It's been over a decade since the Canucks and Flames last tangled in a playoff series but the iconic images of Kirk McLean's sliding save on Robert Reichel, Pavel Bure's overtime winner on Mike Vernon, and Ed Jovanovski going ballistic in the penalty box after Matt Cooke's game-tying goal are all ones that still resonate with Canucks fans even today. More iconic images will be created in this series but the only ones either team is interested in are those that show them off ultimately as the victors.
Both teams begin the series with some bumps and bruises but the Canucks are the healthier of the two clubs. Vancouver concluded the regular season without forwards Shawn Matthias, Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson. The former should be ready to go for Game 1, while the latter two are hopeful to return at some point in the series. Among the Flames’ walking wounded are goalie Karri Ramo, defenceman Raphael Diaz and forward Lance Bouma. The two players the Flames wish they could have available are stalwart blue-liners Ladislav Smid and team captain Mark Giordano, both of whom have been out for several months and won't be back.
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2014.15 Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
All-time Playoff Record
All-time Playoff Series Record
All-time Playoff head-to-head
It was a tale of three goalies for the Flames in their season series against the Canucks as three different netminders – Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Karri Ramo – all saw action versus Vancouver. The latter two netminders recorded wins over the Canucks during the regular season but neither of them will be between the pipes to start this series. Since the end of March, the Flames have been riding Hiller to great success so it would seem it's his ball to run with at least for the time being. Hiller ended the regular season winning five of his last six starts. He hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game since February 20.
The Flames will need Hiller to be at his best because goals have been hard to come by in the season series. Vancouver marginally out-scored Calgary by a 9-8 count in the series, while the Flames only managed to score more than two goals on one occasion – that being the last game of the season series where they tallied three times. All season long they've been relying on the offence from their top-three forwards in Jiri Hudler, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and that was the case in the season series as well with the three of them combining for 10 points. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Radim Vrbata, combined for three goals and eight points in the season series against the Flames but none in the last two head-to-head meetings. They'll need to find a way to get back to their scoring ways if the Canucks are to outlast the Flames in this series.
Keys to the Game
Steady Eddie. Cool-as-cucumber Eddie Lack will face pressure like never before as he not only will be making his playoff debut but might also be dealing with a short leash with veteran Ryan Miller waiting in the wings. He's risen to the challenge all season long and will need to continue doing so.
Get past the block party. The Flames led the entire NHL in blocked shots so the Canucks will need to work on moving the puck around quickly in the offensive zone and not hesitating to shoot from the point. Their biggest challenge will be to cut off the time it takes for the Flames to move into the shooting lanes.
Don't rely on the comeback card. The Flames tied for the most 3rd period goals this season (99) and had the third-most wins when trailing after two periods (10). But it's a different game in the post-season and while they should have plenty of confidence to come back and win games, they can't keep drawing from that well each time.
By the Numbers
Career playoff point for the injured Mark Giordano, the only active Flames player with a playoff point for the franchise to begin the series.
Canucks set to join Trevor Linden (118) in the franchise's 100 playoff games played club: Henrik (99) and Daniel Sedin (96).
Times the winner of Canucks/Flames series has gone on to the Stanley Cup Final (1982, 1989, 1994, 2004).
Career playoff points for Calgary's Jiri Hudler, the Flames' active leader to begin the series.
All-time playoff series in Canucks history.
Career playoff points for Henrik Sedin, the Canucks' active leader to begin the series.