It’s been six long years since we’ve gone to the dance and who’s the first available lady we come across? Why… it’s an old ex girlfriend, the one that we used to love to hate, the one we can’t stand to be in the same room with. Well, since Edmonton has spun so sadly down into a shame spiral that is.
How do we match up now against the Canucks? Let’s have a look…
Goaltending. I’ve got to give this one to Vancouver. It’s a straight comparison between Eddie Lack and Jonas Hiller since both Miller and Ramo don’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. Lack has been better since Miller went down, and Hiller always seems to make one mistake per game that leads to a goal. That said, so did Mike Vernon.
Defence. Advantage Vancouver no question. Although Russel and Wideman have been outstanding and Brodie has been worked to death and still held his own, Calgary is just too injured to keep playing at an NHL-level of playoff defence. The loss of Gio will be felt as the round goes on, but so will the loss of guys like Smid and even Diaz. If Engelland is part of your top four, you’re in trouble.
Offence. Advantage here goes to Calgary. The Flames’ top line of Monahan, Hudler and Gaudreau has proabably been the top line in the NHL the past two months. The Sedins aren’t what they once were, although they still make mediocre linemates look better than they are.
Special teams. Vancouver takes this one as well as they have a better power play and better penalty kill. That said, Calgary takes fewer penalties so actually allowed fewer goals while shorthanded. Since penalties are harder to come by in the playoffs we’ll see if that makes any difference.
Coaching. I’m giving the advantage here to Hartley. Not just for the coaching decisions made in-game, but more for the culture that’s been built over the past two years. The Flames believe they can win, and they have, more often than anyone has expected.
Intangibles. As we all know this is what it comes down to in the playoffs. And I’m going to single out one thing that is going to make all the difference, and that’s momentum. If Lack is shakey and Vancouver loses confidence in him, then it’ll be over for the Canucks. Likewise with Hiller. If Calgary can win one of the first two games — and not get blown out in the other — then Calgary will win the series. If Vancouver can get under the skin of Calgary’s top line then the Flames don’t have a chance. The game plan for Vancouver is simple, punish the top line whenever you can. I wouldn’t be surprised to see early runs at Hudler and Gaudreau. the game plan for Calgary is also simple, don’t let Vancouver beat you.