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Know Thy Enemy: Calgary Defense Preview

I want to see Beauch crush Ferland. Who's with me?

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports


Kris Russel - Dennis Wideman

T.J. Brodie - Deryk Engelland

David Schlemko - Tyler Wotherspoon

*Corey Potter

Injuries of Defensemen

Raphael Diaz - Sidelined with a lower body injury. Return unknown.

Mark Giordano - Listed as out for the season with a torn bicep, but has resumed skating.

Ladislav Smid - Out for the season with a neck vertebrae injury.

How did their season go?

The Calgary Flames are already being dubbed the Cinderella team of this year's playoffs. While some analysts marveled at the stats-defying numbers of the Anaheim Ducks this season to clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference, nothing this season compares to the way the Flames have entered the second round of playoffs.

The Flames allowed an average of 2.60 goals per game (16th in League) while the Ducks allowed 2.70 goals per game (20th in League). Despite losing key defensemen such as Mark Giordano, Raphael Diaz, and Ladislav Smid, the Flames have managed to push by heavying up minutes on their remaining top-3 defensemen.

Stats vs. Ducks

Player Games vs. Ducks Goals Assists Points FF% (5v5 Close)
Kris Russel 4 0 3 3 44.15
Dennis Wideman 5 2 5 7 444.15
T.J. Brodie 5 1 2 3 45.98
Deryk Engelland 5 0 0 0 42.30
David Schlemko 1 0 0 0 57.20
Tyler Wotherspoon 0 0 0 0 41.67
Corey Potter 0 0 0 0 57.58
Mark Giordano* 4 0 2 2 48.60
Ladislav Smid* 2 0 0 0 44.91
Raphael Diaz* 4 0 0 0 48.52
*Out on Injury Reserve

Top Three Threats to Anaheim

It's funny how this post-season, it seems that Anaheim is being match up so perfectly to teams that appear incredibly similar. In the first round, the Ducks were matched up against the Winnipeg Jets...both teams featuring big hits, big bodies, with middle-of-the-road stats. Now moving on to the second round, the Ducks are matched up against the Calgary Flames, who similarly defied all stats and earned a post-season spot.

1) Letting the defense run amok. Bruce Boudreau acknowledged that Calgary's defense is one of the most active in the League. Even after Norris Trophy candidate Mark Giordano went down with a season-ending injury, Coach Bob Hartley was able to fill in the gap with his top three defensemen. In particular, Kris Russel has been seeing increased minutes and more shots in Giordano's absence. Additionally, Brodie and Wideman have averaged 27 minutes or more a game and pitted against the top forwards of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Anaheim's defense will have to work hard to keep these pesky Flames off the boards. One of the reasons why the Flames have been able to survive this long with basically only 3 decent defensemen is because of the outright hustle to get to the puck to either clear or keep it in. Anaheim cannot fall into the trap of allowing the Calgary defensemen to dictate the pace of play.

2) Allowing the Flames to take the lead early is probably the biggest threat to Anaheim. As evidenced by the first round results, the Ducks were incredibly lucky fortunate to come out with wins in the first three games after trailing in the second period. Maybe Winnipeg lacked the resolve that Anaheim had in the third period, but I would not tempt the hockey gods this round with the "Comeback Kids" because the Flames will be waving that same card.

The Calgary Flames will be coming into Anaheim with confidence and slight hope of stealing a game or two at the Honda Center. This is where Anaheim needs to clamp down and snuff out any hope the Flames hope to spark. It'll be pivotal for the Ducks to clamp down on the inexperienced Flames rookies and SCORE EARLY. Do us a flipping favor, let me live one more day with all my hairs intact, and snuff out all hope in the first two periods--in the first two games at home.

3)  Power Play. The effectiveness of Calgary's power play was a main component for their success against the Vancouver Canucks. Several things can be said here about that....

It's important to note that the Flames do not often take penalties. So the Ducks will have to once again be very careful to play with discipline, especially considering the much more effective power play they will be attempting to kill.

Just because the Flames are the Flames doesn't mean that they will be pushed around. The Flames are not only a quicker team than the Jets, but they have also adopted somewhat of a physical play with the addition of big-bodied rookie Micheal Ferland. Once again, the Ducks will have to find a fine balance between speed and physicality to clamp down and control the Flames. The key is not to sacrifice too much of the game speed for brute force...there were many instances in the regular season when the Ducks got lost in the physical game and were left in the dust. They managed to do a pretty good job of balancing speed and grit against the Jets, so expect to see the same with more emphasis on the first.

Top Three Ways to Beat the Flames' Defense

1) GAIN THE LEAD before NEVER SAY DIE. Instead of relying on the Ducks' third period miracle comebacks, they ought to ramp up the offense from the get-go. Considering that the Flames are also very acquainted with the concept of the third period comeback, the Ducks would do well to create a comfortable cushion early on. And as the playoff run goes on longer, the Ducks will have to get used to giving a full 60 minute effort over a mere 20 minute effort.

Then, if the Ducks are trailing, they can then proceed to the never-say-die attitude that has carried them through the regular season and the series against the Jets. Dream killing is what Anaheim does best, eh?

2)  Wear down the defense and dominate puck possession. Kudos to the Flames management and coaching staff for acquiring very well-conditioned defensemen. Now it's up to the Ducks to wear them down. Since Giordano, Smid, and Diaz went down with injuries, the Flames have really solely depended on the defensive contributions from Russel, Wideman, and Brodie. Russel and Wideman have seen their post-season ice time actually increase two minutes from their regular season. Engelland has seen about a six-minute increase in post-season now that he is skating with Brodie, who himself averages more than 27 minutes per game. Hartley has loaded up on these two pairs, thereby limiting the third pair consisting of Schlemko and Wotherspoon or Potter. To this point, the Ducks can open windows of opportunity by tiring out the three primary defensemen. The Anaheim hockey club is much deeper down the middle, rolling three lines (and even four lines on special occasions) and coming at the Calgary defensemen in waves.

Anaheim has  to work on getting the puck to the middle of the ice. Calgary led with blocked shots. Kris Russel had the most blocked shots of any player with 283, Dennis Wideman was 6th with 184, and T.J. Brodie was 8th with 178. That being said, the Flames have effectively blocked shots from the periphery. Playoffs have been no different as defenseman Deryk Engelland currently leads with 29 blocked shots. Calgary has been effective thus far  at blocking shots and controlling the rebounds. It's up to the Ducks to force the Flames on the backcheck and produce a relentless forecheck that challenges/exhausts the Calgary defensemen.

Ducks currently hold a playoff fenwick (unblocked shot attempt) percentage of 54.5% while Calgary has 47.4%. Ironically these are numbers that many of us tried to ignore during the regular season because they didn't favor Anaheim. But now that they weight heavily in the Ducks' favor, the Ducks should channel the same outcome against the Flames.

3) Home Ice Advantage. The Calgary Flames have lost 20 straight regular-season games at the Honda Center (0-15-5), and two of the three 2006 first round playoff games as well.

No ice like home ice right?

So let's not spoil this record now.