Game 1 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames highlighted what promises to be a very aggressive series. It’s not surprising, seeing as the Ducks and the Flames were the two most penalized teams in the league this season. Their history, both in the postseason and in this past regular season, fueled their dislike for one another. They have played against each other twice before during the playoffs, most recently in 2015 when the Ducks came out on top 4-1, and twice in the last four games of the season leading up to this year’s playoffs.
These teams do not like each other, and they demonstrated that from the very first minute of the game to the very last. Both teams tallied more than 30 hits, with the Flames leading with 33. The Flames also led the Ducks in penalties, finishing with seven to the Ducks’ five.
Falling Into the Ducks’ Trap
It was exactly what the Ducks wanted. They play best when they outmuscle their opponent, as evidenced by their recent performances against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that is even speedier than the Flames. Of the three games the Ducks played against the Blackhawks this season, they won two of them, both via shutout. In one game, they outhit the Blackhawks 25 to 13 and in the other, a whopping 44 to 15.
The Flames are a bigger team than the Blackhawks so they are able to hit more, and they do. But, the Flames seemed to get so caught up with hitting that they forgot about the other aspects of the game, namely their speed. The much heavier Ducks wanted to force the Flames into playing an overly rough game when they should have been showing off their speed, and they certainly took the bait.
Particularly, 23-year-old defenceman Dougie Hamilton, who finished the game with three penalties, fell into the Ducks’ trap. Take a look at this hit the Anaheim captain, Ryan Getzlaf, laid on Mark Giordano:
The camera zooms away, but the video shows it in the replay a little later. Directly after the clean hit, Hamilton tries to retaliate by cross-checking Getzlaf. Even though he doesn’t get much on Getzlaf, he gets sent to the box, bringing the Flames down a man in the dwindling minutes of the third period.
It wasn’t the first unnecessary penalty Hamilton took. His first came less than a minute into the game when he tripped up Andrew Cogliano in the neutral zone. The penalty led to the Ducks’ first power play goal of the game, a rocket from Getzlaf.
Getzlaf almost scored another goal off another undisciplined play by the Flames. While the Flames were making a bad line change, Ducks defenceman Kevin Bieska fielded the puck up the ice to Getzlaf who had Patrick Eaves and Rickard Rakell alongside him as the Flames scrambled away from their bench. Left mostly alone in the Flames’ zone, Getzlaf shot at the net, and Rakell scored off the rebound.
The Flames played an undisciplined game and looked like the young team they are. Granted, the Ducks also have a lot of young players, but their core group of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler is much older than that of the Flames. After all, their top line of Johnny Gaudreau (who was rather quiet in the game last night), Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland are all under 25 years old.
Take a look at the Flames’ age chart. When looking at the average age of the Flames’ players, they are actually slightly older than the Ducks.
But, when you organize the chart by weighted age, which simply means it’s weighted by players that make a significant impact on the team (for more information check this out). This chart shows that not only are the Flames younger than the Ducks, but they are also one of the younger teams in the whole league.
In Game 2, which will be on Saturday, the Ducks will have to keep badgering the Flames and throwing them off their game to create scoring chances. They scored twice on the power play, and once because of a bad change from the Flames. The Ducks will need to continue to exploit the Flames’ undisciplined play. The Flames are faster than the Ducks, so in order to keep the Flames from out-skating them, the Ducks will have to keep forcing the Flames to the boards.
Simply put, the Flames aren’t going to beat the Ducks at their own game, especially if they take so many needless penalties. If they continue to play the way they did last night, it will be a very short, but bruising, series for the Flames.