Bruce Boudreau’s Anaheim Ducks are headed to the Western Conference Final for the first time since Anaheim captured the Stanley Cup back in 2007. After a hard fought first round against the Winnipeg Jets, the Ducks bulldozed their way through the first two games of the series, throwing some cold water on the red-hot Flames. Yet thanks to the heroics of Johnny Gaudreau in game three, the Flames were able to steal one at home.
Calgary threw everything it had at the Ducks in the deciding game five, but it wasn’t enough to survive a 47-shot barrage by the Corey Perry-led Anaheim squad. With two men on his back in overtime, Perry potted the game winner, sending the Ducks back to the Western Final. Here are five things we learned about both the Ducks and Flames in this series:
5. Boudreau Is Learning From Past Mistakes
Frederik Andersen was anything but stellar to start game four in Calgary, notably letting in a soft goal at the hands of Micheal Ferland on what a appeared to be a stoppable slap shot from the wing. Had the year been 2008, or perhaps even 2014, Boudreau might have pulled Andersen in favor of the upstart John Gibson. Yet he kept faith in the great Dane, who delivered a memorable performance the rest of the game. Clearly, the Ducks’ head coach has learned his lesson.
4. Calgary’s Run Was A Mirage
This may not make Flames fans happy, but faced against a legitimately good team in the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames badly fizzled. They were grossly out-shot throughout the entire series, and it gets even worse when factoring in shot attempts into the equation.
Sure, it was nice to see Calgary’s young core get a chance to progress, but without their best player in Mark Giordano, this team wasn’t even close to impressive. Mike Treliving and Brian Burke have some serious work to do this summer to turn this team into more than just a feel-good story.
3. Johnny Gaudreau Has Arrived
One Flame who did stand out though was none other than “Johnny Hockey” himself. Gaudreau was one of the few Calgary players who could actually create offense for himself as well as for his teammates. His tying goal that staple-gunned the top left corner in the dying seconds of game three was a thing of beauty, as were his numerous dances through the Anaheim defense. Boudreau remarked that Gaudreau reminded him of a young Patrick Kane, and that comparison seems really appropriate all of a sudden.
2. Anaheim Has Stanley Cup-Level Depth
The Ducks have been criticized in years past for not having the kind of bottom-six needed to compete with the likes of the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. This season has seen a change in that narrative, as the Ducks suddenly boast four lines that can all chip in offensively.
Whether it be the tenacity of Andrew Cogliano, the playmaking ability of Rickard Rakell, or the dynamic offense brought by Jakob Silfverberg, the Ducks can hurt you in multiple ways. That’s good news too, as their next opponent in Chicago is widely regarded as the deepest in the NHL.
1. The Ducks Have Yet To Play Their Best Hockey
This might sound bizarre considering Anaheim has only lost one game through two rounds of action. Yet consider the fact that in those two rounds, Jiri Sekac and James Wisniewski have played a whopping zero minutes. In their place are players like Clayton Stoner and Tim Jackman, who haven’t done anything to warrant the playing time they’ve received.
Sekac is a versatile playmaker who can improve any line, while Wisniewski has a repuation as a gunner on the power play. The Ducks will absolutely have to insert these two into the lineup if they hope to overcome the loaded Blackhawks, as Stoner and Jackman are simply going to get murdered by the fast-paced Chicago squad.