Wild-Anaheim game preview

Wild-Anaheim game preview
Takeaways: Mike Smiths struggles becoming all too common for Flames
The Calgary Flames arrived at Anaheim’s Honda Center fresh after a few days’ worth of skates plus a day off and plenty of rest.

Heck, they hadn’t played since Saturday’s 5-3 come-from-behind win (their fifth come-from-behind win of the season) over the Chicago Blackhawks. And since that victory, they talked about how their play through the previous five games isn’t sustainable despite having won four straight, scoring a league-leading 28 goals in the third period and nabbing points in all five of those games.

While we still have about six months until the draft, this years class is shaping up to be top-heavy. 17-year-old center Jack Hughes, playing for the US National Development team, looks like a game-changer on the level of Auston Matthews. Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko is beating grown men in the highest league in Finland and could challenge Hughes for the number one overall pick. Alex Turcotte already looks primed for top-six action in the NHL with more development likely. Vasili Podkolzin is the complete package for a scoring winger. Dylan Cozens has been lighting up juniors for a few seasons now.

As for the Anaheim Ducks? It’s been a season already worth forgetting with a plethora of injuries, an adjustment to a new faster style of play and, just 24 hours earlier, they suffered a loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

So you know how Wednesday’s 3-2 Flames loss was supposed to go — kick them while they’re down.

Theres also the oft-talked about question of age. The Ducks core is aging rapidly, and there are plenty of signs that Kesler and Perry are hitting their respective decline (with the exception of Getzlaf). But even the captain wont play at this level for much longer. Thats a fact were all going to have to accept sooner rather than later. We hope he continues at his elite level for as long as he can, but we cant expect him to straddle giants for several more seasons. Hes much closer to his decline than to his prime.

Down 2-1 early in the third with Mikael Backlund in the box for tripping, the Flames received a huge boost from Mark Jankowski who roofed a short-handed goal at the 6:06 mark after battling to win the puck off Brandon Montour in their zone. Tie game.

Can the rookies develop into blue-chips and be late-bloomers? Of course its possible. Theyre all very young and have a lot of development left, but we need to be real with ourselves and recognize that these kids currently project out as good middle-six players. In positive terms, they can be middle-six players who could easily become the secondary scoring Anaheim has needed for years. The Ducks could quite possibly elevate themselves back into the realm of true contenders with a premier scoring/playmaking talent.

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Twenty-seven seconds later, the visitors were scrambling in front of Mike Smith when Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf roofed one of his own on the Flames’ struggling netminder. They pulled Smith with 2:28 left and sent out an extra attacker, and, sure enough, the Calgary club was able to draw a penalty from Rickard Rakell to create a six-on-four with 1:14 remaining. A comeback was not in the cards on this night, unfortunately.

We have to concede that many of these decisions from the front office have been made with other goals in mind. Yes, the Ducks could be the product of a GM who does not want to admit his mistake of rehiring a coach he previously fired. Maybe he just misfired on several free agent signings. Maybe the injury bug didnt provide a convienent cover for him and he wants to see how things play out once fully healthy. Maybe he believes several of his prospects have hidden superstar potential in them.

While the goal alone wasn’t enough to fault Smith for, it was his entire 60 minutes of work that needed to instil more confidence in front of him. The two first-period goals he allowed prior to that were not shining moments.

But lets face it: this team isnt the same one that took the Chicago Blackhawks to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals. Or the one that got out to a slow start playing relatively well but got horribly unlucky the following year with, arguably, one of the top rosters in the league. This is a team with significant holes in their bottom defensive pairing as well as no one particularly threatening in their bottom 6 forward group.

The first one came at the 8:37 mark of the opening frame on a blooper of a save attempt on Jakob Silfverberg’s shot which Smith thought he’d stopped between his pads before letting it dribble between his legs.

Street and Gibbons fit the profile of fast skaters, even if theyre not particularly skilled. However, Luke Schenn has put up defensive metrics almost as bad as Kevin Bieksa in recent seasons. And Andrej Sustr, while not quite as bad, never excelled on a juggernaut Tampa Bay team. 29-year-old Cartner Rowney, who had 71 NHL games to his name playing mostly on Pittsburghs 4th line, was inexplicably signed to a 3-year contract.

To make matter worse, shortly after 19-year-old Isac Lundestrom tossed an odd-angled shot from behind the net which nearly went off Smith and between his legs.

Extensions like Adam Henrique and John Gibson, however, make a lot of sense for a rebuilding period in Anaheim. Henrique is a tremendously popular leader both on and off the ice, both in the locker room, and outside of it. Having a veteran mentor who can pot a goal every now and again is undoubtedly an invaluable asset to a team steadily getting younger and learning how to compete at the highest levels.

The Ducks’ second goal came when the Flames were completely disorganized off a face-off which allowed the puck to find Josh Manson at the point. He sent a shot through traffic which Smith stopped, but he couldn’t control the rebound. It squirted out to Adam Henrique and — boom — the home side was up 2-0.

The Ducks have won 27 of their past 28 regular-season home games against the Flames. … Tkachuk has six points (three goals, three assists) during a four-game point streak. … Giordano assisted on Tkachuks goal and has nine points (one goal, eight assists) in the past six games. … Lindholm has nine points (three goals, six assists) during a six-game point streak. … Miller earned his 372nd win to tie Andy Moog for 17th on the NHLs all-time list. He moved within two wins of tying John Vanbiesbrouck for the most among U.S.-born goalies. … The Ducks are 7-0-2 this season when allowing two or fewer goals. … Manson returned after missing the past four games with an upper-body injury.

Before the period was over, the Flames cut the Ducks lead in half just five seconds on a power play with another Matthew Tkachuk deflection on an Elias Lindholm’s point-shot.

Calgary went on its first power play after Ducks forward Ben Street was penalized for tripping defenseman T.J. Brodie at 17:05. Monahan won the ensuing face-off in the Ducks zone and the puck went to Tkachuk, who took a wrist shot from just above the right circle and scored into the top right corner to cut the lead to 2-1 at 17:10 of the first.

They got out of the period relatively unscathed, especially since Tkachuk was tagged for high-sticking with 2:50 remaining.

Flames forward Mikael Backlund was in the penalty box for tripping Getzlaf when Jankowski dug the puck off the wall in his own zone, then got around Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour at the blue line to spring a 2-on-1. Jankowksi elected to shoot and hit the top right corner for his first goal of the season at 6:06 of the third to make it 2-2.

In the second frame, the Flames were getting their chances but just couldn’t capitalize on them.

Silfverberg then gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 8:37 of the first period. He spun around Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin at Calgarys blue line and then took a shot from the top of the right face-off circle. The puck slipped between Smiths glove and left hip and slid slowly across the goal line for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.

They drew their second power play of the night when Marcus Pettersson was nabbed for hooking at 7:09. Despite a bounty of rebounds kicked out by Ryan Miller, the Flames couldn’t connect. Mikael Backlund had a wide-open net and missed, allowing Silfverberg to toss a short-handed shot at Smith.

In the end, Smith, who dropped to 5-5-1, allowed three goals on 24 shots while Miller — who is two years older than Smith and gave No. 1 John Gibson the night off — stopped 37-of-39 Flames’ attempts.

Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 3-2 lead at 6:33 of the third period, 27 seconds after Jankowski tied the game. Ducks forward Rickard Rakell drove to the net with three defenders around the crease. The puck came off his blade to a wide-open Getzlaf, who took his time before backhanding the puck high in the net.

The loss snapped a four-game win streak as the Flames (9-6-1) continue on a three-game road swing through California. Next up? Another day off on Thursday and a practice on Friday before heading to Staples Center to square off with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday followed by the second half of a back-to-back on Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.

Henrique made it 2-0 at 11:53 of the first. Miller made a save on Ducks defenseman Josh Mansons slap shot from the right point, but the rebound came out diagonally to Henrique, who shot it high in the net for his fourth goal of the season.

They drew their second powerplay of the night when Marcus Pettersson was nabbed for hooking at 7:09. Despite a bounty of rebounds kicked out by Ryan Miller, the Flames couldn’t connect.

Mikael Backlund had a wide-open net and missed allowing Silfverberg to toss a short-handed shot at Smith.

In the end, Smith, who dropped to 5-5-1, allowed three goals on 24 shots while Miller — who is two years older than Smith and had given No. 1 John Gibson the night off — stopped 37 of 39 Flames’ attempts.

The Ducks got on the board at 8:37 of the first when Silfverberg carried the puck into the Calgary zone and ripped a slap shot for his fifth goal of the season. Henrique gave them a two-goal lead three minutes later when he pounced on a rebound after Smith stopped Josh Mansons shot from near the blue line.

“I thought Smitty made some big saves there, in the third period for sure,” Peters said. “We got a little loose as we started to push and I thought he made some big saves and gave us a chance to come back.”

The Ducks began the season 5-1-1 but managed only two points in their next seven games before a 3-2 overtime victory against Columbus on Sunday. Anaheim lost to Los Angeles 4-1 on Tuesday, but Getzlaf said it was good to get back on the ice quickly and put that defeat behind them.

The loss snapped a four-game win streak as the Flames (9-6-1) continue on a three-game road swing through California. Next up? Another day off on Thursday and a practice on Friday before heading to Staples Center to square off with the Los Angeles Kings Saturday followed by the second half of a back-to-back on Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.

It wasnt easy, though. Anaheim led 2-0 in the first but Calgary rallied to tie it six minutes into the third when Mark Jankowski stole the puck from Brandon Montour in the neutral zone and shot it just over Ryan Millers glove while leading a 2-on-1 rush.

****GETTING NEAL GOING The conversation about James Neal began with the topic of his rapid approach to 500 points in the National Hockey League.

Heading into Wednesday’s game at Honda Center, the 31-year-old Calgary Flames winger was at 499 (266 goals and 233 assists in 718 games); no ordinary feat and a difficult thing to do, demonstrating his longevity and skill level.

“In the end we gutted it out in the third period and found a way,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “I thought we started the right way. We didnt want to sit back and worry about what happened last night. It was more about being in the present.”

That, of course, had been one of general manager Brad Treliving’s reasons for inking Neal to a five-year, $28.75-million contract during the NHL’s summertime free agency period.

The Ducks got their second victory in three games Wednesday night as they defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2. Getzlaf supplied the game-winning goal in the third period 27 seconds after the Flames tied it while they were short-handed.

Yet with only three goals and one assist in 15 games this season (prior to Wednesday, of course), his debut in Calgary has left something to be desired.

“Weve been working hard to close out a couple of these games,” said Getzlaf, who scored his second game-winning goal of the season and 49th of his career. “It was pretty exciting. Emotions are high in this room.”

When asked about seeing signs of breaking through, especially after scoring the game-tying goal in a 6-5 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 1, Bill Peters had this to say:

The Ducks got on the board at 8:37 of the first when Silfverberg carried the puck into the Calgary zone and ripped a slap shot for his fifth goal of the season. Henrique gave them a two-goal lead three minutes later when he pounced on a rebound after Smith stopped Josh Manson's shot from near the blue line.

“When you wake up in the morning, you have to choose your attitude,” said the Flames head coach. “You can say, ‘I’m going to go have a sh***y day’ and can execute that if you want. You can really have a sh***y day if you really wanted to. Or, you go, ‘I’m going to dig in and go to work and, you know what? I’m going to be good today.” “I like to be good. I like to win the day and go from there. So, Nealer’s fine.”

This season, he’s mostly been on the team’s third line with Mark Jankowski and Sam Bennett and, occasionally, Dillon Dube.

****FEELING FOR Q When Michael Frolik joined the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline during the 2010-11 NHL season, his role completely changed.

It wasn't easy, though. Anaheim led 2-0 in the first but Calgary rallied to tie it six minutes into the third when Mark Jankowski stole the puck from Brandon Montour in the neutral zone and shot it just over Ryan Miller's glove while leading a 2-on-1 rush.

At the time, the Czech native played a top-six offensive role with the Florida Panthers and was used to seeing powerplay time before joining an already offensively-laden Blackhawks team. Joel Quenneville gave him a choice.

Calgary pulled Smith for an extra skater with 2:28 remaining and then was on a power play for the final 74 seconds after Rickard Rakell was called for slashing. But the Flames were never able to get a clean shot on goal despite the two-man advantage.

“I remember my second season there, he took me in and said, ‘Hey look, this is going to be your role. You’re going to play PK every time and you’ll start with Kruger,’” Frolik recalled of the Blackhawks’ head coach.

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“It extended my career, I would say,” Frolik said. “When you learn those things, playing PK and defence, that type of game, it grows you as a player. (Quenneville) taught me that.”

The Ducks got their second victory in three games Wednesday night as they defeated the visiting Calgary Flames 3-2. Getzlaf supplied the game-winning goal in the third period 27 seconds after the Flames tied it while they were short-handed.

Like any news of its’ nature, Frolik was shocked to hear the long-time Blackhawks boss, whose teams won three Stanley Cups in six season under his watch, had been fired on Tuesday.

"We've been working hard to close out a couple of these games," said Getzlaf, who scored his second game-winning goal of the season and 49th of his career. "It was pretty exciting. Emotions are high in this room."

The Flames’ winger described him as a “bit old-school” but indicated that he was well-liked by his players.

“He was definitely there a long time,” Frolik said. “He was a great guy, a great coach … it sucks … but obviously it’s the hockey business and those things happen.

“It gives you a little more confidence, for sure,” Frolik told the Calgary Sun. “And I think hockey is all about confidence. When you score a few, the confidence goes higher. Hopefully, Ill keep it going and just keep working hard. Anytime you can help the team, its nice.”

“It’s always a surprise when a guy like that gets fired. But I guess this is the business we live in. And what he accomplished there was unbelievable. He’ll be remembered there forever.”

Anaheim centre Ryan Getzlaf returned Tuesday night after missing the win against the Blue Jackets with an upper-body injury. He had seven points (two goals, five assists) in a four-game point streak leading up to Tuesday, but went scoreless against the Kings.

Video: Getzlaf, Miller help Ducks stave off Flames, 3-2

****A VIEW FROM THE DUCKS SIDE The Calgary Flames are playing differently under new head coach Bill Peters.

But according to Randy Carlyle, a long-time NHL bench boss and current of the Anaheim Ducks, it’s more of a shift in trend throughout the National Hockey League.

Johnny Gaudreau has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and Matthew Tkachuk has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists), putting all three in the top 13 in the NHL in points. Only the Colorado Avalanche has three players in the top 13 in points as well.

“There isn’t a tremendous amount of difference in the styles that teams are trying to adopt,” Carlyle explained. “It’s consistent through the league. There is a lot more stretching, a lot more long-bomb plays. A lot more four-men rushes. It’s a higher tempo game with less physicality.”

The Ducks, who were playing back-to-back after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Staples Center, stressed puck management rather than making ‘Hail Mary’ plays.

“If you look at the Calgary Flames template, that’s basically what they’re trying to do is involve their ‘D’ in every rush,” Carlyle said. “Giordano is up the ice. Brodie is up the ice. Hamonic is up the ice. They’ve got a contingent of defencemen that like to join the rush and have a skill set up front that if you give them time and space, you’re going to be in trouble.”

The Flames lost 25 straight games in the building between Jan. 19, 2004 to Oct. 9, 2017. They ended the streak with a 2-0 win early last season, but then lost their most recent game at Honda Center 2-1 on Dec. 29.

****DUBE IN IR, PELUSO RECALLED The Flames placed Dillon Dube on injured reserve Wednesday after the rookie centre as he continues to deal with concussion symptoms. The 20-year-old native of Cochrane was hit hard into the boards by Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith in Saturday’s 5-3 win and did not travel with the team to California.

“He’ll stay behind and get treatment and do what he can and we’ll see where he’s at,” Peters said.

“He’ll take as much time as he needs. Obviously those are unique situations when guys have concussions. He’s in the protocol but hopefully it isn’t long.”

The team recalled right winger Anthony Peluso from the Stockton Heat (American Hockey League) to step into the lineup, his second call-up of the season after he was summoned on Oct. 6. He stayed with the team util Oct. 25 when the Flames re-activated Travis Hamonic.

AROUND THE GLASS: Wednesday was the first of four clashes between the Flames and Ducks this season … But the two teams will not meet again until Feb. 22 at Calgary. They’ll play March 29 at the Saddledome before a final visit to Honda Center on April 3 … Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Flames were 2-8-0-0 in the last 10 against the Ducks.


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