Ducks' size advantage evident in Game 1 win over Flames
As the Anaheim Ducks padded its lead over Calgary in Thursday night's 6-1 win, Flames star Johnny Gaudreau, arguably the team's biggest offensive weapon, sat on the bench for most of the third period. This became one of the more important questions Flames coach Bob Hartley had to answer following the loss.
Hartley says the Ducks were "taking liberties" against his star player, something Anaheim players disputed Friday.
"I don't think we took a liberty," Ducks left winger Patrick Maroon said. "But I think for us, we've got to key on their players and hit them every chance we get. That's part of playoff hockey. They're obviously going to take hits on (Corey Perry) and (Ryan Getzlaf) like it's nothing."
Maroon has a point. Getzlaf and his linemate, Perry, the postseason's leading scorer, are targeted like any other top players on any other playoff team. But Getzlaf and Perry are big -- 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3, respectively -- making Gaudreau seem like a boy amongst men.
"I don't think anyone is out there to hurt any guys or anything like that," Maroon said. "I think everyone is out there to play a hard game and stay focused and stay between the whistles and everything like that. Everyone is going to get hit eventually."
The Ducks punished the Flames on the forecheck, tossed Gaudreau around, and hit so hard that at times even the Anaheim players seemed suprised.
The size and strength differential between the two teams isn't just limited to their top lines. It was obvious when the Flames lost more than Gaudreau -- Michael Ferland and Jiri Hudler also were injured and failed to return.
Center Nate Thompson demolished Gaudreau on the boards and was whistled for a crosscheck. While many said it was a cheap shot against a much smaller player, the broadcast didn't show Thompson's face or reaction to the hit, which clearly showed that he didn't realize he had hit Gaudreau with that much force.
Hartley and the Flames faced a new question today: Are the Ducks too big and too physical for them to handle? There will be at least three more games to answer that question.
"We've had success this season playing against big teams, I just don't think we played our best game last night," Gaudreau said. "We don't really listen to too many people on the outside, we just try and focus on our team inside our locker room and what's important. Right now, we've just got to get pucks in deep, go after their D and pressure them a little bit more in their offensive zone."
Game 2 is Sunday night at 7 p.m. on CNBC. "Ducks Live" postgame coverage begins at 10 p.m. on Prime Ticket.