First Round Match: Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks

First Round Match: Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks

And so it begins. The 2016-2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs start on Wednesday, and this year’s edition will feature 5 Canadian teams including the Flames who being their quest on Thurdsay.

First Round Schedule (All Games on CBC)

    Game 1: April 13 at Anaheim, 8:30 p.m.
    Game 2: April 15 at Anaheim, 8:30 p.m.

    Game 3: April 17 at Calgary, 8 p.m.
    Game 4: April 19 at Calgary, 8 p.m.

    Game 5: April 21 at Anaheim (TDB)

    Game 6: April 23 at Calgary (TBD)

    Game 7: April 25 at Anaheim (TBD)

The story entering in this series is the Flames’ inability to win at the Honda Centre. It’s been over a decade since they’ve won a regular season game, and ten years since they’ve won a playoff game in Anaheim.

Nonetheless, here are the reasons the Flames will enter this series with a strong chance to emerge victorious.

Anaheim is a bigger, veteran, dirtier team top-to-down. The Flames have attempted to match the physical play, which has lead to some exciting games and should equate to an exceptional series. But as the old adage goes, “you have to beat the best to become the best.” Whether the road traveled through Chicago or Anaheim, it doesn’t matter, the Flames have to find a way to win. Coming into this series as major underdogs with every storyline working against their favour, this team has everything to prove and nothing to lose. Anaheim is on their last legs with their veteran corps, and will face added pressure for results.

In my mind, the Calgary Flames only have a chance if this young team has learned from their past experiences quickly, and will translate that into a steadfast gameplan that sees them battle for every square inch of ice and pull away close victories. When you get beat-up enough times, eventually you find a way to win (if you’re a pro), or you fold under pressure.

There’s no middle ground here, it’s either Flames out in 4 games, or Flames win in 7.

Keys to victory.

  • Brian Elliott steals the series. He’s looking good, but now he has to go above and beyond.
  • Top line production matched with unsung heroes below putting up critical goals.
  • Defensive production from the top two units.
  • Backlund line shuts down Anaheim’s best, and they put up points of their own.
  • Toughenss matched with toughness, and calculated toughness too. There’s no point dropping the gloves when nothing’s on the line. There’s no point being last to the scrum. The team needs to figure out a way to play their own game and stick to it. Anaheim will try to throw you off every chance they get.
  • STICK TO THE GAMEPLAN

Liabilities

  • Special teams have been a huge problem in the last two months. The top PP unit has struggled late in the season. Come playoff time, this is the critical key to success, you have to take what few opportunities are available.
  • Top line folds. Kesler is going to beat on Monahan all game every game, and whether he holds up to the abuse will impact that line’s success. Gaudreau holding up in the playoffs as well will be a factor. he tends to disappear in rough games and this will be upwards of 7 of them.
  • 3rd Defensive pair. Bartkowski and Engelland are liabilities. They’ll be playing fewer minutes, but they’ll be a liability on ice especially when Anaheim has last change.

It’s finally that time of year, playoff hockey is the best hockey, and we get to watch the home town team battle for a potential Battle of Alberta date in the second round. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Stanely Cup road has to go through Anaheim first.

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