If ever there was a ‘DO or DIE‘ game, it would be this one for Calgary. Down 2-0 in the series to the Anahein Ducks, the Flames have their fiery season at stake, if they lose tonight. So few teams have come back from a 3-0 set back, they can literally write their season off and say good-bye if they don’t take control and win tonight.
Over the course of 88 game season, the Flames who openly are in rebuilding mode, demonstrated how far they had come. But the last two outings showed how far they have yet to go.
The first pair of road losses to a growing favourite as a Stanley Cup-contender, the Ducks, put the flames in a deep hole to kick off their second-round NHL playoff series. Going into Game 3 Tuesday at the Saddledome, when you look at the caliber of play and the stats shows the deep chasm between the teams, one a real championship contender and the other a young, upstart squad that’s caught lightning in a bottle, riding it all the way to the elite eight after stunning critics with their regular-season success and opening-round series domination over the Vancouver Canucks.
Anaheim is a team bent on not letting such an unpredictable opponant through a wrench into their championshi plans. The Ducks players, coming off a sweep of the Winnipeg Jets in round one of the tournament, come into the Western Conference semifinal series focused on correcting the early exits of the last two post-seasons which happened both via Game 7 losses. This was the motivation they exuded on the ice, giving a dominating and clinical performance against the Flames in Games 1 and 2. Those wins were precise and surgical.
You can’t miss the determination in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they talk to media about the upcoming matches.
“Anything less than being in the Stanley Cup final is a letdown for this team,” said Ducks winger Matt Beleskey to reporters. “Since last year, we feel like we didn’t make it to where we want to go, and there’s been a business-like approach this entire season.
“We’re not near finished.” – winger Matt Beleskey
The Flames are being outplayed by wide margins, and the analytics people who were down on them all year long are reiterating their point: That the Flames’ surprising regular-season and first-round success is, in the long run, unsustainable.
Calgary puts in a huge effort but are having trouble withstanding the power surge of the Ducks’ offense, especially coming from their stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The are deep, with other lines that are capable of checking opponents into submission, and they have a rock-solid blueline corps, and if you can get past them, you got big goalie Frederik Andersen in net holding down the fort.
That doesn’t mean that Calgary can’t win a game, all is not lost for the Flames as their series shifts to the Stampede City tonight for Game 3. There is no reason to assume it will happen, but possibly Calgary’s hockey heroes can win a game convincungly at the Saddledome and renew faith in themselves, thereby planting a seed of doubt in the Ducks. Greater giants have fallen.
“We have to be focused, because our scouts told us Calgary is a lot louder than Winnipeg,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said to media. An that very intimidation factor just might tilt enough favour in Calgary’s way.
Flames’ rookie, Sean Monahan, told media pregame: “We’ve got to do whatever we can to find a way to win.”