Just like everyone (read: no one) expected, the Anaheim Ducks were the first team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs thanks to a sweep of the Calgary Flames.
Anaheim, one of the hottest teams in the league coming down the regular season, was far from dominant. Calgary pushed the pace at even strength, forcing Randy Carlyle’s squad into some severely uncomfortable situations.
Yet the Ducks’ pounced on their opponents’ mistakes at every turn. The Flames, in that respect, failed miserably. Their power play, though reasonably productive, felt like a letdown given the bevy of opportunities it was afforded.
With round two a mere two days away, let’s take a moment to look back at three players who put Anaheim over the top in round one:
A little perspective: Gibson got the yank in Game 3, and he still made this list. That’s how good he was.
The Flames’ stellar play at even strength was rendered completely useless thanks to Gibson vaporizing scoring chances. His numbers at five-on-five are simply eye-popping: an overall .967 save percentage and a league-best (tied for first) .944 high-danger save percentage.
Calgary’s power play largely torched Anaheim, but if that performance had been at all replicated at even strength, there’s no doubt this series has a much different outcome. Simply put, Gibson was the difference maker.
Cam Fowler’s injury right before the post-season — sidelining him for the entire first round — was seen as a major crutch for Anaheim.
Factor in that Sami Vatanen missed nearly the entire series as well, and all of a sudden the Ducks were down two mainstays on their blueline.
Theodore, who had famously spent the majority of the regular season shuttling between San Deigo and Anaheim, was squarely thrust into a top-four role. Boy, did he deliver.
Not only did is he currently tied with Ryan Getzlaf for the team lead in points, but he also showed a confidence to his game that we just hadn’t seen for quite some time.
The 21-year old’s big challenge has always been balancing his aggressive tendencies with a responsible game. He managed to strike that balance in round one in a pressure-packed situation, and the Ducks are much better for it.
Getzlaf’s play, notably in the first two games of the series, had a sizable influence on the final outcome. He stood out in nearly every facet of the game, punctuated by a noted physical engagement.
The most violent expression of that physicality was through a bone-crunching body-check delivered to Mark Giordano late in Game 1. With just minutes left on the clock, Getzlaf caught the Calgary captain with his head down and sent him flying.
Dougie Hamilton’s immediate retaliation resulted in a Ducks power play, where they eventually delivered the nail in the coffin.
Another shining moment for Getzlaf came in Game 2, where a crazy bounce on a third period power play off of a pass attempt gave him the game-winning goal.
While some teams that are going home early are facing questions about their leadership core, Anaheim can rest easy in knowing that their own captain and longest-tenured player is still very much the leader of their team.