I never thought I'd be analyzing a Flames second round playoff series in October. I knew we were trending up, but wow, what a development year. And, Like I've said all season, thats what its about, we are developing and win or lose, in the long term we are winning because we have drafted well and are only just seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the success our prospects can expect down the line. Much like Winnipeg will soon be reaping the benefits of good drafting, finding gems in the rough through trades and free agents.
Anyhow, onto the series. Overview, I totally expected Winnipeg to beat Anaheim, simply riding on their momentum, size, and young naivety. But, Anaheim swept em, now, that doesnt tell the whole story, anyone who watched the series knows that it was extremely close each game. Two years down the line when the Jets are a little more developed and finely rounded, they will be much more dominant. Anyhow, Anaheims time is now, there star/core players are all at or nearing 30, their window will be open for maybe another 2 seasons tops after this one. So they are hungry, and will be playing as such.
Calgary, how did they get here, well they played as a team through the season, batled through gobs of injuries and call ups, and managed to get into the playoffs. Against Vancouver they rode a wave of momentum built from the excitement of making the playoffs along with a little sprinkle of just about everything you need to win a series. They were able to win a road game, they got solid goaltending, they didnt get hurt, they banged away and created chances on the forcheck, and now, here they are competing with Anaheim.
Goaltending: Barring the bad game 6 start, which could have happened to anyone, Hiller played stunning lights out hockey for Calgary in the first round. One thing I noticed as the series progressed, was that, Hiller, catching with the wrong hand, forced alot of players to take their shots a little differently to try to go blocker high on him, which, I think threw a couple of players off. Hiller also carries with him that grudge factor, playing against his former team, which, even though he doesnt need it, could give him the inspiration to grab the next gear up. Im fairly sure Hartley will go with Hiller, but, should he choose Ramo, that would be fine too, Ramo played amazing hockey down the stretch, and I wouldnt mind seeing either goalie in, although it will likely be Hiller.
As far as the Ducks go, Andersen is young, he played good eneough against the Jets, but he is not a legit #1 goalie in the NHL in my eyes, not yet anyways. Advantage: Calgary
Defense: Anaheims defense, as I mentioned in my entry on them in the first round, is, at best, average. That said Cam Fowler played a strong series against Winnipeg, and of course Boucheman is a solid shut down guy. The Flames will be without Giordano, despite the fact that he's skating again he's still a ways away from a return, so Brodie, Russel and Wideman will have to be munching up minutes like mad. Engelland really stepped up in the Vancouver series, normally I don't want to see him more then 10 minutes a game, but, without Gio, and with our D prospects not ready to step in full time, I don't mind him playing 20 minutes a game. He's big, and can get some good hits in on Anaheims big forwards. Brodie and Russel are young, Brodie especially, so they will no doubt be able to keep their energy up, as for Wideman, well time will tell. Overall I give Calgary a very very slight advantage, only because I really don't think Anaheim have much of a D core.
Offense(Forwards): Well Ill come right out and say it, Anaheim has a clear advantage here, Getzlaf and Perry are two of the best in the game, Kesler is a great playoff performer. Anaheim is deep at the forward position, they have clutch guys, they defanetly have the advantage, especially when you take into account that Monahan is playing hurt. Monahan, Johnny and Bennett will no doubt have their day as a feared trio, but being as they are 20,21 and 18 respectivly, they simply can't match the top 3 on Anaheim in terms of experience. Hudler will have to lead them by example. In order for Calgary to stand a snow balls chance in you know where, they are going to have to play physical and try to get into Anaheims head. Ferland will have to continue at his frantic hitting pace, if we get a healthy Bouma back this would be a huge uplift. If Calgary can find a way to limit Getzlaf and Perry, while getting by Kesler, they have a small chance at advancing, but thats a tall order.
Calgary MUST figure out a way to win 1 in the Honda Center, I don't know if this is a mental thing or what, but they have to get over it and take either game 1 or 2. Coming back to the Dome I think the momentum will give them a victory or 2 in the first 4 games.
Series Prediction: Well, I purposely didnt predict a winner when I posted my Calgary/Vancouver write up, superstition I guess, so I won't post a prediction here. Ill say this though, 6 games.