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Coach, players know Anaheim is favourite but are confident they can dump the Ducks

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

On paper, it might not be the best matchup for the Flames.

The numbers on a meeting with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs isn't particularly flattering for the homeside.  

Sure, the Ducks went 4-1 in five meetings against the Flames this season.

Yep, Anaheim has gone undefeated against Calgary at Honda Center for over a decade.

Uh-huh, the Ducks haven't been bested in regulation in the past 14 games (11-0-3) and are 9-0-1 at home in their past nine. 

But the Flames aren't overly concerned at this stage.

"Certainly we're the underdog," coach Glen Gulutzan started. "There's no question.

"But you look at how we've played the last 50 games…we certainly have made a big improvement from Nov. 15 until now. I think our record is around fifth-best in the National Hockey League since then. I think we're a confident group.

"We're certainly the underdog but that's not always a bad spot to be in. We've got some things to prove.

"We've got some seeds to plant here. We're going to be prepared."

Video: Gulutzan on his team being seen as the underdogs

What better place than here?

What better time than now?

"This is why you play hockey," centre Sean Monahan said. "This is the fun time of year. A new season starts. We're looking forward to it.

"This is a great time of year.

"We have to raise our battle-level for sure and be ready to go as a team and stick to our game plan. We're a good team and we know that.

"We have to show that right from Game 1."

Word around the dressing room suggested that there wasn't a lot of scoreboard watching with their first-round opponents still to be determined heading into Sunday evening.

The Flames, of course, were one Los Angeles Kings regulation goal away from setting up against the Edmonton Oilers in a surefire jumpstart of the Battle of Alberta.

 But while all that was playing out, some were bowling.

 Others were watching The Masters.

 Because the focus isn't on the opponent heading into Game 1 at Honda Center on Thursday.

It's on themselves.

"We know it's a great team," general manager Brad Treliving said. "It's a deep team. They're playoff-tested…playoff battle-tested. We know what we're up against.

"But again, I come back to this time of year you focus on yourself. You know the opponent. You know what they do well. It's a great team. They're at the position they're at for a reason. But you have to focus in on your game and what you do well and execute. That's where the focus is. You spend too much time focusing on what's happening across the way, you lose focus on where it needs to be and that's on your game.

"That's where I think we're at. We know the opponent. We know how good they are. But we've got to focus in on our individual game, our collective game, and make sure we're bringing our best effort."

Video: Treliving says his group is excited to compete

So what does the Calgary crew have to do to best the foe?

Flip the script?

End the curse?

"We just have to play our game," Monahan said. "Obviously everyone talks about that, losing in Anaheim, but we have to play our game and be on top of things and play together as a team. This is where you have to bear down and do all the little things well and stay on top of your game.

"We talked about that. We know what we have to do.

"We know what we're up against here. They're a good team. We're a good team. We're going to have to have our battle-level at the top and playing together here as a team."

Truth be told, only 11 points separated the first-place Ducks and the fourth-place Flames.

From Nov. 15 onward, that margin is trimmed down to just five. 

At 40, the Flames even had more wins than Anaheim's 39 over the final 66 games of the regular season.

The matchup suits the underdogs just fine.

"They finished higher in the standings, but I've liked the way we've played in the last three, four months," Gulutzan said.

"I like our record.

"I like the way we've played.

"I like the way we've come back out of our start.

"We are the underdog in the series, but I think it's going to be a heck of a series."


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