Getting a result in Anaheim has always been a struggle for the Flames, though head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t aware just how big a struggle it’s been.
“There’s always buildings where you don’t have things go the way you want them to, for whatever reason,” Sutter told the Calgary Herald. “I didn’t know it was 50 years [since the last win].”
Okay, so it’s not quite 50 years — the Flames last won in Anaheim in Jan. 2004 — but you can forgive Sutter for thinking it’s been that long. Calgary is 0-9-4 in its last 13 appearances in Anaheim and 1-13-9 in its last 23 games there, a record so bad it almost requires comedic relief.
[In that vein, something amusing: The last time the Flames won in Anaheim, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was a Duck and Calgary assistant coach Dave Lowry was a Flame.]
That said, there’ll be few laughs from the Flames should the losing continue. Calgary is four points back of Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and ready to embark on a key three-game road swing through “Death Valley” — Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix. Given the flames are just 10-14-4 on the road this year, it’s a very important trip…not that you need to remind Sutter of its importance.
“You know what, you guys? As you know, when you’re in a race like we are, every game is a big game,” Sutter told reporters on Sunday. “So, this is a big trip. Just like our last one. The position we were in last time, we had to get on the road and win some games — and we did that.
“This one is basically the same.”
It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.
In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.
Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:
You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.
The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.
As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.
In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.
That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.
Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.
The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.
The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.
So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.
He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:
The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).
In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):
Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone.
So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.
Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.
Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?