As it typically goes through the course of a postseason, the elation that comes with a series sweep is ultimately followed by the gloom of some significant down time.
And so it goes for the Ducks, who promptly dispatched of the Calgary Flames in a series that lasted four games over just seven days, catapulting Anaheim into the Second Round against the winner of a Oilers-Sharks series that isn't close to over. The thorough domination of San Jose's 7-0 victory over Edmonton two nights ago only tied that series at two games apiece, assuring it won't end until at least Saturday night and possibly Monday if it goes seven games (Game 5 is tonight in Edmonton).
That gives the Ducks a significant amount of time off before their next series, and soon after landing in Southern California this morning, the team announced it wouldn't practice again until Sunday. For a team that's been on an incredible roll the past month or so - a 15-0-3 run in the regular season and playoffs combined since March 12 - almost a week off from game action probably isn't ideal if you're a believer in momentum. But it is advantageous for two of the Ducks' injured defensemen - Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen.
Fowler hasn't played this postseason after being ruled out anywhere from two to six weeks when he suffered a knee injury in an April 4 regular season game against those same Flames at Honda Center. Vatanen played Game 1 of the First Round but missed the rest of the series with an upper body injury.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said this morning he expects both players to be available sometime in the next series, though he wasn't able to pinpoint a particular game.
"Obviously, time is in a favorable position for them," Carlyle said. "Any player coming back off injury would like a little extra time, and this will give us the time that's necessary for both of those players to possibly get back into the lineup for the next series.
"That's a great feeling, not only for us, but for them personally. They know that their injuries are such that they will be made available to us if they continue to heal the way they have so far. We're happy to have them back into the fold."
In the meantime, the Ducks defensemen with minimal playoff experience that Anaheim leaned on in the First Round - a group that includes Korbinian Holzer, Brandon Montour and Shea Theodore - performed admirably with a combined rating of plus-6. The 21-year-old Theodore was particularly impressive on the offensive end, tying for second on the Ducks with five points, including two goals in Anaheim's incredible Game 3 comeback victory.
Given Theodore's age, it's easy to forget he played six games in last year's postseason, which ended with a Game 7 loss to the Predators. Carlyle, who frequently attended Ducks games last year and watched from the press box, says he was impressed with the young blueliner back then.
"You're able to get a book on some players when you're up there," Carlyle said, "and he caught my eye because he was out on the power play a lot. I saw his ability to get the puck through to the net. He walked the line with the puck and he could find people. He has a sneaky wrist shot that he displayed the other night when he scored the two goals. That was the first thing about him that got my attention. He was getting pucks through, and that's not an easy thing to do in today's game."
So Carlyle had high hopes when he took over for a second stint as Ducks head coach, but he says of Theodore, "To tell you the truth, he didn't have a very good training camp. He looked nervous and tentative, and he didn't play with the expectations we thought he was going to provide."
Instead, Theodore spent parts of this season with the San Diego Gulls, but he played 34 regular season games with the Ducks and had two goals and seven assists.
"Things changed over the course of the season and he got back here and got the opportunity," Carlyle said, "and he's been making the best of the opportunity he's been given."