CALGARY, AB -- Four days is enough. The Calgary Flames want to play more hockey.
After dispatching the Vancouver Canucks in six games of the Western Conference First Round series on Saturday, the Flames are set to return to the ice Thursday to tackle the Anaheim Ducks -- their second round opponent.
And it’s about time.
“I wish it was quicker,” Calgary centre Sean Monahan said. “You just want to get back to it. The series just ended and it was an exciting time. We’re excited to get this series started and move forward with that.”
Understandably, Monahan would be excited.
For he and five other Flames regulars, Calgary’s opening round series win against the Canucks provided the first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s a valuable experience for coach Bob Hartley’s youth.
“Any playoff games that anyone plays, but more importantly our young players, they’re getting a feel for what it takes,” he said. “It’s totally different games. The pace of the games, the bodychecks, just the speed, the commitment, just goes up. Those emotions, they learn how to manage them. I think that they’ve done a great job.
“I’ve said it many times. I think our veterans are doing a great job at helping them. This is experience you can’t buy and that our young players are getting this experience at such a young age, I think it’s a huge investment for the entire organization.”
Monahan is ready for more investing.
“This one will be more exciting,” he said. “You’re more up for this one now that you’ve got one down and you’re that much hungrier to get this one over with.”
Few 20-year-olds would be looking forward to going up against the Ducks and, for Monahan, it likely means skating opposite either Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler.
It’s a thought, according to Hartley, that doesn’t faze Monahan.
It doesn’t faze the rest of his group, either.
“He wants to be there,” Hartley said. “All our kids. It’s tough to finalize our lineup every game. We have great discussions amongst our staff because when it comes to identifying the 20 players we’re going to use on any given game, there’s always great battles. A lack of experience is never a criteria, it has never been a criteria from Day One over here but more importantly this year, we’ve never said ‘he might be too young’ or ‘he’s not ready for this’. They want to go. They’re eager to compete.
“They might get caught somewhere where their experience is going to play against them but we’re ready to live with this. The energy, the passion that they bring, for me shadows their lack of experience.”
Hartley’s youth didn’t shy way from Vancouver.
He doesn’t expect them to against a bigger, faster, more physical team against the Ducks either.
And everything he’s seen out of his group re-enforces that.
“I feel their body language was great right from the start,” Hartley said. “That’s one thing that we really stress on all our team, to have good body language. The message we send to you guys, the message we send to the fans, the message we send to the other teams; we’re solid. You might bend us but you’re not going to break us.
“To always be resilient, to always come back after a bad shift or a goal against, you need to bounce back and that’s what we’re trying to get from all of our team, and we get it. It’s pretty remarkable what we’re getting from all of our players, including our young kids.”
Hartley isn’t oblivious to the fact the Flames haven’t won in Anaheim in the regular season since current assistant general manager Craig Conroy and assistant coach Martin Gelinas were key members of Calgary’s on-ice contingent in January of 2004.
He’s likely aware their last road win came in the playoffs in 2006, too.
But that wasn’t his team, or his players.
And if the Flames want to entertain any notions of advancing beyond the Ducks, his group needs to refresh those figures.
“It’s pretty easy math,” Hartley said. “You don’t need a Harvard degree to figure out our situation. We need to go get one in Anaheim and win three at home. That’s the most simple way that we’re looking at our situation right now. Whether we win the first one, second one, third one or last one, we’re okay with this. Obviously we’re going to try to win them all.”
NOTES: The Flames held a full practice before heading off to Anaheim…David Schlemko, David Jones and Micheal Ferland didn’t participate in the skate with the main group, but did take to the ice earlier in the day. “They will all be in the lineup tomorrow,” Hartley said.