CALGARY — Stats, shmats. Analytics, shmanalytics. The Calgary Flames bucked odds and defied expectations en route to the second round of NHL playoffs.
The Ducks are heavily favoured to beat the Flames in their Western Conference semifinal starting Thursday in Anaheim. The Flames intend to keep thumbing their noses at those who think their lightning is about to leave the bottle.
“We’re not worried about the stats,” Flames forward Michael Ferland said. “We just want to go there and be the harder-working team for sure and let our feet and bodies do the talking.”
Game 2 is Sunday at the Honda Centre before the series heads to Calgary next week.
The Flames face a heavier, deeper, harder-to-the-net team than the Vancouver Canucks they beat in the first round.
Going six games against the Canucks moved the needle on Calgary’s lack of playoff experience with eight players getting their first taste.
The Ducks are more seasoned in the post-season having qualified four of the last five years. Captain Ryan Getzlaf, winger Corey Perry and defenceman Francois Beauchemin won a Stanley Cup in 2007.
Calgary made the NHL playoffs for the first time in six years and got beyond the first round for the first time in 11.
Anaheim topped the Pacific Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference with 51 wins, compared to Calgary’s 45. Anaheim’s average weight is 207 pounds, while Calgary’s is 195.4.
“Here’s probably one of the best teams in the NHL, if not the best team when you look at stats, when you ask any expert or people around the game,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said.
“They’re big and they’re fast.
“We have big hearts. We have no fear. We’ve showed it all year. We’re solid. You might bend us, but you’re not going to break us.”
Calgary doubled the Ducks 6-3 in the last regular-season meeting March 11, but Anaheim won three of five meetings overall including both at home.
For the Flames to extend their Cinderella season, they need to solve the hostile Honda Centre where Calgary hasn’t won a regular season game since 2004.
The Flames won a playoff game there in 2006, but lost the other two as well as Game 7 to the Ducks at the Saddledome.
Calgary’s futility in Anaheim is a buzzy stat to start the series, but the Flames shrug it off as most of them have only been to the Honda Centre three or four times in their careers.
’It’s pretty easy math,“ Hartley said. ”We need to go and get one in Anaheim and win three at home.“
The Ducks pose a different challenge than the Canucks as Anaheim’s four forward lines each bring different strengths, according to Hartley. The Flames had a dress rehearsal for Getzlaf and Perry in their containment of Vancouver twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“They’re a lot like the Sedins, make little plays to one another. They get in the dirty areas maybe a little bit more,” Flames defenceman Deryk Engelland said of the Ducks’ duo.
“We’ve got to do the same, take the time and space away from them, be physical when we can, but smart and try and limit our defensive zone against them.”
The Ducks are the more rested team having played just six games in the last four weeks. They’ll start the second round at home on seven days rest following a four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets.
Anaheim played just twice over the final eight days of the regular season and then had a four-day break before the playoffs.
Calgary was on the gallop just to stay in playoff contention over the regular season’s final stretch, particularly after losing captain Mark Giordano to a torn biceps Feb. 25. The Flames will open the second round on four days of rest.
“Everyone has written us off. From the start of the year, no one gave us a chance,” Calgary centre Matt Stajan said.
“We have our confidence in the dressing room in what we’re capable of and we have all year.
“We’re going to rile each other up and throw everything we have at them.”