The second round is new, uncharted territory for the Calgary Flames. It would be in general, but it's especially new for this team, what with a heavy contingent of rookies and all.
The Anaheim Ducks are very much not the Vancouver Canucks, though. The Canucks were roughly on the Flames' level. The Ducks were the best team in the entire conference, and only got better after the trade deadline.
It's also the playoffs, and with a well-rested, eager Ducks team against an inexperienced, overachieving Flames squad... Well... It would be a long night.
Crosschecking and an undisciplined Corey Perry stole the opening of the game. Perry first crosschecked Sam Bennett right in front of Frederik Andersen, sending the Flames to a powerplay with which they did nothing. Just a it was about to end, Bennett crosschecked Clayton Stoner off in the corner by the boards, so he got to sit for two, too.
Not that the Ducks did anything with their powerplay either; in fact, with a minute left in it, Perry high-sticked TJ Brodie, giving us a minute of four-on-four time, and then a minute of a Flames powerplay. There were two great scoring chances, one for each team, in both situations: first, a Johnny Gaudreau giveaway to Hampus Lindholm at four-on-four to nearly put the Ducks on the board, but Jonas Hiller was square to him, and the puck was subsequently rushed back up the ice.
Then, Mikael Backlund controlled the puck throughout the rest of special teams time, and nearly put a bow on it with a great scoring chance of his own, only for Andersen to get in the way.
The constant whistles weren't allowing for the game to generate much of a flow, but that didn't matter to the Ducks. Matt Beleskey was left alone and totally forgotten in front of the net, putting him in perfect position to capitalize off of a bounce courtesy of Lindholm for the first goal of the series.
Lindholm wasn't the only Ducks defenceman taking shots. Sami Vatanen kept hitting the post, but it eventually paid off, as one of those times led to a Ducks cycle, ultimately leading to a Ryan Getzlaf pass from the corner that got by Deryk Engelland and got to Patrick Maroon, who had just outmuscled Matt Stajan. From Maroon's stick to a redirect past Hiller, and the Ducks had a 2-0 lead.
The Ducks controlled the puck most of the period, and came away with the lead to show for it: leading 2-0, outshooting the Flames 12-8, and out-corsiing them 23-20.
While the Flames may have still looked in the game before, things completely unravelled. They lost Micheal Ferland, one of their best hitters and key players from the first round. They lost Jiri Hudler, one of the guys they need the most to get them on the board.
They lost Hiller to a Perry wraparound goal that slipped fivehole, effectively ending his night with three goals on 14 shots.
The Flames may have had a chance when Nate Thompson crosschecked Gaudreau right into the boards, giving them a powerplay off what was a very dirty hit. With so many missing on the bench already, the Flames couldn't afford to lose Gaudreau as well; fortunately, he just never gets hurt.
Unfortunately, the powerplay yielded absolutely nothing.
More Ducks pressure just led to more Ducks goals. With Karri Ramo in net, he let a small rebound out into the slot; unfortunately, the rest of his team was caught standing. Emerson Etem was the first to get on the puck, and he immediately snapped it past Hiller for the 4-0 Anaheim lead.
The Flames tried to rebound with... Engelland taking a hard shot just as he was entering the zone. It actually slipped right by Andersen, but he realized what was happening before it was too late and quickly covered up the puck before it went in his net.
They then decided to round things out with a nice little Drew Shore goaltender interference penalty on Andersen. He was completely on top of him by the time the whistle went, so it was a pretty obvious call. It was late in the period, so the Ducks' powerplay was broken up by Stajan disrupting their passing and then carrying the puck for the remaining few seconds.
It's not that four-goal leads are insurmountable, but the Ducks being up 4-0, outshooting the Flames 23-16, and out-corsiing them 43-40 was, well, bad. That last part doesn't sound as bad, but remember... 4-0 leads will wreak havoc on corsi counts.
That disruption didn't last long, as the Ducks kicked off the fabled third period still on the powerplay. And then scored. Clean passing resulted in Perry potting it just shortside on Ramo, giving the Ducks a 5-0 lead.
That's going to be pretty hard to come back from-- No wait, Brandon Bollig went off for roughing, and Getzlaf was credited with the goal after the puck went in off Engelland's skate.
Okay, one time, the Flames came back from a 4-0 deficit. They lost in the shootout, but they did manage to come back.
Six to nothing, though? That wasn't going to happen. Bollig and Tim Jackman got matching roughing penalties as the game spiralled into pointlessness. They also got matching game misconducts for their time, with the referees clearly trying to keep a handle on things. We all know what happened when the Flames got beat soundly by the Canucks; no need for a repeat.
There was just one silver lining. Francois Beauchemin, a veteran, has surely been on the other end of nights like this. He knows they're not fun. So he took one for the team, kicking the puck right out to Bennett, who came in completely alone to rifle a shot past Andersen and break the shutout.
That was pretty much it. The rest of the game played out. Nobody else got hurt, nobody fought. Time was killed and the Ducks took Game 1 of the series, winning 6-1, outshooting the Flames 35-24, and out-corsiing them 64-57. Woof.
Flame of the game
Nobody was great, but someone stood out throughout the game: Mikael Backlund. Yeah, Bennett got the goal, but let's be real about it: it was a garbage goal in garbage time and totally meaningless. That's not to say Bennett was awful, but Backlund was a persistent force throughout the night, fruitless as his tries often ended up being. You have to respect someone who clearly so badly wanted to singlehandedly bring his team to victory, even if he just can't do that (though going down 6-0, no player could).
Backlund played 17:31, behind only Stajan for forward ice time. He led all Flames in shots on net with five (Perry was the only player who had more than him, with seven). He finished at 64% CF at even strength, a pretty impressive feat considering how much time he spent on the ice and how often the Ducks seemed to manhandle the Flames.
No matter how the rest of the playoffs play themselves out, Backlund is continuing to establish himself as a leader on this team, both defensively and in terms of sheer heart.
- There were many problems, one of which was definitely goaltending. Both Hiller and Ramo let in terrible goals against: Hiller when the game was still within reach, and Ramo when he had a shot at taking over the starter's gig.
- That said, goaltending is definitely not the only problem. This was a team-wide failure, and a good time to remember the Flames are still in just the second year of their rebuild.
- They're also missing a ton of guys. Ferland was aggressive early on, and it cost him: he only played 5:24, leaving after just seven shifts in the first.
- Hudler exited the game due to an undisclosed injury after just three shifts in the second period, and did not return.
- Gaudreau did not play a single shift in the third period.
- Despite the loss of three key players, it isn't time to cry doom and gloom. Consider: the Ducks had this game well within hand by the time the Flames announced Ferland and Hudler were done for the night, as well as when Gaudreau got benched. There was no point in risking aggravation to Ferland or Hudler in what was clearly a lost cause. They're currently day-to-day, and Game 2 is still quite a few days away, so no need to panic just yet.
- As for Gaudreau, the Ducks, despite the lead, were targeting him all night long. The game was clearly over in the third. No need to keep indulging them in underhanded, dirtbag tactics.
Bob Hartley felt "they were taking way too many liberties" on Johnny Gaudreau which was why he wasn’t played in the third.— Kristen Odland (@KristenOdlandCH) May 1, 2015
Gaudreau doesn't really seem to ever get hurt. No need to worry about Johnny Hockey!
- The boards in Anaheim are very, very lively, and spooked pretty much all the goalies at one point or another. They also led to some Ducks goals. The Flames will need to win at least one in Anaheim, so they'll have to figure out how to use those boards to their advantage, or at least not let the Ducks benefit off them.
- Before everything went straight to hell, this was a nice moment: Shore sent Josh Jooris for a breakaway early on. Keeping his head up, he stripped the puck from the Ducks, springing his linemate for an early chance Andersen unfortunately stopped. Two thoughts on that: 1. Why has Shore been scratched so long, anyway? That was awesome, and 2. Just imagine what could have been if Jooris had buried it.
- The Sportsnet broadcasting experience would be far more enjoyable if commentators could pronounce player names correctly, recite accurate facts, and stop acknowledging they're bringing things up that are completely irrelevant only to continue talking about them anyway. Either come up with something worth talking about or keep quiet, please.
... David Schlemko was paired with Brodie, and Engelland was bumped down to the bottom pairing? Look: Engelland was a straight up trainwreck out there. He played 18:56. Schlemko played 15:37. And even though it was primarily garbage time - Schlemko played 7:37 in the third - he and Tyler Wotherspoon (14:32 of ice time, 8:26 in the third) weren't bad.
This isn't a call to put them in the top four, but a call to reduce Engelland's minutes, He was on the ice for five of the Ducks' six goals. That can't continue. The charade is over. Schlemko can't possibly be any worse. Put. Schlemko. With. Brodie.
... Bollig was scratched for Mason Raymond? Not that Bollig was the problem this game - there were many, many more problems - but with the refs curbing his attempted go with Jackman almost immediately, it's clear they aren't going to stand for a repeat of the Flames-Canucks series.
Bollig has very little function outside of that. He did get that one goal against Vancouver, but that was it. Ultimately, when you look at their general history and play, Raymond is much more likely to score than Bollig is. Hell, put Markus Granlund in if you're hellbent on keeping Raymond out. A fourth line composed solely of energized kids is more likely to do good.
Game 2. Sunday, May 3, at 8 p.m. MT, once again back in Anaheim. That's the nice thing about the playoffs: a series doesn't end after just one game. The Ducks could have won by 10-0 tonight, and they would still only have a 1-0 series lead.
It's going to be a tough series for the Flames. We knew this. But them continuing to play right now is straight up gravy. And they probably won't get blown out another three games in a row. So just enjoy it, be proud of what they've achieved to date, and look forward to the future: one where the rookies will be more experienced and everyone will be continuously learning from their mistakes.
It's still good.