The Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks began their first round series in the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday night. The Flames, opening their post-season on the road, defeated the Canucks from downtown Vancouver thanks in no small part to Kris Russell’s late goal. Thursday was an off-night for the series however the two teams will resume play on Friday.
Here’s a look at the schedule for the series (all times ET):
Game 1 from Vancouver: Calgary defeated Vancouver 2-1 on April 15th
Game 2 from Vancouver: Friday, April 17th at 10pm
Game 3 from Calgary: Sunday, April 19th at 10pm
Game 4 from Calgary: Sunday, April 21st at 10pm
Vancouver would host games five and seven (23rd and 27th respectively), if they were needed, while Calgary would host game six on April 25th if needed.
Heading into game two, the pressure is definitely on Vancouver. Most NHL coaches and players, when starting a playoff series on the road, will state that they hope to take a split away from games one and two. Calgary, with the win in game one, have already guaranteed themselves at least that. While the Canucks are not in a “must-win” situation should they fall behind 0-2 in the series they will be in a major hole given that they would have lost two at home. With two to follow in cow-town, the Flames’ contingent will start thinking about a first-round sweep.
Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins faced some criticism following the game one loss. For example, Kevin Woodley, writing at NHL.com, pointed out that the Sedin twins “each played less than five minutes in a third period that saw the Flames turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.”
Desjardins countered with a remark that, not surprisingly, defended his choices. If the Sedins are “not fresh,” according to the Vancouver coach “they won’t be as successful” (qtd. in Woodley article).
The remark is odd in that it isolates the Sedins. They aren’t the only players that are tired in the third period of an NHL hockey game – the other team’s stars are tired as well. The question that Desjardins needs to ask is not if the Sedins perform better when they aren’t tired, because everyone performs better at everything except sleeping when they aren’t tired. The question is whether the Sedins, playing tired, are still more worthy of playing time than better-rested-but-lesser-talented options that Desjardins is otherwise looking at.
The answer to that question is probably not straight forward, especially since the Sedins aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore. But based simply on what happened on Wednesday, a game where Vancouver outplayed Calgary in the early periods only to lose late, you have to think the Sedins were the better card to play.
What is straight forward is the fact that Vancouver, despite the loss in game one, do enter game two as the betting favorite. Bet365, for example, make the Canucks a -150 favorite (2/3) following a regular season that saw them post a 24-15-2 record at home.
Rogers Arena, the site of game two, promises to be loud when the first puck drops. However unless Desjardins solves the logic puzzle in front of him that is game two of the Flames vs. Canucks series, it promises to be very quiet at the end of the game.
My advice for Vancouver fans is not to go making game five plans until you know it’s going to happen. I don’t think Desjardins reads my articles but just in case he does, here’s one tip: shorten the bench because there’s nothing to save energy for when it’s do-or-die time and, already down 0-1 with a loss in your own building, you’re close enough.