CALGARY — While the Calgary Flames try to get up off the mat in their playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks, goaltending questions have surfaced for both teams.
Projections, in both nets, for who will start Wednesday’s Game 4 at Scotiabank Saddledome was thrown into flux by the performances of Game 3, which Anaheim took 5-4 in overtime for a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Jonathan Bernier’s 16-save shutout over the back 33 minutes in relief of starter John Gibson raises speculation that Anaheim’s “1B” could be upgraded to “1A” for a game in which the Ducks can clinch the series.
“I’m going to pick one goalie. It’s going to be one of them,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle quipped dryly.
The Flames face becoming the first of the five Canadian teams in the NHL post-season to exit if they can’t prolong their Western Conference conference quarter-final.
Calgary starter Brian Elliott whiffed on the Shea Theodore goal that sparked Anaheim’s comeback from a 4-1 deficit Monday.
Elliott then fought the puck coming at him through traffic. Corey Perry’s overtime winner deflected off his pad and off the back of a skate.
“It’s a case a little bit of, you’re never as good as you think and you’re never as bad as you think,” Elliott said Tuesday.
“It helps to have video and watch it so you can see all the little things that lead to breakdowns or goals. That’s kind of how you get over it. If you keep thinking about it, you just dig yourself a hole.”
All three Calgary goalies were on the ice for Tuesday’s optional skate — Elliott, Chad Johnson and call-up Jon Gillies.
“I just wanted to go out and feel a couple pucks,” Elliott said.
While Carlyle said he’d made his mind made up on his Game 4, Flames counterpart Glen Gulutzan said he’d inform his choice later in the day.
“I definitely want that opportunity for sure,” Elliott said.
Elliott’s previous playoff experience going three rounds last year with St. Louis, and the resilience that requires, is a significant factor in his favour.
Johnson started just four of Calgary’s last 20 games of the regular season and has zero post-season experience.
Bernier went 11-3-2 with a goals-against average of 2.13 from Feb. 20 to March 31 while Gibson was injured. Carlyle replaced Gibson with Bernier after Calgary’s fourth goal Monday.
“With Bernie, he came in and calmed things down,” Carlyle acknowledged. “When you review it and watch the tape, he did a heck of a job coming in and settling our group down.”
The Flames, meanwhile, were still trying to shake off the sting of losing a Game 3 they’d led 4-2 after two periods.
Calgary also outplayed the Ducks for much of Game 2, but Anaheim scored the winner on an improbable deflection off a Flame’s skate.
Gulutzan wants his team thinking about the things they did right in three one-goal losses this series than the fact the Ducks seem able to pull a rabbits out of hats.
“The reality is, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” the Flames coach said.
“We just want to focus on Game 4. We don’t the task to be any bigger than what it really is. What we’re preparing for in the next 24 hours is one game, not four.”
Defenceman Sami Vatanen (upper body) participated in Anaheim’s optional skate. He was scratched for the second and third games of the series. Carlyle said Vatanen will be a game-day decision Wednesday.
Defenceman Cam Fowler (knee) skated separately from his teammates for the second time in as many days, but is not as close as Vatanen to a return.
Gulutzan’s message to the Flames is to play without fear Wednesday.
“We know we’re going to be up against a desperate hockey club,” Carlyle said.
“I don’t think we’re going to get away with the ineffectiveness we displayed in half the hockey game and come away and have success in another game. We have to be better than we were last night that’s for sure.”