Special teams crucial in Calgary Flames-Anaheim Ducks playoff series

Special teams crucial in Flames-Ducks series

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Special teams matter in the post-season, and it’s a lesson the Anaheim Ducks hammered into the young Calgary Flames two years ago.

The Flames allowed six power-play goals, two apiece in the series opener and Games 4 and 5 as they were quickly bounced out of the second round.

The education continued through the 2016-17 regular season, with the power play making a big difference as Anaheim took four of five from Calgary, but Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan hopes the message has finally come through before the Western Conference quarter-finals start on Thursday.

“Special teams becomes really important in the playoffs, the margins are so tight,” Gulutzan said. “A penalty here or there, a bounce. Chances are hard to come by so you can’t take unnecessary penalties.”

The Flames spent a good portion of Wednesday afternoon’s practice at Honda Center working on their power play, but much of the focus afterwards was on avoiding giving those same opportunities to the Ducks.

For Calgary, any penalties in the playoffs would be especially punitive. Not only would it create scoring chances for the Ducks, who converted 31.6 per cent of power-play opportunities over their last six games following a staggering 4-for-70 drought which dated back to the start of February, but it denies chances for the Flames to use their speed against an inexperienced Anaheim blue-line.

With Cam Fowler out for the opening round due to a knee injury, the Ducks’ top six on defence will feature Josh Manson and Shea Theodore, who have made just seven combined post-season appearances, and rookie Brandon Montour.

That’s a group the Flames believe they can take advantage of in order to impose their preferred style of play.

“We want to play quick, we want to play fast,” Gulutzan said. “We want to get the puck moving north-south as quickly as we can. With our four lines, we think we can play with some tempo.”

When the Ducks have been able to play their way, using a rugged and patient approach to create turnovers and lean on their forecheck, the results have not been positive for the Flames. Anaheim was 6 of 19 on the power play against Calgary in the regular season. The Flames were held to one goal three times by the Ducks, giving away 13 power plays in those games.

“We’ve had a couple games like that throughout the season and they haven’t turned out well for us, so I think just play our game,” forward Johnny Gaudreau said. “Use our speed, make plays, be smart with the puck.”

Whether that is possible given the recent history between the Flames and Ducks is another matter. Their most recent meeting featured 106 penalty minutes after Fowler was hurt in a knee-on-knee collision with Mark Giordano.

Both teams have downplayed the possibility of any further extra-curricular activities, with Giordano pledging to be on his best behaviour.

“It’ll be a physical game and all that stuff, but I feel like the guys that perform the best in playoffs are the guys that are able to handle that and keep it in check,” Giordano said. “As captain of the team I got to lead by example, so I got to get out there and play with a lot of intensity but also keep my emotions on the right side of things.”

NOTES: Chad Johnson (lower body) will not be available for Game 1, with Jon Gillies serving as the backup goalie to Brian Elliott, Gulutzan said. Gulutzan wants to make sure Johnson did not aggravate the injury he suffered against Anaheim on April 4 after going through individual workouts and practice Wednesday.

Dan Greenspan, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kelowna’s Grizzli Winery to launch take-home floral creations workshop

The Workshop teaches the community to build creations such as table centerpieces and vase arrangements

Peachland resident finds severed bear paw on driveway

Tracie Gordon thought it was a Halloween prank, but it turned out to be a real bear paw

Kelowna RCMP investigating alleged group attack on teenager

A 14-year-old boy claims he was attacked by a group of teens Friday night

14th anniversary of Kelowna man’s sudden disappearance

Aaron Derbyshire was out with friends on Sept. 30, 2006, and hasn’t been seen since

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Most Read