What We Learned From Game 4
As absurd as it might have sounded after the first two games of this series, both teams have recently shown that they have the capability to totally take control of the tempo of a game. The two clubs play at very different paces, and each respective style has a way of strongly inconveniencing their opposition. While the Ducks like to play a slower game and use their well-roundedness to lay claim to whatever part of the ice they want, Calgary loves to accelerate things and challenge their opponents to keep up. Two such examples from Game 4 were the ankle breakers from Johnny Gaudreau on Hampus Lindholm that set up Calgary's first goal, and Sean Monahan on Simon Despres in the second that was about an inch from evening the game up at three.
This change of power was made more evident on Friday night when comparing the first period to the rest of the game. The first 20 minutes could easily be described as 'Calgary Flames hockey', whereas in the rest of the game, when the Ducks stopped trying to keep pace with the young guns but stop them in their tracks altogether, they regained the control they so firmly held in Games 1 and 2 before letting it slip away on Tuesday night. It's not a new concept to this series, but one that was emphasized in the condensed timeframe of one night: if the Flames make the Ducks chase them around the ice, they'll find themselves at an advantage. Inversely, if Anaheim can stand their ground and draw Calgary into the physical game (retaliation included, watch your stick Joe Colborne), then they'll be well on their way to a date with the Chicago Blackhawks for the Western Conference crown. It really depends on which team can display the necessary fortitude to set the tone, but being back within the friendly confines of the Honda Center doesn't exactly hurt the chances of the good guys.
What Needs to Change From Last Game
Don't let Calgary get off to a hot start (no pun intended). As is the case with any elimination game, one of the most beneficial things for the visiting team to do, whether they look to close out the series or survive for another night, is to take the home crowd out of the game early. Like we saw in Game 4, those two early goals from the Flames set the stage for them to take control of the ice, and the Ducks were unable to launch much of a counterattack until the end of the first period. A desperate Flames team will try to make the same thing happen, but with a different end result. Long story short, if Anaheim can weather an early storm from a team fighting for their playoff lives, they could very well draw some penalties to cash in on from Calgary's panic like they thrived on in the first two games.
Upon returning home, Bruce Boudreau addressed the media as his team prepared for the first potentially decisive game of their Western Semifinal series. One player in particular he praised for his play against Calgary was one who hasn't made the biggest impact on the scoresheet in the last few games: Ryan Kesler. "When you're killing penalties and winning faceoffs, that's so important in the overall scheme of things, and Ryan was doing it. Sometimes it doesn't show up on the scoresheet, but his contributions are big." Since his main appeal to the Ducks, especially after last year's playoff loss to the Los Angeles Kings, was his ability to play strong two-way hockey, that would in turn take some of the stress off Ryan Getzlaf, it's been great to see him pan out as expected. If anyone reading this wants to get a hold of any Anaheim/Vancouver fan who believed the Canucks "won" the trade from this last summer because Nick Bonino started off hotter from a statistical standpoint than Kesler, feel free to show them how #17 has been playing in this postseason.
The Flames didn't practice yesterday as they made their way to Orange County. The only lineup news that Bob Hartley would let slip was the predictable draw in net, as he announced that Karri Ramo would be back in the blue paint for Game 5.
Anaheim takes Game 5 and the series, Ducks fans everywhere rejoice at the end of the team's hiatus from the Western Conference Final, and this guy orders another jersey with an updated number.