The Calgary Flames are a great story and have been all season, but after watching their first two games against the Anaheim Ducks in their Second Round Western Conference series, I can't imagine this not being a quick series. The Flames have just been manhandled and pushed around, they're starting to get hit by injuries and players like Jiri Hudler, even if they are playing, clearly aren't 100 percent.
The biggest issue for Calgary, however, is clearly Anaheim's size. The Ducks are just so big. The Flames just can't play against the size of that Ryan Getzlaf line, and the second line with Ryan Kesler has plenty of physical presence, too. In many situations the Ducks' forwards are bigger than the Flames' defensemen. That kind of mismatch doesn't happen often, and what really makes life tough for Calgary is that the Ducks can skate, too. This isn't a big, lumbering lineup the Ducks have. It's big and fast, too.
I love the way Calgary has played the last two months or so. I don't think anyone has talked about the Flames' play and work ethic this season more than I have, but I just don't see how they can match up with the size and quickness of the Ducks.
I always respect the opposition, but there needs to be a magical transformation when the puck drops in Calgary Tuesday night. After what we saw in Games 1 and 2, I will not be surprised if the Ducks end up sweeping a second consecutive series. It just looks like a tough road to hoe for the Flames.
CANADIENS LOST A 'MUST-WIN'
I have to be honest. I hate to use the term "must win," but the numbers bear it out that if you lose the first two games in your own building, then you'll probably lose at least one on the road. Being down 3-1, the odds are simply against you. The Montreal Canadiens faced a must-win on Sunday in their Second Round Eastern Conference series, one I expected them to win, and they just didn't take care of business.
I figured the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning were so evenly-matched that Montreal would get the split at home, but now that it hasn't it's in serious danger. Many people, myself included, expected this to be a long, tough series, and if the Canadiens can take Game 3 Tuesday night, that may still happen, but with the way Ben Bishop and the Lightning are playing it will be very tough for Montreal to come into Tampa Bay and win two games.
Of course, if the Canadiens do end up losing this series there will be plenty of talk as to why. It will probably be because they were outplayed, but there will definitely be talk about Tampa Bay's game-winner in double-overtime in Game 1. It looks, according to replays, like Nikita Kucherov was offside during the zone entry that led to the goal, and if you play for Montreal that is frustrating, but I've been on both sides of this situation before. If you've been in hockey for any length of time, you see that it usually evens out. You get the breaks once in a while, and sometimes the other team gets it once in a while. Montreal has gotten plenty of breaks over the years. I can vouch for that.
What this whole situation does say to me though is that it may be time for the game to introduce coach's challenges, which has been mentioned before. The big strike against it is that it will extend games, but the NHL has always been at the forefront of video replay and nearly every other sport has something like this by now, so why not? The video technology is so good these days that it would only take a few minutes to make sure you got the call right and that the right team would win or lose. Do you really think anyone will mind sitting in the arena for two or three extra minutes if the right call is made? If you do, maybe you should ask Montreal fans if they would have stayed in their seats any longer during a coach's challenge.