Four-Inch Vertical Leap

by | May 11, 2015

Bruce Boudreau never thought it was going to be easy. After all, he was trying to do something that he’d never done before, which was eliminate another team to end round two. He’d only ever been eliminated before. When he thought his team was going to win, he jumped about four inches off the ground, he said at the press conference following Sunday’s game. This made him realize that he wasn’t calm about the outcome at all. No word as to what his vertical leap might have increased to when the Ducks actually did salt away an overtime victory. But he was all smiles at the mic after the game.

The Calgary Flames, this year’s second-round opponent, weren’t going to make it easy. In fact, anyone who’s seen the series would know that it has been way closer than the 16-6 advantage the Ducks had in goals coming into game 5 Sunday night. The Flames, in fact, had played two good periods in a losing effort in game two. They then won game three, and played at least one even period in game four. Tallying it all up, through four games, it could as easily have been 2-2 as 3-1 for the Ducks. Maybe that’s why Boudreau was saying to reporters in a conference call on Saturday that he has not given even a thought to the Chicago Blackhawks, who would be the opponent should Anaheim go forward.

In preparation to close things out, Boudreau had done exactly nothing to his lineup. Why bother? Things have been going pretty well, and the only change in game four was to sit Emerson Etem and put in Tomas Fleischmann, a fourth-line exchange that Boudreau had said worked out pretty well last game. That kind of ignores that Etem had contributed two goals to the Anaheim effort—one in the last game in Winnipeg and one to open the series, in the first game in Anaheim versus the Flames.

Sunday for the 7pm contest, he had his guys charging from the start. In the first ten minutes, the Ducks’ defense was playing a devil-may-care game, in low into the Calgary zone as if there was no risk in being caught there. For instance, in a four-on-four play with Engelland and Maroon off on coincidental minors, Cam Fowler was circling behind the Flames’ net, skating backwards of all things as he cruised, hoping for a puck to get to him. It did not.

Just after that, who was in the slot, way low, while Corey Perry covered the point? Francois Beauchemin. Might sound weird for the stay-at-home defensive rock to be there, but that apparently was the strategy. Beauchemin has six assists this playoff, if that means anything here.

The Flames got the lead on a four-minute power play, scoring in the second of the two, two-minute segments. The Ducks then had a PP of their own, but they were lazy on it. Perry dumped a puck slowly into the corner at one point, and nobody recovered it. But they got better as the period wound through its second half.

Sum it up like this: early aggression by Anaheim didn’t pay off, though neither did it hurt them. But the Flames capitalized on a power play, and the game was 1-0. The second half of the period saw the home team aggressive both on a PK and on the power play, which they had in the last minute and a half. They were excellent particularly in the first 40 seconds, almost like they realized that this was their chance. They had three shots on the power play, which continued into the next frame.

Period two saw the Ducks tie the game on an early power play. The puck came from behind the net out to the slot to Ryan Kesler, who scored his fourth. He was within feet of Ramo, who waved an arm but had no reasonable chance of getting in the way of the shot.

The Flames got it back less than a minute later. The puck squirted out of the corner and into the high slot to Johnny Gaudreau, who wristed it. It may have hit a defenseman’s stick. Doesn’t matter. It went in. The shots at that point were Anaheim 18, Calgary 10. The Flames were doing all the initiating in the first part of this period, though, as if they’d finally decided that they could play with the Ducks.

As the second wore on, the Ducks played their aggressive game with their defensemen again, with, for example, Sami Vatanen pinching down in front of the Calgary net, allowing the puck to roll out of the Calgary zone because nobody was at the blueline to keep it in.

The mid-period went by with Calgary leading 2-1, then Matt Stajan hit Corey Perry coming across the zone in the Calgary end, a knee-on-knee contact which sent Perry to the ice and the room. There was no penalty on that play, though two minors were handed out from the ensuing scrum. But with that having happened, the Ducks came alive. The twin messages perhaps were these: we’re fooling around and letting these guys stay in this game; we’re not going to be the same without one of our twin stars, and so we’d better get this thing done now.

The Ducks absolutely took over in the last three or four minutes of the period, and with a minute left and a whistle, Perry came out for a quick skate-around, to huge cheers. (He would later describe it as “about a five-second shift.”) The Ducks got the advantage of a power play on a slashing penalty called with a few seconds to go but not officially started until the end of the period due to the delay in the whistle blowing. The shots through two periods were 26-14 in favor of Anaheim. The score that same 2-1 number.

Period three saw the Ducks get the equalizer early, on the power play. The puck came from the point on a wrister from Beauchemin, and was touched on the way in by Beleskey. Kesler was even closer to the net than Beleskey was, but his wave apparently missed. It was Beleskey’s fifth goal in five games, distributed one per game in the series. It was not enough. Period three ended with the score knotted at 2-2, despite a desperate push to end the period by Anaheim and a final two-on-one by Calgary that produced a puck that went across the crease and was just gobbled up by a Ducks’ defenseman as the buzzer went.

The Flames, to their credit, did not fold up. They poured it on mid-period, and they forced the Ducks to ice the puck. They would do it again late and end up taking their time out. The shots in this period were as lopsided as in the prior ones, 14-5 for Anaheim, to end regulation 40-19.

How does one account, then, for the tied score? Was Ramo that amazing? He must have been to have kept the game at two goals despite facing a game and a third’s worth of shots over three periods. Despite this, no single save looked lights-out. There was a breakaway along the line, by Beleskey, but his backhander was stopped (this was in OT). That was pretty amazing. Otherwise, there weren’t the heart-rending moments that, say, the Montreal-Tampa Bay game offered on Saturday night. It was just a steady accumulation of good work over three periods that kept the Flames in the game (and Hiller on the bench).

The OT was all Ducks. In fact, that’s even understating matters. The Anaheim team got seven shots on goal to Calgary’s none. It started with a lazy clear by Mason Raymond that looked like the kind of mistake that ends OT games. The Ducks got a shot that Ramo took up high off the chest. Raymond was off the hook.

Next, Maroon went to the net with Silfverberg going across the crease, and the puck skittered through. The shot might have gone in but that David Schlemko slid across and made the save, perhaps with his face.

The shots were 4-0 for Anaheim, and Hartley of the Flames burned his time out. Andersen put a puck way up ice for Beleskey, who went in alone but was stopped, as mentioned. And then the Ducks put the puck to the net with a crowd in front. Fowler tossed it to the net. Maroon got a stick on it. It sat in the crease, and Perry knocked it in from his knees. Not pretty, but it won the series.

Ramo made a brief protest, probably that he was interfered with, but the goal stood without review, and that was that.

“At least they won’t be asking me that question,” Bruce Boudreau said after, referring to the “Why have you never been past round two?” query that he routinely faces. “Now it’ll be ‘Why don’t you make the Finals?’” Ducks fans hope that’s not a foreshadow of what’s to come in a week or ten days (or two weeks) when the Anaheim-Chicago series concludes.

The Ducks were a happy but sedate bunch after the game. “We knew what we had to do,” said Kesler.

“Guys were laying it on the line. That’s what you need,” Perry said. And when asked how they might beat Chicago, he said, “What we were doing in the third period—stick with that. Chicago has speed and skill—you have to step in front of them and limit their time and space.”

Boudreau called his team “committed and determined,” and he pointed especially to Kesler as a key. “Kesler was 15-4 going into the third,” (and 18-4 coming out of the game), “and this allows you to save your timeouts, especially on the icing. Now he’s going to go against Toews, and it will be a little tougher, experience-wise. Chicago is a more dynamic offensive team. We’re going to have to stay out of the penalty box.”

Other Ducks commented that they were happy to be through, but that the job’s not done. “We’ve won eight, but we’ve got eight more, Beleskey said, and Andersen said, “It’s nice to know we’re playing in the next round, so now we focus on that.” They also indicated that they were looking forward to some rest, a couple of days off, and that they had been dreading going up to Calgary. “It’s a very good feeling knowing you don’t have to go to Calgary for Game Six,” the goalie said.


Fans want to know when Wisniewski will show back up on the ice. He’s spending his games in the press box as of now. The answer? Never, if the team keeps winning and the D corps as is keeps the Blackhawks in check.

I’m on twitter @growinguphockey. Please read my new Gretzky book, Facing Wayne Gretzky.



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