ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks were the NHL’s two most-penalized teams this season. A week ago, the Flames’ captain seriously injured the Ducks’ best defenseman, leading to a third period featuring 106 combined penalty minutes.
So when these clubs meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night, their leaders realize nobody will be lacking for motivational fire.
They’re more concerned about making sure their physical play is channeled in a productive direction.
“We know the emotions are always going to be ramped up in a playoff series,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said Wednesday. “But if we can stay within the rules and play the right way, we’re going to give ourselves a much better chance, as opposed to the penalty parade that we’ve made with Calgary a few times during the season.”
Those emotions still might be a bit raw when the Flames hit the ice at Honda Center, where their franchise hasn’t won in nearly 11 years.
“It was not intentional on my part,” Giordano said Wednesday before his first playoff appearance in 10 years. “Hopefully, Cam is OK, but I’m looking forward to this series and moving on. … We don’t want anything to slow us or our game down, so we’ve got to stay away from it. We’ve got to be emotional, but there’s a fine line in the playoffs.”
Ducks general manager Bob Murray was steamed when the NHL declined to discipline Giordano further, complaining that Giordano “has done this before.” Calgary GM Brad Treliving fired back shortly afterward, calling Murray’s comments “asinine.”
“Turn the page,” Carlyle said. “It’s over. Can’t change what happened. It’s done. Move on. There’s more important things on our plate than to worry about something that we have no control over at this point.”
Here are other things to watch when the Pacific Division rivals hit the ice for Game 1:
As everybody in both dressing rooms knows by now, Calgary has lost 25 consecutive regular-season games at Honda Center in Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004. It’s the longest losing streak in one building against one opponent in NHL history.
Yet the streak is slightly less dire from a postseason perspective: The Flames won a playoff game in Anaheim on April 25, 2006, beating Carlyle’s first Anaheim team – although the Ducks still won the next two home games and the series.
When the clubs met in the playoffs two years ago, the Ducks won three more home games. The numbers are stark for the Flames in Orange County, but Carlyle sees a clear downside to that dominance.
“To me, it’s a new slate,” Carlyle said. “This winning streak, it’s a good one for us. It’s a bad one for them. We understand that. But the bottom line is, streaks are going to get broken at some point. That’s the dangerous part for us.”
Carlyle is back in the postseason with the Ducks on the 10th anniversary of leading them to their only Stanley Cup championship. He got the job back last spring after Bruce Boudreau’s Ducks flopped in the first round against Nashville, losing the first two games at home and then blowing a 3-2 series lead.
Anaheim lost Game 7 on home ice for the fourth consecutive season under Boudreau. Carlyle claims no magic formula for coaxing postseason poise out of largely the same core Ducks, but he’s hoping for a renewed sense of excitement after years of playoff disappointment.
“Enjoy the experience,” Carlyle told his players. “It’s going to be fun. These are exciting times. Don’t get caught up in the emotions. Just go out and play your game.”
Anaheim routed Calgary in five second-round games in 2015 to earn a spot in the conference finals, but these Flames are bigger, tougher and more prepared for the experience under new coach Glen Gulutzan.
“We know what we’re in for, and we’re excited for the challenge,” said Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames’ leading scorer.
The Flames know all about Ryan Kesler, the Ducks’ agitating All-Star center of the shutdown defensive line likely to be deployed against Gaudreau.
The Ducks also know plenty about Matthew Tkachuk, the rampaging teenager whose physical game seems ideal for the postseason. Carlyle even played alongside Tkachuk’s father, Keith, for two seasons in Winnipeg in the early 1990s.
“I played with his dad, coached his dad, so I’ll ask (Keith Tkachuk) to discipline him,” Carlyle said with a laugh. “Well, if he’s as thick-headed as his dad, I don’t think it will work.”