After a string of wins which left fans optimistic heading into the first round of the playoffs against Anaheim, the Calgary Flames were the first team to be eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were high hopes that the team could battle and really put up a fight against the Ducks, but the Flames weren’t up to the task.
The bounces didn’t go Calgary’s way by any means, but a playoff sweep is never determined by bad luck alone. There were some players who rose up to the occasion and put in a solid postseason effort, but others ,who were being counted on to be at their best, couldn’t get anything going.
For someone who spent the first half of the season in a battle for the worst plus/minus in the entire NHL, T.J. Brodie was fairly sound defensively during the playoffs. Brodie was tied for the best plus/minus of all Flames who played multiple games in the series at minus-1 and didn’t make too many bad mistakes.
Brodie also played on the power play, which was one of the bright spots for Calgary in the series. He had three power play points, contributing to his four total playoff points, making him the only defenceman on the Flames to score more than a single point in the series. Brodie can be attributed with a brutal start to the year, but there’s no doubt that he picked up his game later on and came to play during the postseason.
Monahan was solid this season but fell slightly short of expectations, however he was arguably Calgary’s best forward in the playoffs. He had four goals and one assist on the power play and led the Flames in both goals and points.
It can be argued that Monahan couldn’t contribute on even strength which is a fair assessment. He was held pointless and was a minus-4 throughout the series, but not being able to score at even strength was a team problem as opposed to just being Monahan’s problem. Considering he was able to produce to great extents on the power play against the Ducks, who had the fourth best penalty kill in the regular season, Monahan did more offensively than anyone else on the Flames.
A last-minute addition coming into the season, Versteeg impressed for the Flames all season long. His play continued into the playoffs, picking up minutes on the powerplay and totalling 12 shots on goal, the second-highest on the team. Versteeg, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, added much-needed playoff experience to a young Flames team.
Versteeg had four points in four games and certainly made a case for sticking with Calgary into next season. Based on his play, the Flames may be wise to keep Versteeg around, to help with a potential trip to next year’s postseason as well.
Tkachuk was great this year and added a spark to the Flames with his physical play while putting up points at the same time. The same can’t be said about his performance in the playoffs. Despite playing top-six minutes throughout the series, Tkachuk was invisible, getting held off the score sheet in all four games and tallying just six shots on net throughout the first round.
Of course, Tkachuk is just a rookie and was one of the most effective players for the Flames all season long. But it was clear that Tkachuk, who just one year ago helped the London Knights all the way through the OHL postseason to capture the Memorial Cup, had a hard time adjusting to playoff hockey. He wasn’t physical or productive against the Ducks and this series probably served as more of a learning experience for than anything for Tkachuk.
In the playoffs, especially when you’re already the underdog coming in, you need your best players to be your best players. Simply put, Johnny Gaudreau wasn’t. Gaudreau can be held accountable as part of the reason as to why the Flames only had two even-strength goals throughout the entire series. If your top line can’t find a way to produce at five-on-five, you’ve got a problem.
Despite getting the most ice time of any Flames forward throughout the series, the star was held to just two assists, both coming on the power play. Yes, this was similar to Monahan, who picked up all of his points of the power play, but Gaudreau’s numbers on the man advantage were minuscule compared to Monahan’s. This is a big step back from the nine points Gaudreau tallied in the 2015 playoffs as Calgary’s leading postseason scorer, so the next time the Flames do reach the playoffs, Gaudreau will need to contribute much more.
The Flames’ goaltending fiasco finally looked like it had solved itself— but then struck Brian Elliott’s October-self. Elliott was one of the main reasons Calgary even made the playoffs and after stellar play in the back-half of the season, it seemed like he’d be able to hold his own in the playoffs as well.
But after solid play in a game one loss to Anaheim, it was all downhill from there. Elliott was mediocre in Game 2 and then played a key role allowing the Ducks’ comeback in Game 3, letting in five goals on 27 shots. That’s just not good enough in the playoffs. Many people speculated that Elliott wouldn’t even start game four, but when he did, it was short-lived and painful. He allowed an awful goal to squeak in under his pad just six minutes into the game, which embarrassed him as one of the first goalies in recent memory to be pulled after just one goal. That goes far to show the lack of trust Glen Gulutzan had in Elliott by the end of the series. With the goal, any chance Elliott had of staying in Calgary for future years was likely shot dead in the water, along with the Flames’ season.
The Flames didn’t get the luck they could have but ultimately there were too many weak performances to extend the series against the Ducks. These weren’t the only players in either category, but what’s clear is that consistency between all players wasn’t discovered in time this postseason.
Ben is a journalism student at Ryerson University and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs.