First Playoff Trip for Most of Flames Roster

Canucks vs Flames – 2015 SCP First Round
By Aaron Vickers – Correspondent

CALGARY — It’s about enthusiasm, not inexperience. Open minds, not star-struck eyes.

It’s the message Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley delivered to his players about to skate in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.

“Our team is built on passion. Willingness to compete, willingness to suffer, and that’s our DNA, that’s our culture,” Hartley said. “I wish I could go to the local pharmacy and buy some experience, but I can’t. You have to earn this, but that’s the only part missing. On the other side, we have great leadership and we have great will. That’s been our story all year and we’re not going to change it.”

The Flames, in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, have little experience on their side heading into Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at the Vancouver Canucks tonight (10 p.m. ET; CBC, USA, TVA Sports).

Including the late addition of Sam Bennett, Calgary’s top pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft, the Flames have 14 players, including two of three goaltenders, on their roster of 27 who have not played in an NHL playoff game.

Among them are rookie wing Johnny Gaudreau and second-year center Sean Monahan, who play on Calgary’s top line alongside veteran Jiri Hudler, one of two players on the team who have won the Stanley Cup (forward Brandon Bollig).

“I think it’s going to be exciting for me,” said Gaudreau, who in his first season finished third on the Flames with 21 goals and second with 64 points and is a likely Calder Trophy finalist.

“It’s something I’ve thought about all season long is making the playoffs. I think for me, I’m just going to be even more excited. I like playing in big games. It’s going to be fun.”

Monahan, who along with Hudler led Calgary with 31 goals, shares that enthusiasm.

“It’s an exciting time,” Monahan said. “I’ve never been through it. This is a real exciting time for me and I’m really looking forward to this.

“We have a tight group in here and I try to get as much advice as I can. [Hudler] is my good buddy and so is [Bollig]. We talk about it a lot. [Bollig] tells me a lot about what it takes. He was there just not too long ago. It’s a pretty special feeling and we’re excited to get started here.”

Hudler won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. Bollig, a forward acquired in a draft-day trade last June, won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

“I think with our young guys, they are poised beyond their years, mature beyond their years, and I think people will be surprised at how Johnny and [Monahan] handle the pressure,” Bollig said. “If [Bennett] gets in the lineup, I’m sure he’s going to do just as well. They’re elite players for a reason, and I don’t think by any means will they crumble under the pressure.”

Bollig has played in 24 playoff games through parts of four seasons in the NHL. Three Flames have played more: Hudler (66), forward Mason Raymond (55) and defenseman Dennis Wideman (44).

“Guys have definitely asked me about things, asked me to share my experiences,” Bollig said. “We talked about how it was going to be and how playofflike it was going to be with regards to mistakes being magnified and momentum swings and things like that.

“Whether guys want to come to me and ask me things or whether it just happens, I think guys look to someone who has been there, and we have a couple guys who have and those guys are willing to share their experiences.”

Gaudreau, 21, said, “Us younger guys, we’ve been talking to a lot of the guys in the locker room. There’s a few guys who have won Cups in here. We’re going to pick their brain a little bit throughout this playoff series and just try to learn as much as you can as quick as possible because you haven’t played in this type of situation before.”

Hartley hopes the young players retain a simple message.

“It’s not about fear, it’s about having fun,” said Hartley, who coached the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 2001. “Enjoying the moment. We’re a young team backed with great leadership, great veterans. We didn’t get an invitation for this party. We just walked in. So let’s keep the same attitude.”

Video: What are the keys to the Flames-Canucks series?

Source NHL