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

Just Posted

Science fair draws best junior scientists from Vancouver Island to Victoria

200 young science enthusiasts share their inventions and discoveries at UVic

Vic. Symphony, Jeans ‘n Classics will rock you with the Best of Queen

Post-Bohemian Rhapsody, Pops Series concerts bring British band’s music back into spotlight

LOCAL FLAVOUR: Farm Whisperer tackles tough subject of farm succession

Linda Geggie is executive director with CR-FAIR

New Coast Guard ship crashes into Ogden Point breakwater

‘It is fairly unprecedented that it would happen’

Young cyclist struck near Galloping Goose Trail

Minor injuries reported by police

VIDEO: Keeping the hope alive, 28 years later

Annual Michael Dunahee Keep the Hope Alive run raised money for Child Find B.C.

Bobrovsky perfect as Blue Jackets blank Canucks 5-0

Vancouver shut out for 10th time this season

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says future assembly deliberations won’t be closed to public

Reversal comes after Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff raised concerns

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Most Read