ANAHEIM, CA -- As soon as he spoke with Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley knew his rookie winger wasn't pleased with the decision.
Heading into the third period and trailing the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 in Game 1, the bench boss made the decision to sit Gaudreau. Having already lost Micheal Ferland and Jiri Hudler to undisclosed injuries, Hartley didn't' want to risk having another forward make an early exit and parked Gaudreau.
While respecting and understanding his coach's choice, the 21-year-old rookie wasn't pleased.
"Johnny wants to be on the ice," Hartley said. "As much as he's not a big-sized player, this young man is a great competitor. But my job as the head coach of the Calgary Flames is to do what is best for the organization. What was best last night was to keep him on the bench. There was no sense exposing him out there.
"I was not surprised by his reaction. He was not happy."
With the Carneys Point, NJ native kept off the ice in the final frame, the Flames ran into trouble when Brandon Bollig was dealt a cross-checking minor and 10:00 misconduct. The bench was suddenly quite short, with Ferland and Hudler done for the night and Bollig in the box.
But Hartley didn't waver in his decision.
"There was nothing that I would have changed my mind in putting Johnny on the ice," he said.
Reflecting on how the evening went for him personally and the team as a whole, Gaudreau's frustration with the outcome was evident.
Sitting wasn't easy.
"It’s hard," he said with a sigh. "The guys are out there, sacrificing themselves when it’s a 5-0, 6-0 game. It’s tough not to be out there. Obviously I don’t think that’s the best game I have played. I know I can bring a lot more to the table, the whole team can too. I think we’re going to have a good push in Game 2."
During the game, questions began to swirl about Gaudreau's status. The Ducks had made sure to play him physically from his first shift and early in the second period, Gaudreau was cross-checked by Nate Thompson into the end boards.
Luckily, he was feeling no worse for wear on Friday.
"I was fine. I got hit – I’ve been hit before," Gaudreau said. "I got right back up and was excited about the power play. I wish we could have buried, scored a goal on that next shift, but that’s a part of the game."
Looking ahead to Sunday's Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. MT, CBC, SN960), the Flames know what to expect from a Ducks club that showed zero signs of rink rust from their eight days off in between series.
They utilized their skill, they meted out as many hits as they could, they never took their foot off the gas pedal and Calgary knows things won't get any easier on Sunday. The Flames are looking forward to the challenge of matching that intensity in Game 2.
"There’s obviously a little bit more compete level we can have," Gaudreau said. "We’ve been down in games before, in the season. It’s a 1-0 series right now. We’ll come out flying on Sunday and try to get a win.
"All season long there has been doubters. We just worry about ourselves in the locker room. We believe what we can accomplish. We have a great group of guys in the locker room. We’re excited for the next game."