Welcome back to the Sanley Cup Playoffs everyone, hope you had a nice
offseason week off. If you remember all the way back to last Wednesday, the Ducks actually swept the Winnipeg Jets out of Round 1 and are now facing off against the Calgary flames, after they defeated Vancouver in six games. So, let's get to it, shall we?
What We Learned From Round 1:
The two main takeaways, for me, from Round 1 were that a) the Ducks kept up their improved possession play from the later stages of the regular season and b) continued to be absolute nails in the third period.
To that first point, the Ducks were fourth of the 16 teams in 5v5 shot attempt percentage (corsi) with 53.2% and behind only Chicago (53.3%) among the eight remaining teams. That's some pretty good company to keep. Our best buddy, Kid Ish did some interesting analysis of the Ducks (and Flames) possession in the playoffs versus the last month of the regular season over on Puq Magazine yesterday, so be sure to check that out for some more details.
As for the third period, the Ducks out scored Winnipeg 10-1 in the third period and overtime in the first round. Of course, the Ducks have been good in third periods all season, winning a league leading 12 games when trailing after two periods (and three more in the playoffs, so far) as well as going 33-1-7 in one goal games during the regular season, but 10-1 is still pretty surprising. I mean, the Ducks scored as many goals in third periods as Winnipeg did in the entire series.
What Needs to Change From Last Round:
Jumping off of those two points, we take a look at Calgary, who is a terrible possession team. They rank second to last in shot attempt (corsi) percentage in the playoffs with only 45.1% going their way and ahead of only Colorado and Buffalo in the regular season. Again, go back to the Kid Ish article linked above for how Calgary's possession broke down against Vancouver (short answer: really weirdly), but the Ducks should be able to do even better with the puck in this series.
Seeing as they don't usually have the puck, the real danger Calgary poses is on the counter attack, and they do it with speed. Winnipeg had a little bit of this, in the form of Blake Wheeler, which the Ducks did well to contain, but that's not quite the same as Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler coming on fast and furious.
Speaking of coming on fast and furious, the Flames do it in the third period, just as much as the Ducks do. In the regular season they won 10 games when trailing after two periods (plus two more in the first round) and in the playoffs they also scored nine third period goals (although they did it in six games). So, if that late game prowess keeps up for both teams, the difference will have to come in the first 40 minutes. I don't know how many times we can say it, but the Ducks can't rely on third period theatrics as much as they have. Especially in this series though, with the possession advantage we presume they'll have, the Ducks need to take advantage of it early on, or risk giving the Flames' quick strike offense a chance to prove what they can do (and have continued to do) at the end of games.
Here were the line combos and D-pairs from yesterday's practice:
Despite Jonas Hiller getting pulled after giving up two goals on three shots in the first 7:32 of the decisive Game 6 against Vancouver, there is no goalie controversy in Calgary. Flames head coach, Bob Hartley laid all the speculation to rest on Monday, announcing that Hiller will start against his former club in Game 1.
Even without any controversy internally with the Flames, that is one Hell of a story line. I like how GFOP (Great Friend of the Podcast) Jeff Marek frames it as a goalie trying to get back at his former team for not trading him(paraphrasing), but there's a lot more to it than that. In doing a Q&A with Matchsticks and Gasoline (SBN's Flames Blog) that will post at 8 am PT (my answers on M&G and theirs here), I had to go back to refresh my memory of the timeline. Holy crap, was it messy! And hard to summarize in a (run on) sentence or two. He clearly has something to prove, and we all know he has the ability to steal a series.... or give up some gaping five hole goals. Who the Hell knows what's going to happen? It's about time to find out.
Just going out on a limb here, but the team entering the third period with the lead, probably won't keep it.