A few common themes in the Flames' play in both the regular season and playoffs: shot quality, on the rush scoring, and elements of their penalty kill. All three can be utilized and have been utilized to find success. Most recently, that success came with a 4-2 series victory over rival Vancouver.
The last two regular season games against one another this year saw the Flames and Ducks win 6-3. This time it's a whole different situation for both teams. The Ducks have a capable forecheck which has been used to cause chaos in the Calgary defensive zone frequently. On the back end, they have capable puck movers and size that was reinforced at the trade deadline with the additions of Simon Despres and James Wisniewski. All of this contributes to a very deadly team.
So what do the Flames do to counter it? Simple: at the very least, they continue to do what they've done.
Example One - Continued PK success
We're going to start as usual with the penalty kill which continues to be a critical part of the Flames. If you can't kill penalties, you're going to have a bad time. A prime example of PK success against Anaheim is in the March 11th win over the Ducks.
- The Ducks often utilize a dump and chase method on the PP unless Ryan Getzlaf or Sami Vatanen carry the puck. So the necessity of being quick on the puck and recovering is a valuable decision here. It's also worth noting how important it is to make entries difficult: something that Flames have had success with.
- Kid Ish noted a "tighter, passive box based PK" tends to provide better results against the Ducks due to keeping Vatanen, Perry, and Getzlaf to the outside perimeter.
- Anaheim "ate up the Jets" due to overly aggressive killing which provided lanes.
- Keep an eye on Frederik Andersen and his ability to move the puck if the option exists. The forecheck here and responsible neutral zone play can go a long way here.
Immediately after the faceoff win, TJ Brodie's decision to clear the puck gives the Flames some breathing room immediately to prepare for the two minute kill.
As usual we see the Flames finding methods of preventing clean zone entries. The tag team work with Backlund and Kris Russell works perfectly here. Backlund's stick work breaks up the entry, allowing Russell to chip it back out of the zone.
Forcing the puck out of the defensive zone midway through the kill and Mikael Backlund's typical aggressive forecheck works wonders here on James Wisniewski as it forces a turnover.
Backlund's strength on this part of the turnover play is a hugely underrated asset of his. He easily fends off Jiri Sekac and heads into the zone effectively against four Anaheim players, killing time. All of these elements are continued evidence of why Backlund is such a phenomenally underrated forward.
I've included the full PK video itself which inevitably led to the Gaudreau goal, which we will breakdown below:
The "weaknesses" Kid Ish mentioned also appeared on this Flames PK as they employed as many of these traits as possible. The team limited shot attempts, zone entries, and used an aggressive but intelligent approach to handling the talent of the Anaheim PP. These attributes will be even more crucial as the series opens tomorrow in California.
Example Two - Johnny Gaudreau goal in 6-3 win on March 11th
Rolling right along with elements of a strong penalty kill, the entire play for Gaudreau's 17th of the season came from successful play by Josh Jooris driving up the ice at the end of the kill.
Jooris' ability to knock the puck from Francois Beauchemin, carry the puck in, and kill time until a line change can occur is key here. Thankfully Kris Russell reads the situation, chipping it back to Jooris, who then catches a streaking Gaudreau heading to the net unguarded. The entire sequence itself validates small consistencies of the team that have gone overlooked all season at times that have continued into the post-season.
Even if Andersen gave up a rebound or Gaudreau elected to pass, Backlund heading to the net for any clean up could have potentially resulted in a goal as well. The entire sequence from start to finish showcases just how the Flames can find key opportunities and capitalize on them.
Example Three - On the rush with players heading to the net
On the rush scoring and scoring chances are easily one of the biggest drivers of the Flames offense. We've covered it to death when it comes to shot attempt generation for this team. Within all that is a lot of shot quality-based outcomes that have brought the Flames to this point.
In this goal, it's a clear example of how the Flames can drive into a zone, put bodies towards the goalie, and get the puck on net to create results. This team's strengths that have brought them to this point can hopefully be a continued driver of success. This series is going to be a much more trying ordeal for them and they'll need to rely on all this plus more if they intend to go beyond the second round.
Also give Kid_Ish a follow on Twitter. He's a great dude and a solid contact for all questions Anaheim.