After what felt like an eternal cycle of shuffling in the standings, the Anaheim Ducks finally have a confirmed playoff opponent: the Calgary Flames.
A contentious regular season series makes way for what should be an entertaining first round matchup. With that in mind, here’s the top three narratives to keep an eye on in round one:
The Giordano Thing
Mark Giordano is bit of a marked man thanks to a knee-on-knee collision that knocked Cam Fowler out of Anaheim’s lineup for the foreseeable future.
Naturally, Giordano refuted the notion that the hit was intentional. Perhaps even more naturally, the Ducks’ contingent cried foul, claiming clear intent.
For those of you that need to spice up your Monday afternoon, here's Flames GM Brad Treliving's full comments: pic.twitter.com/s1NSq0sjA7— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) April 10, 2017
Calgary general manager Brad Treliving threw his two cents into the foray, ardently defending his player while deriding any and all critics.
Anaheim has shown a chippy edge to their game as of late, which leaves one to wonder how that’ll translate in a playoff setting, where things are kept relatively clean.
No Cam Fowler
Popular opinion seems to be that Fowler’s absence significantly affects Anaheim’s chances. To many, the 12th-overall pick in 2010 is the Ducks’ premier defenseman.
There’s reason to be skeptical of that notion, even though he does chew up the most minutes of any of their blueliners.
No Fowler in round one presumably means a lot more of Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson, who have both been excellent at even strength this season.
Manson has looked great alongside Shea Theodore, while Lindholm should do just fine next to Brandon Montour.
The weak link continues to be Kevin Bieksa. His minutes have steadily declined as the season has progressed, but there’s potential for disaster next to the defensively-challenged Sami Vatanen. Then again, Vatanen struggled next to Fowler as well. How this all shakes might be the biggest thing to keep an eye on.
Gibb, Gibby, Gibby, Can’t You See?
Randy Carlyle has routinely described his goaltending tandem as a “1A-1B” situation. John Gibson, perhaps motivated by his coach’s lukewarm support, went out and blanked the Chicago Blackhawks the very same night of those most recent comments. Not a bad way to respond.
A lot hangs in the balance for Gibson, assuming he starts in Game 1. Not only has he been challenged by his head coach to take the ball and run with it, but his very presence on the roster wasn’t a sure thing just a year ago. A strong playoff showing — especially after faltering last post-season — would go a long way in legitimizing his status as more than a “1A-1B” kind of guy.
Naturally, there are many more narratives to pick at going into this series. These three felt the most pertinent at the time of publication. With that being said, I’d love to hear what you guys think matters in round one. Let me know in the comments!