off the charts and gave Rittich/Gillies/Parsons a chance to share the goaltending next season?
    2. Jankowski will play in Calgary next season .
    3. Re-sign Versteeg and Chiasson. Maybe Elliott.
    4. Move Brouwer.
    5. Ditto Bartkowski.
    6. If Vegas doesn’t scoop Kulak, he’s in Calgary next season. No more AHL for this guy.
    7. Re-sign Stone CHEAP – and only as a 5/6 depth defender, as I get a feeling Kulak and Andersson are on the roster next season, “Opening Day”.
    8. Sign a top-6 RW. Maybe Ferland’s the answer w/Monahan and Gaudreau. Maybe a line of Versteeg-Bennett-Ferland, with an experienced, skilled, crafty veteran added on RW for Monahan’s line gives us three very good lines (can Lazar play LW? If so, consider a 4th line next season of Lazar-Jankowski-Chiasson).
    9. Re-sign BT, but scold him for the Brouwer contract. Brutal!

    Whilst I lament being the first team bounced this playoff season, the future looks better than five years ago. Playoffs two of the last three seasons is certainly an improvement.

  • Newbietwo

    Goodbye Bouma, goodbye Stajan, Engelland, Bartowski, Elliot, Goodbye Wideman yes refs he’s gone now, possibly Johnson and Versteeg..

    Possibly goodbye Johnny hockey because we won’t win the cup with you because you are a liability 5v5..
    Possibly goodbye Backlund because after next year you will cost too much and as well as you played this year you finish sometimes but don’t set up much

    In the end you tried but you just don’t have that itch factor it takes to be pressure winners..

    Hello possibly Oshie or a top 6 RW, Hello for whoever we get for Johnny, Hello RD defender to play with Brodie and most likely hello Bishop because he’s a free agent acquisition cost to play with Gillies

    Also welcome to the team Jankowski, Anderson, Kulak and time to time Kylington.

    We all knew from the start of the season that the leadership, skill and will not to mention consistency it takes to make it to the final this team lacked.. All season long it is as if they did just enough but no more. Some players on this team deserves better. You allowed yourself to be swept, you allowed yourself the result of this season because you consistently made the margin for error just too small that if you fail just a tad you tumble

    • Skylardog

      Bouma, Stajan, and Bartkowski are going nowhere. All still have another year on the contracts.
      If you are a goalie, like Bishop, are you signing in Calgary, where goalie careers come to a dramatic and horrible end?
      Jankowski has played his 1 token NHL game. He was never a NHL quality player, but did all the Flames have asked for over the years. He was thrown a bone when he played his one game this year. Apparently Bartkowski was a better option than all of the D-men on the farm.
      Johnny Hockey should go, but he won’t. His value has dropped right now. Not the right time to trade him.

    • Kevin R

      FFS gaudreau had a bad year & really struggled. Several things contributed to it. Kids a talent & Im prepared to see him rebound next year. Not the only Flame that had a rough year. Wonder if his hand was reinsured by him not shooting when it was obvious to shoot. Get the facts first, its way to soon to make these type of knee jerk judgements. But if it makes you feel better whatever.

      • Newbietwo

        There’s nothing knee jerk about your highest paid player throwing the puck away with two minutes left in order to avoid a hit! That’s a character problem

  • Skylardog

    GG’s fate will hang on the exit interviews. The reports are that the players were buying in. Watching some of the choices in who plays what key situations should have them turn on GG when the doors are closed. Think of how much GG has cost some of these players that are up for resigning. Bennett and Ferland will probably make $1 to 2 million less than if they had played for Hartley. Some other careers have probably come to an end.
    Monahan and Gaudreau must be thanking their lucky stars that the had to sign last year. If they were up this year, it would be for half of what they are being paid now.

  • Alberta Ice

    Hey, Flame fans, settle down. A lot of reactive comments after being swept. I thought GG did a great job getting this team turned around this year. That first couple of months of this year was brutal. There was a time it looked bleak for getting into these playoffs. It just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go in these playoffs- beginning with the fact we were stuck with the Ducks in the first round.

    • Skylardog

      Without 2 win streaks of 6 and 10 games, where the goalies stole a boatload of points (14 at my count), when the goalies had roughly 0.950 save percentages, this team isn’t even sniffing at a playoff spot. A hot goalie run like that, when your corsi is 45.94% during the 6 game run and only 50% during the 10 game run, is not about coaching. It is about a goalie standing on their head. Put a 920 save percentage in those runs, and the Flames are at 80 points and 10th in the West.

  • Alberta Ice

    Two big extra goals for next year: Break the Honda Center Curse and don’t get swept by the Oilers- win that series instead. We didn’t get either done this year and that stings. Hand me a bottle of Tums.

  • Chiz

    Remember when the oilers thought that hall, eberle, rnh, yakupov, etc were the answer? Your team has been good for one year in a row, after 11 years of draft lottery failure. Calm down.