There are losses, and then there are losses, and in Game 1 of their series against Anaheim Thursday, the Calgary Flames suffered a loss. This series will be over in a hurry if they don’t get a better effort in net – and everywhere else, for that matter.
We know and expect when we rise every day that certain things won’t go exactly right in life. Every trip you’ve ever made to get your driver’s license renewed, for instance. Or the season-to-season development of the TV show Heroes, for other instance. Or your daily commute to work. We understand and accept someone or something will be the equivalent of the dolt driver doing parade speed in the passing lane of our lives, and we muddle through it to get where we want to be.
Then there’s the kind of night Calgary had against Anaheim in Game 1 of their second-round NHL playoff series Thursday. To call the Ducks’ 6-1 win over the Flames a defeat seems charitable in a way that cries out for a tax credit.
Calgary was flattened, ground into a fine powder, brushed into a blender, and made into a smoothie for Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had a goal and three assists in the victory. He and fellow star Corey Perry slapped the Flames around, combining for eight points on the night and chasing former Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller from Caglary’s net early in the second period after Anaheim got three pucks past him with its first 14 shots.
But Anaheim’s utter dominance of Game 1 wasn’t just about Perry and Getzlaf. The Ducks outshot the Flames in every period, and 35 to 25 in total. The Ducks were better than the Flames in the faceoff department (33 wins for Anaheim, and 31 for Calgary), hits (27 to 22), takeaways (nine to four) and blocked shots (19 to 14). By virtually every metric that mattered, Bruce Boudreau’s team took Bob Hartley’s team by the scruff of the neck and paintbrush-slapped it across the face until the final buzzer arrived.
It’s Hartley’s job now to get his players to forget about this loss, but if he can’t get a better showing out of Hiller than the .786 save percentage he posted in 22:13 of ice time Thursday – or a lights-out performance from backup Kari Ramo, who didn’t fare much better in allowing three goals on 21 shots in relief – all the coaching in the world isn’t going to save them from Anaheim’s attack. The Ducks were too strong on the puck and too fast for the Flames to tie down, and although Calgary has availed itself very well in the weeks and months after captain Mark Giordano’s season-ending injury, Game 1 was one of those games where you could clearly see how much they missed his presence; more often than not, their defense was in scramble mode and looking altogether bereft of the confidence Giordano brings to the table.
In fairness to them, they certainly had every reason not to be confident in the team’s goaltending, but too many chances came too easily to the Ducks. And it got so lopsided in the third when Anaheim went up 6-0, Boudreau got to rest his stars (with Getzlaf logging just 16:03 of ice time and Perry logging only 15:14), like garbage time in the last quarter of an NBA game whose end result was never in doubt. The Flames had made a name for themselves with a number of incredible comeback wins this year, but there was no crawling out of a crater this big.
Anaheim, on the other hand, has to be feeling as confident as any team still playing. They knocked around a plucky Winnipeg Jets team in short order and in the opening matchup of their second series against an equally-if-not-more resilient Flames team, they looked even better.
There may be a team that gives them a challenge – the Chicago Blackhawks do jump to mind – but the Ducks have proven in just five games they’re primed to win the second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. And the Flames need a serious regroup just to have an outside shot at beating them.