In typical Calgary Flames 2014/15 mode, it was not easy, and they made it as hard for themselves as possible, but they did it. A 4-2 series win over those delightful souls from Vancouver.
It's hard to look back at what was a successful series and go "well, that didn't really work" but it is only what Bob Hartley and the Flames' management will be doing. But, I'll be counteracting it with the good things the Flames did in round one. In fact, I'll start with a positive.
Positive - Jonas Vs The Whales
Earlier in the week, Ari waxed lyrical about Jonas Hiller, and how he was a good piece of business. Indeed, I said he was one of the reasons the Flames could win the round in my keys to the series. Ignore what happened in game six, it was a minor blip after five games of great performances (the game two defeat certainly wasn't down to Hiller). Credit goes to Karri Ramo too for coming in cold in game six after little ice time in the last three weeks and performing strongly. No doubt about it though, no matter how much Jim Hughson lauded "The Legend Of Eddie Lack" or claimed Ryan Miller's superiority (we'll ignore his .762 high danger save percentage shall we?), Jonas, with his overall .931 Sv%, was the goalie of the round.
Negative - Third D Pairing
I get that Bob Hartley has little to no faith in his untested sixth defenceman, whether that be Tyler Wotherspoon or Corey Potter, but the result of this is that the top four played huge minutes. That includes Deryk Engelland who, while being steady, was still Deryk Engelland. The problem is, by the end of game six, they looked shattered. Well, except TJ Brodie, but he's superhuman. What I'm trying to say is, while Mark Giordano might still be a round away, the Flames could really do with getting Raphael Diaz back, so Hartley has the confidence to at least take a few minutes off the top four, especially against an Anaheim team who are much better than this Canucks outfit.
Positive - Kris Russell
The defensive embodiment of the Calgary Flames. Offering Brodie-esque charges forward, putting his body on the line (shot block count is currently at 28 for those keeping score), providing threat on the powerplay. Oh, and two goals, one of which was a game winner. He has holes in his defensive game, sure, but he managed to play some very clever games against the Sedins.
Negative - High Goon Level
The line brawl at the end of game two was unnecessary, and pretty much uncalled for. Bob Hartley deserved his fine. The game three silliness was all provoked by the Canucks, so I'm going to look past that. However, Hartley can't think along the lines of gooning it up at the end of a bad game against the Ducks, because they're better than that and won't rise to it.
Positive - Michael Ferland
Welcome to the big time, Ferdaddy. He set the pace for the whole series, recording a huge 41 hits in six games. He had a FF% of 57.8, a number which only really dropped in game six after being put against the Sedins. He was key in their shutdown too, especially in the home games where Hartley had the benefit of last change. He still has a long way to go to be the finished article, but his performances deserved the trust that Hartley put in him, and the two goals that he got in game six. Not bad for somebody who is pretty irrelevant, what do you reckon Kevin Bieksa?
Negative - Top Line, Games 1-5
I can sort of ignore Johnny Gaudreau in this equation, as he was his usual glorious self. Unfortunately, his linemates weren't with him. Through games 1-5 the line had ZERO even strength points, and seven points in total, with each player only having one goal to their name. The Flames simply cannot afford the top line to take even one game off against the Ducks, never mind five.
Positive - Top Line, Game Six
That said, they atoned in every way imaginable in game six. Every time they were on the ice, things would happen. They went from having no even strength points to four, 10 points in all situations and four goals between them. That is the top line we need to see against the Ducks.
Negative - Sam Bennett's Overactive Stick
Call it the exuberance of youth, but Bennett is a bit stick happy, taking a couple of penalties for high sticks and slashing. They're the sort of calls youngsters get while they learn what levels they can play at in the NHL, but it will be something that needs addressing before game one of round two.
Positive - Sam Bennett's Everything Else
Early offensive output, superb. His first NHL goal was a game-winner, which isn't too bad. In the later games, he'd been following Mikael Backlund's example and hustling for the puck at every opportunity. The future is bright for the fourth overall pick.
Negative - Mikael Backlund's Points Production
Positive - Mikael Backlund's Everything Else
You have to put them both together. He does everything so well. Checks, battles, passes well, gets shots away, backchecks, forechecks, everything. He just cannot hit the net. He led the series on shots for the Flames with 18, but only had one point, and that was an assist. If he can add goals to his game, he can be an elite performer for the Flames.
I will end with a couple of positives, to leave everyone feeling good.
Positive - Matty Franchise
Matt Stajan played such a key role in the series, being matched against the Sedins to shut them down, taking vital faceoffs in his own zone (61% faceoff wins with only 26.3% offensive zone starts) and ending with an almost-50% Fenwick F%. Add his personal story to the situation, and the series winning goal seems extremely apt. Enjoy the spotlight Matty, you deserve it.
Positive - WE'RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim await the Flames in round two. Yes, the Flames are in round two. One word. Rebuild.