The Calgary Flames were swept out of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks. How do they fix their problems so they do better next year? Part of our running series.
The Calgary Flames, after just four games in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, were successfully swept by the Anaheim Ducks. That leaves Calgary with a few lingering questions, such as, how do they address the problems they are facing? What even are those problems? How do they do better next year?
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All of these can be answered, and that’s what this article is for. Just think of it as the cheat sheet for the Calgary Flames success in next year’s playoffs, a diagnosis of what went critical, what, and excuse my pun, flamed out for Calgary this year.
Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) controls the puck (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
The Calgary Flames had five players score a goal in their four-game series against the Ducks. While those five amounted to nine goals, including four from Sean Monahan, the rest of their stars couldn’t produce against John Gibson and the Ducks.
Troy Brouwer, who was brought in to provide veteran leadership in the playoffs, did not score, assisting just twice. Johnny Gaudreau, recently given a hefty contract, also only had two assists. Reliable players for them in the regular season, like Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik, couldn’t muster up any production.
And that’s what ultimately killed Calgary in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The fact that they couldn’t produce, while the Ducks scored fourteen goals on Brian Elliott and the Calgary defense. That’s going to need to change if the Flames are going to be better next year.
The question then becomes how. How do the Calgary Flames get more out of the stars like Gaudreau? The Flames can choose to coach up their players, hope that their young guys like Tkachuk take away the same lessons from their postseason as Chicago is hoping their rookies take away.
The Flames also need to get more help from depth, so that next year all the pressure isn’t on the stars. So when Johnny Gaudreau doesn’t deliver, but Sean Monahan delivers four goals in a series, that’s a pleasant surprise complemented by guys like Justin Williams and (cough cough) Jarome Iginla.
But also, besides that, I have no clue how to get the Calgary Flames star players playing better. That’s a job for Glen Gulutzan.
Here’s the thing about Brian Elliott… he’s like that Katy Perry song. He’s hot and he’s cold. He also might be waking up in Vegas, but nobody remembers that one.
In the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Brian Elliott was cold. Like, really cold. .880 SV% and 3.89 GAA cold. That’s a massive problem, especially with the talented defensive roster that the Flames have assembled in a relatively short time.
Calgary Flames goalie Chad Johnson (31) guards his net (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Chad Johnson, the Flames backup, was better, posting a .952 SV% and a 1.15 GAA in his lone relief opportunity. The problem with Chad Johnson is, at 30, he’s never been a starter for a team. The year he came closest, though, was the 2015-16 season with the Buffalo Sabres. He started 40 games and played in 45. In those games, he posted a .920 SV% and a 2.36 GAA.
Johnson might be worth taking another look at, especially because he might be one of the cheaper starting worthy goaltenders on the market. There will also be Ben Bishop and a chance for the Flames to trade for Marc-Andre Fleury, but why lose pieces when your next goaltender might be right there?
Bringing in another backup like Anders Nilsson might be a better solution to the Flames problems in net, and giving Chad Johnson a chance as a true starter for the first time in his career might be good for both camps.
This is another case where a team that outplayed the other team was handily beaten. The Calgary Flames were better in all of the important categories. They scored on six of sixteen power play chances (Anaheim only three of thirteen).
The Flames had 138 shots on goal (Anaheim 122). Calgary contained themselves to thirty-seven penalty minutes – the Ducks had 43. And the Flames outhit the Ducks, 123 to 106. Out blocked the Ducks 60 to 58. They even had fewer giveaways – 41 to 44, including an awful 21 giveaway performance by the Ducks – a game which Anaheim still won.
Anaheim Ducks right wing Chris Wagner (21) checks into the boards Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
That’s another thing Calgary has to do better. They have to keep themselves on the puck, not allow themselves to be bumped off by Anaheim or any other team in their path. And when they’re able to knock the other team around like they did with Anaheim, the Flames need to take advantage and find more points off those crucial giveaways.
A team in the playoffs simply can’t cough up the puck 21 times and still win, and yet the Anaheim Ducks found a way to do it. And that’s something the Flames are going to need to figure out and find more opportunities through next season. Don’t take those giveaways for granted.
One Last Thing…
Kill penalties better. The Flames have one of the best penalty killing forwards in the NHL in Michael Frolik. They have a defense that should be able to play penalty kill minutes better. Yes, they kept the Ducks to just three power play goals, but those turned out to be crucial. In game one, the Flames allowed two power-play goals on seven chances.