(SportsNetwork.com) - The Calgary Flames will step into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade when they visit the Anaheim Ducks for Game 1 of a Western Conference semifinal series.
Calgary won its first playoff series since 2004 by eliminating the Vancouver Canucks in six games during the first round. The Flames are hoping to go on another long playoff run similar to the one in '04, when they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks, meanwhile, advanced past the opening round for a second straight spring with a sweep of Winnipeg, but the club hasn't made it past this point since winning its only Stanley Cup in 2007. Last spring, Anaheim beat Dallas in Round 1 before falling in seven games to the Los Angeles Kings in the conference semifinals. The Ducks held a 3-2 lead over the Kings before dropping the final two tests against the eventual champions.
Both the Ducks and Flames have earned reputations this season for making late comebacks, so no lead in this series should be considered safe.
Anaheim showed tremendous resiliency during the regular season and continued to display its penchant for comeback victories in the opening round. The Ducks ousted the Jets in four games, but it wasn't easy as Winnipeg carried one-goal leads into the third period of the first three meetings only to see Anaheim rally for wins each time. The lone exception was the Game 4 clincher, which ended with a 5-2 Ducks' victory.
The Ducks set an NHL record in the regular season by coming back for 18 wins when trailing at any point during the third period.
While Anaheim hasn't made it past the second round in eight years, Boudreau has never advanced to the conference finals in either of his two head coaching stints with Washington or the Ducks.
The Ducks led all teams in goals per game (4.0) during the first round, posting 16 goals during the sweep. Anaheim saw 10 different players hit the net against Winnipeg with Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler leading the way with three goals apiece.
Perry also paced Anaheim in points with seven, while Jakob Silfverberg was next with six points on two goals and four assists. Kesler, an excellent two- way player, had five points, tying him with Sami Vatanen, who led the Ducks defense with two goals, three assists and a plus-four rating.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf had a solid series with a goal and three assists. The centerman has 78 points (26G, 52A) in 85 career postseason games. Perry, Getzlaf's longtime linemate, has 25 goals and 63 points in 78 contests during his playoff career.
All told, Anaheim had 11 players record at least two points in the opening round. The balanced scoring attack served the Ducks well on the power play, as they tallied three times on 11 chances against the Jets for a success rate of 27.3 percent.
Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen had a solid series between the pipes, posting a 2.20 goals against average and .924 save percentage through the four games. The 25-year-old Dane owns a 7-2 career mark in the postseason.
Anaheim did a solid job of containing Winnipeg's offense, keeping the Jets speedy players to the outside for the most part. They hope to do the same in this series when facing Calgary's young guns.
"We have a very simple way to play, and we're going to play it," said Boudreau. "We know their strengths. We don't want to get into a run-and-gun game. That's not the way we play. We hope we're big and strong enough to contain them."
The Flames ended a five-season playoff drought in 2014-15 thanks in large part to their ability to outplay the opposition in the third period. Fittingly, Calgary punched its first ticket to the second round in over a decade with a tremendous final period.
Calgary ended its series against the Canucks in six games, but for a while it looked like the Flames were going to need a seventh game to get to the second round.
Vancouver jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period of Game 6 in Calgary, only to let the Flames tie it up before the six-minute mark of the second stanza. Calgary also trailed 4-3 after 40 minutes before the Flames stormed back to earn the 7-4 series-clinching victory.
Calgary had 10 third-period comeback wins during the regular season to finish third in the NHL and led the league with 99 third-period goals. The Flames outscored the Canucks by a 9-4 margin over the final 20 minutes of regulation in the first round.
Prior to his club's Game 6 victory, Flames head coach Bob Hartley pointed to his young roster's conditioning as a reason Calgary has been able to finish strong in games all season long.
"We have great athletes," Hartley said. "We work on our conditioning all year long and I think that our conditioning is paying off."
Calgary averaged three goals per game in the opening round and received tremendous production from its top line, which is a combination of young and old.
Left wing Johnny Gaudreau, aka "Johnny Hockey," and centerman Sean Monahan are part of the youth movement in Calgary, but they combined with veteran right winger Jiri Hudler to form a dangerous top line.
Gaudreau, a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, tied with Hudler for the team lead in points during the first round. The 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner out of Boston College had six points on two goals and a team-high four assists. Hudler paced the club with three goals while also adding three helpers.
Monahan chipped in with two goals and three assists against Vancouver.
Sam Bennett, an 18-year-old rookie who didn't make his NHL debut until earlier this month, played in all six games for Calgary in the opening round and notched two goals and an assist. Veteran David Jones also had a strong series with two goals and three helpers.
Another rookie, 23-year-old Michael Ferland, set the physical tone of the series with his ability to deliver crushing checks. He also scored twice in Game 6 and added two assists in the series.
Although top defenseman Mark Giordano has been out since tearing his biceps muscle on Feb. 25, the Flames were able to have a very productive series against Vancouver.
T.J. Brodie, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman each delivered four points from the back end and the trio helped Calgary excel on the power play. The Flames went 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) with the man advantage after finishing the regular season with a power-play success rate of 18.8 percent.
Giordano has been skating on his own, but isn't expected to be available for the second round. He could be back in game action if Calgary makes it to the conference finals.
Deryk Engelland, David Schlemko and Tyler Wotherspoon also will log minutes for Calgary in the second round. Corey Potter started over Wotherspoon in the first two games of the first round, but the latter defenseman eventually pushed Potter to the press box.
Jonas Hiller started all six games in net for the Flames and is expected to head into Round 2 as the No. 1 option in net. Backup Karri Ramo did earn the win in the clincher, however, after taking over early in Game 6 when Hiller allowed two goals on Vancouver's first three shots.
Hiller was excellent against the Canucks for the most part, registering a 2.20 GAA and .931 save percentage for the series. The 33-year-old Swiss netminder played his first seven seasons in Anaheim before leaving via free agency last summer.
The Ducks and Flames met five times during the regular season and the last encounter between the Pacific Division rivals was in Calgary on March 11. The Flames notched a 6-3 victory in that contest behind a two-goal performance from Gaudreau.
However, Anaheim did win the season series with a 3-1-1 record and claimed both meetings on home ice.
Getzlaf was the most productive player for Anaheim during the season series, potting four goals and adding one assist. Perry had one goal and three helpers against the Flames.
Wideman compiled seven points (2G, 5A) against the Ducks, while Gaudreau had two goals and five points. Hudler and Monahan each had three goals in the series.
Hiller struggled a bit against his old team this season, going 1-2-0 with a 3.43 GAA in four games (3 starts). Andersen, meanwhile, went 2-0-1 with a 2.60 GAA in three outings against Calgary.
The only other playoff meeting between these clubs was in 2006 when Anaheim ousted the Flames from the first round in seven games.
Game 2 of this series is scheduled for Sunday at Anaheim's Honda Center.