Here’s the good news for Flames fans: Calgary played better in Game 2 of their second-round series against Anaheim than they did in a 6-1 Game 1 drubbing. Now here’s the bad news for them: it still wasn’t enough, and the Ducks are more than likely going to end this series sooner than later.
Let’s give the Flames this: they weren’t a total disaster in Game 2 of their second-round series against Anaheim Sunday, the way they were in an opening-game 6-1 shellacking, (emphasis on lacking). However, the reality is they lost 3-0 to a Ducks squad that is as focused and loaded for bear as any still left in the Stanley Cup tournament, and unless their youngsters get untracked in a very short span of time, Calgary will be boxing up their belongings and heading home for the summer break in a few days.
Although the Flames failed to score on Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen (who recorded his first career NHL playoff shutout) despite firing 30 shots at him, Calgary kept Anaheim’s lead at 1-0 through more than two-and-a-half periods. This was not the same Flames team that was knocked in Game 1 Thursday and whipped in just about every category the NHL keeps statistics on. This time, they played like they belonged in the same arena.
Yes, Anaheim stormed out of the gate Sunday and outshot the visiting team 20-9 in the first period, but the Flames settled down after that and outshot the Ducks 21-14 in the final two frames of regulation time. Goalie Kari Ramo stopped 31 of 33 Ducks shots for a .933 save percentage and gave them a solid performance after a shaky relief appearance in Game 1. Their penalty killers turned aside four Anaheim power plays in Game 2 after surrendering two goals in four Ducks man-advantages Thursday.
But it would be a disservice to reality to say Calgary showed anything in Game 2 that would suggest a miracle is on the horizon and they’re going to get back in the series. Anaheim once again got production from their best players – two assists each from captain Ryan Getzlaf and linemate Corey Perry, and one assist from Ryan Kesler – but also received contributions from second-year NHLer Hampus Lindholm (who scored his first career NHL playoff goal) and veteran winger Matt Beleskey (who scored for the second consecutive game against Calgary) in the win. To top it off, Anderson was clearly on his game. The Flames can be as plucky as they want to be, but when Anaheim has all those things working in their favor, it’s next to impossible to defeat them.
You hate to look ahead, but the real true test of the Ducks’ mettle will probably come next series, when they’re likely to square off against the Chicago Blackhawks in what would certainly be one of the more entertaining Western Conference Finals in recent memory. That Chicago franchise has the same caliber of game-breaking players, the same depth, and similar goaltending. The Hawks have also won a Cup with their current core, and that counts for something as well.
The Flames, though, don’t have all those things. Not yet. Like the Montreal Canadiens in the East, Calgary on the surface looks like they’re ahead of schedule on the road to winning a Cup, but they’re getting that surface scratched and they’re being served a helpful reality check from the Ducks at the moment.
You can have all the character and gumption you want, but intangibles and “playing for each other” cannot do what Getzlaf and Perry do for you on a nightly basis. Those two players play for each other and they’re incredibly-skilled. That’s something you either possess or you don’t, and if you don’t, you usually don’t make it any further in the playoffs than where the Flames are now. They may win a game or two in the five that theoretically remain, but four wins? Against the Anaheim Ducks? Sorry, they’re a feel-good story, not an urban myth.