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Losing streak in Anaheim no reason for Flames to fear Ducks in first round

The Flames have officially gone 13 years without winning in Anaheim after dropping Tuesday’s game agains the Ducks. But is that enough for Calgary to fear a first-round matchup against Anaheim?

Call it a curse or call it a coincidence, but the Calgary Flames have shown an almost shocking inability to win in Anaheim. 

Tuesday’s loss to the Ducks at Honda Center, a 3-1 defeat, marked the second time this season that the Flames have dropped a game in Anaheim. It was also the fifth time in the past two seasons Calgary went into the former Arrowhead Pond and left empty-handed. At this point, though, it’s far from surprising.

Since Anaheim’s inaugural season in 1993-94, back when they were the Disney-named Mighty Ducks, Calgary has travelled to Anaheim on 50 occasions. In the first four meetings, the Flames took seven of a possible eight points from the NHL’s new franchise and Calgary won seven of their first 15 games in Anaheim. But by the time 1999 rolled around, the tide turned. On Jan. 13, 1999, the Flames headed to southern California and pulled off a 2-1 victory. But since that win, Calgary has only celebrated a win one more time in Anaheim.

Yes, you read that right: over a span of nearly two decades, the Flames have won once when visiting the Ducks. Overall, Calgary’s record in Anaheim since that victory in mid-January 1999 is a ghastly 1-24-7 with three contests ending in a tie. The lone win? That came all the way back in January 2004. Matter of fact, April 4, 2004, was the first loss in Calgary’s current skid in Anaheim, making Tuesday’s game the 13th anniversary of the start of what is now a 25-game losing streak.

Generally speaking, with a season winding down, a statistic such as that wouldn’t carry much weight. The campaign is close to over, so Calgary will get another shot at snapping their dreadful run of play in Anaheim next year, right? Not so fast. 

As of Wednesday, the playoff-bound Flames currently sit in the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference, which puts them on a first-round collision course with — you guessed it — the Ducks. And while nothing is set in stone, each passing game makes it all the more likely the two are bound to meet come the start of the post-season.

With Calgary’s loss Tuesday, they cannot earn more than 96 points. Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks, who are third in the Pacific Division, boast 97 points, which is to say that the Flames can’t jump up into a divisional playoff spot before the second season begins. Calgary is a lock for the wild-card and it’s only a matter of whether they finish in the first or second spot. As for the Ducks, well, the victory over the Flames gave Anaheim a four-point cushion atop the Pacific. The Edmonton Oilers have a game in hand in their chase for the top divisional spot, but four points is a lot of ground to make up over the course of three outings.

If the Oilers don’t make up that ground and Anaheim finishes in the top spot in the Pacific with Calgary landing in the top wild-card spot, the two are set for a first-round matchup. And because the Ducks have the division title and home-ice advantage under their belt, the Flames would be heading to Honda Center to open the post-season. Given the way things have gone, that might be the least appealing playoff option for the Flames. 

So, as crazy as it might sound, could it be in Calgary’s best interest to fall into the second wild-card spot and oppose the West-leading Chicago Blackhawks in the first round instead?

Despite the obvious ludicrousness of the suggestion — what team would want to willingly drop games at this point in the season and would want to do so to face Chicago? — the losing streak in Anaheim might seem to suggest the Flames would have a better matchup against the Blackhawks than they do the Ducks. 

Anaheim has dominated the Calgary this season, winning four of the five games the two teams have played by a combined score of 17-14. And were it not for an 8-3 blowout win by Calgary, that spread would be much worse. Against the Blackhawks, the Flames have dropped two of three outings and were outscored 10-6. Calgary’s lone win came in a shootout, but one loss was also by a one-goal margin.

One has to take in consideration that is the Blackhawks in the playoffs, though. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and the rest of the core have made a literal living off of post-season heroics. Three Stanley Cups in six seasons is no easy feat and that Chicago is atop the Western Conference heading into the playoffs is no mistake. The Blackhawks will be a tough foe for even the best teams in the West.

But there’s also the matter of the road losing streak against the Ducks. You know, the one that hasn’t seen the Flames win in Anaheim in 13 years. And with the four of a possible seven games in any opening round series being played on the road for Calgary, the losing streak in Anaheim is bound to be a storyline entering the first round should the Flames and Ducks meet. It’ll be a talking point and conversations will be had about the very things outlined above.

The thing is, though, there would be no better time for the Flames to snap their winless streak than in the post-season. While the losing streak has persisted, there exists no curse and it’s not impossible for Calgary to win in Anaheim. Over the past 13 years, more than 100 players have suited up for the Flames at Honda Center and that they’ve always left with a loss is nothing more than coincidence. At the highest levels of play, any team can beat any other on any given night. That the Flames haven’t been able beat the Ducks in Anaheim in 13 years is an anomaly.

And it’s not as if this season’s Flames haven’t come close to ending the drought. A mere two-goal spread made the difference Tuesday night, one of which came on a razor-thin review. And in the meetings this season, Calgary has boasted a better Corsi for percentage, goals for percentage and high-danger scoring chances percentage against the Ducks than they did the Blackhawks. 

The Flames have been coming on to end the season, too, boasting one of the league’s best records over the past two months. Since the start of February, Johnny Gaudreau has been on fire, Sean Monahan has found his scoring touch and Mikael Backlund continues to impress. The defensive group of Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie has consistently contributed at both ends of the ice. And after struggles to start the campaign, Brian Elliott hasn’t just been good, he’s been among the league’s best between the pipes.

So, curse, coincidence or anomaly, the losing streak is the losing streak, but all it takes is one win for that to change. The Flames and their fanbase may be hanging their heads after yet another loss in Anaheim, but meeting and beating the Ducks is the only way for it all to come to an end. And if that victory comes in the post-season, it’ll be that much sweeter.

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