It has been Death Valley.
Nate Thompson scored his first goal of the season to tie it with 8:26 to play and Shea Theodore won it in overtime, helping the Anaheim Ducks clinch their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night. Unlike a couple of years ago, the Flames now have some seasoned playoff performers including Kris Versteeg, a two-time Stanley Cup victor with the Chicago Blackhawks who had a team-best five points (two goals, three assists) in four games against the Ducks in 2016-17.
Just a few weeks before the end of the season the Ducks lost defenseman Cam Fowler to a knee injury. It doesn't completely close the gap between the teams, but it narrows it a little.
And with this meeting, Flames general manager Brad Treliving is also excited.
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"For someone to suggest that Mark Giordano is a dirty player or it was an intentional hit, those are asinine comments", Treliving said. I fully expect that to continue in this series, especially given Randy Carlyle is a matchup coach and the Ducks have last change. "There's a method to the madness there - to put something in the officials' heads going into the series". There's no real reason to pick the Flames in this spot given the history between these two teams and the fact the Ducks have been terrific at home.
Because of who he is and how he plays, Giordano will be a focal point.
Calgary has won on the Ducks' home turf in the post-season, but only once in the 2006 playoffs.
The Ducks and Calgary Flames took different approaches in addressing the elephant in the room Monday. "That game happened, but it's done with". Depending on how the depth holds up, Glen Gulutzan may be forced to shorten the bench, (mostly) take the 4th line/3rd pairing out of the equation, play the crap out of his top guys and hope for the best.
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For their part, the Ducks have a few of their own demons to exorcise, after they were upset in the opening round past year by a wild-card team, the Nashville Predators. But this is a big one for Gibson, who played the first two games against Nashville in last year's opening round before giving way to Frederik Andersen.
So the Ducks need to get their playoffs off on the right foot, and though they'd never acknowledge it publicly, getting Calgary to open is probably as good as it gets for them, in what they anticipate will be a long playoff run.
One sour note for Anaheim was the loss of forward Patrick Eaves, who left the game because of an undisclosed injury. In 61/2 months of hockey, that's a narrow gap.
"You just want to make the saves you should and a couple you shouldn't", Elliott said. Reigning Norris Trophy victor Drew Doughty scored and set up a goal in that contest and also found the net in overtime on Saturday. That's how close the league is and that's why it's such a battle to get in.
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