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Know Thy Enemy: Calgary Forward Preview

The Ducks did a great job suppressing the Winnipeg attack, but now they will have their hands full dealing with some dangerous flamethrowers from Alberta.

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Line Combinations

courtesy of dailyfaceoff.com

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Jiri Hudler

Sam Bennett - Mikael Backlund - Joe Colborne

Michael Ferland - Matt Stajan - David Jones

Brandon Bollig - Josh Jooris - Mason Raymond

Injuries

Paul Byron - lower body, day-to-day

Lance Bouma - upper body, day-to-day

How Did Their Season Go?

When the topic of strong NHL offenses was brought up this season, most people were quick to point to central Florida to look at Steven Stamkos and his Lightning, or Rick Nash serving as a premier goal scorer for the Presidents Trophy-winning Rangers. Others turned to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of 2015 Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn. Amidst all these focal points, a top-10 offense was flying under the radar as they were at work quietly pumping out goals in downtown Calgary. The Flames finished the regular season with the 6th-best goals per game average at 2.9 per game, just edging out the Ducks by a 0.1 margin. They traded away consistent producer and long-time Flame Curtis Glencross to Washington for draft picks, but with their next-man-up adjustment, it hardly seemed to impact their offensive output in a negative manner.

In a sense, Calgary's offense has been incredibly similar to Anaheim's; it's incredibly top-heavy with their first liners providing most of the punch, but they still have depth players that will always contribute when called upon. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have become one of the most potent scoring duos in the league, and one main reason they're such a huge asset for the Stars is their age. Benn is only 25, while Seguin is 23, so they're likely not slowing down any time soon. Similarly, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, two 60+ point scorers this season, are only 21 and 20, respectively. Without a doubt, Calgary will likely contribute to the league's most dangerous pair discussion in no time, and with young Sam Bennett (naturally a center) getting the opportunity to develop his skill set in the big time, they could be setting themselves up to boast one of the best one-two punches down the middle as well with a Monahan/Bennett combo taking faceoffs.

How Did the Last Round Go?

Repeating the point on Calgary's depth, it showed itself forcefully at the expense of the Vancouver Canucks. As you'll see below, the production in round 1 was incredibly well-rounded. Even the defensive players not included in the table (offensive preview, sorry), were firmly in the scoring mix as well. As a matter of fact, 15 out of the 20 skaters Calgary dressed in the first round registered at least one point. The Ducks, on the other hand, got 14 out of 19 players on the scoresheet against Winnipeg, so the similarities between the two offenses continue with their depth scoring. While the Ducks have Jakob Silfverberg as their depth scorer who sits towards the top of the playoff leaderboard, Calgary has David Jones, who currently possesses the same stat line as Sean Monahan (2-3-5).

Stats vs. Ducks

Games Played vs. ANA Goals Assists Points
Sean Monahan 5 3 2 5
Matt Stajan 3 3 2 5
Johnny Gaudreau 5 2 3 5
Mikael Backlund 3 1 3 4
Jiri Hudler 5 3 0 3
Lance Bouma 5 1 2 3
Joe Colborne 3 1 2 3
Markus Granlund 3 0 2 2
Brandon Bollig 5 0 1 1
Josh Jooris 4 0 1 1
David Jones 3 0 1 1
Micheal Ferland 2 0 1 1

Round 1 Stats vs Vancouver:

Games Played Goals Assists Points
Jiri Hudler 6 3 3 6
Johnny Gaudreau 6 2 4 6
David Jones 6 2 3 5
Sean Monahan 6 2 3 5
Matt Stajan 6 1 3 4
Micheal Ferland 6 2 2 4
Sam Bennett 6 2 1 3
Joe Colborne 6 0 2 2
Brandon Bollig 6 1 0 1
Mikael Backlund 6 0 1 1
Mason Raymond 4 0 1 1

Top Three Threats to Anaheim

1) Calgary's top line. The trio of Monahan, Gaudreau and Hudler combined for 202 points this year, and currently pace the Flames in the playoffs with 17 points in six games. Veteran leadership from the 31-year-old Hudler complements the skillful youth of Monahan and Gaudreau well, and as their stats show, it makes them an incredibly dangerous trio that needs to be kept in check as best as possible.

2) Depth. As previously stated, if Threat #1 is addressed effectively, the Ducks still aren't completely safe, as David Jones, Matt Stajan, Micheal Ferland, or really almost any other player in a Flame jersey can step up at any time and give Calgary the goals they need. While the top line is undoubtedly the biggest problem that Anaheim faces, they really can't afford to let their guard down at any point during the game, or else that infamous third period comeback streak might come to a screeching halt.

3) Resilience. Like the Ducks in the third period against Winnipeg, the Flames absolutely refuse to go away. Calgary out shot Vancouver in only two games out of the six, yet they made the most of their opportunities. Any time the Canucks gained momentum, it seemed like Calgary almost always had an answer. In the series-clinching Game 6, Calgary clawed back from a 3-0 deficit less than halfway through the opening period and ran away with a 7-4 win. No lead will be safe for the Ducks in this series, and they absolutely cannot treat any advantage on the scoreboard as such.

Top Three Ways to Beat Calgary's Forwards

1) Flex the muscles. A fair amount of Calgary's offensive players aren't very big, so throwing hits on the forecheck probably won't be a go-to plan of theirs. Johnny Gaudreau, for example, one of the Flames' best players, is 5'9" and 150 pounds, or the size of your typical high school freshman male. As long as the Ducks can avoid over-committing to the physical play and find a strong speed/muscle combo, they should be able to keep up with their opponents while still reminding them who's in charge in this series.

2) Fight fire with fire. Because of how alike both offenses are, the series may come down to which defense blinks first. Calgary is slightly quicker, while the Ducks are a little stronger, so if the Flames' speed can be contained, then the task bestowed upon Anaheim's offense becomes a little less burdensome. It helps the Ducks' cause that Calgary's best defenseman, Mark Giordano, is out indefinitely with a bicep injury. For the Duck forwards to get that little bit of cushion over Calgary's attack, it might not be a bad idea to aim for Jonas Hiller's 5-hole. Just a thought.

3) Beat their power play. In their series against Vancouver, the Flames converted on extra man opportunities about 28% of the time, or just at a slightly better pace than one goal for every four attempts. The Ducks finished round 1 with one of the best penalty killing success rates out of the remaining teams at 84.6%. If they can keep the ball rolling when they have a teammate in the box, Anaheim will be in great shape, especially since they've done well to maintain one of the best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio in the playoffs (1.57).