Cody Warner The Hockey Writers
Calgary and Anaheim Will Be Better Than You Think
The Anaheim Ducks are the favorites to win the series against the Calgary Flames, and they’ve earned it. During the regular season, Anaheim had the second most points overall and the most wins when trailing at the end of the second period. They trailed in three of their four wins during the first round against the Winnipeg Jets. The Ducks are the physically larger team, they’re experienced in the playoffs and have superstar players such as Ryan Getzlaf and Cory Perry.
Some may gauge the Flames best chances at slim-to-none. They are the physically smaller team and the Ducks are known for playing a heavy game. The Flames do have immensely talented hockey players like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, but their accomplishments and experience don’t quite stack up to their first line counter-parts in Anaheim.
Tale of The Tape
While an immediate look at these teams might have Anaheim in front fast and by far, this matchup warrants a deeper look. The Flames take the cake in a number of important stats including: Goals/Game, Goals Against/Game and PowerPlay success rate. The Flames goalies also sported a better overall Save percentage and Goals Against Average for the teams. The margins between the stats of these teams is incredibly close, and the Ducks obviously had more wins and points during the regular season, winning the Pacific Division Title for a third straight year.As mentioned before, both of these teams have a knack of coming together and taking over the game in the third period. It will be interesting to see if this series provides the drama that these teams experienced during the season.
Forward Group Comparison:
Calgary scored a ton of goals during the regular season while they enjoyed a good amount of balanced scoring. The top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler led the way, combining for 86 goals and over 200 total points. As with any team, the best players get the most time and are expected to be the top producers. But they were not working alone by any stretch, as Lance Bouma and David Jones each had more than 30 points as well. While Lance Bouma is out hurt, the rest of these players contributed to the first round series against Vancouver.
Anaheim has a slew of veteran leaders and young dynamic players. Obviously Ryan Getzlaf Cory Perry carry most of the mail, and combined for 58 goals and 125 total points between just them. Patrick Maroon manned the last wing with Getzlaf and Perry often and had over 30 points this season. Ryan Kesler chipped in 47 points and Jakob Silfverberg had 39 of his own. Players like Matt Belesky and Kyle Palmieri had decent years as well, but haven’t been able to get on the scoresheet so far this post season.
Immediately, Calgary jumps out to a slight edge, as the supporting players of the team have made a difference in the playoffs already. However, the ducks have a diverse forward group that can create chances very quickly, and it would not be surprising to see them start rolling early in this series.
Etem dangles Trouba and finishes backhand top-shelf:
Anaheim first this time. The Ducks defensive core is incredibly young, as four of their top six defensemen are 23 or younger. While they are young men, they have proved that they can contribute to the offense, especially Sami Vatanen. The 21 year old had 37 points during the regular season and had 5 points in the first round against Winnipeg. With veteran leader Francois Beauchemin shoring up the defensive core in Anaheim, this group seems primed to succeed for a while longer.
Calgary’s defense has been a large part of the story of their season. Mark Giordano was having a Norris worthy season before tearing his bicep. The Flames have played more than 25 games without their captain now which proves they have been able to plug the hole he left. The majority of the space that was left was filled by Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman and T.J. Brodie. Russell led the league in shot blocking and Dennis Wideman had 56 points. They have continued to perform in the playoffs, and Brodie had 4 points in 6 games in the first round.
The defensive cores comparison is extremely close and difficult to call. The goals against and shots against stats are incredibly close during the playoffs, as they were during the regular season. Im going to give the edge to Calgary because there is something to being able to pull together when your captain and best defensive player goes out.
Deryk Engelland fighting two guys at once:
Calgary used a bit of a tandem in the net during the season with Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo. It worked to an extent, but Hiller got the start in the post season. However, during the decisive game six, with the Flames down 3-0, Coach Bob Hartley went to Ramo, who backstopped the Flames to a series clinching win. The goaltending change was more of an effort to stir up the bench, and Hiller should get the net back to face his old club. But knowing Ramo is a solid number two is something that cannot be undervalued, especially in this specific matchup.
Anaheims starter Frederik Andersen played very well during the regular season and has had a solid start to the playoffs. Allowing only 9 goals in the first four games, the Ducks are matched up pretty well when it comes to starting netminders in this series. Where the hole begins to form is behind Andersen. Jason Labarbera has filled in short term for backup and highly touted goalie John Gibson. Gibson has been injured, but will reportedly be back on the bench to begin the second round. That being said, Gibson had rough experience last year in the playoffs, and the Ducks have to be hoping that Andersen continues to perform.
Because of the uncertainty of the situation in Anaheim and the contrasting certainty in Calgary, Calgary gets the slight edge. It will be interesting to see if Hiller can perform well after the Ducks let him go following the conclusion of last season.
Despite the fact that Calgary grabbed two of the three categories, the Ducks have the edge in the series overall. The defensive core comparison is truly a toss-up at best, and the team that gets the most from their backend may very well go on to win the series. Anaheim is primed and ready to go on a deep run this year, and have built their team around it. The expectations of the Ducks organization at this time are to win the Stanley Cup. While every team wants to win the Cup, Calgary included, there is no way to ignore the fact that Calgary isn’t quite as mature of a team as the Ducks are at this point. The major contributing players are very young for the most part, and are relatively inexperienced. The Flames are a team that can look at this season as a success, having made the playoffs. Their best chance at knocking off the Ducks may be playing with nothing to lose, rather than the heavy expectations Anaheim is experiencing. Anaheim may well cost their coach or some of their teammates a job if they don’t make it through this series.
Anaheim takes series 4-2
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