ANAHEIM, Calif. — Randy Carlyle figures it might be time to call in a favour.
Not that the Anaheim Ducks bench boss expected this particular gameplan would work.
“Matthew Tkachuk … I played with his dad, coached his dad,” Carlyle said on the eve of Game 1 of a best-of-seven showdown between the Ducks and Calgary Flames. “So I’ll ask his dad to discipline him. Maybe I’ll make a phone call to his dad.”
Worth a try, right?
“Well, if he’s as thick-headed as his dad, then I don’t think the phone call is going to do me any good,” Carlyle chuckled.
Keith Tkachuk, en route to Slovakia to cheer on his youngest son, Brady, at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Hockey Championship, might have multiple voicemails.
One from his former Winnipeg Jets teammate, Carlyle, asking if he can somehow convince Matthew to behave during what promises to be a feisty and physical first-round series.
And one from the Flames, wondering if he could get to Anaheim for Thursday’s Game 1 at Honda Center (8:30 p.m., CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan). And, on a related note, whether he’d be willing to bring his skates.
“I wish we had Keith right now, too,” quipped Calgary’s head coach, Glen Gulutzan, after a slip-of-the-tongue by a scribe. “That wouldn’t be a bad guy to have.”
The Flames are thrilled to have 19-year-old Matthew on their side.
Heading into the series-opener at Honda Center, there’s a sense of intrigue about what we might see from Calgary’s rambunctious rookie, not only the youngest skater in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs but perhaps also the least likely to turn into a wallflower at his first spring dance.
With spades of skill and hockey sense and a nose for the net, kids might want to watch and learn.
With his nasty streak, their parents might be tempted to switch the channel if the score starts to look a wee bit lopsided in either direction.
Nice plays? No problem.
Play nice? Doesn’t seem to be his style.
“I just try to go out there and do what I can do,” Tkachuk said after Wednesday’s practice at Honda Center, where the Flames are aiming to snap a 27-game losing skid that dates back to when he was eight years old. “I know that the way I’ve played my whole life is the way I’m going to play this series and, moving forward, for the rest of my career.”
Which is, if you missed his 76 outings for the Flames during the regular season, not much different from how his father played.
Keith racked up 538 goals and 1,065 points across 18 campaigns. As one of the NHL’s elite power forwards, he could do damage many different ways.
Proof the apple didn’t fall far from the tree (and isn’t afraid to be bruised), Matthew managed 13 goals and 35 assists as a freshman and also served a team-high 105 minutes in the sin bin.
The Flames’ fearless freshman didn’t think his father would be relaying any messages from the Ducks coaching staff, but Keith did have some advice for his boy.
“He just says you have to play hard and you have to just play the way you’ve played so far this season and continue to play the same way in playoffs,” Matthew said. “Because at this point, there’s no waiting around and there’s no waiting for that next game and that next series. You have to go out and do it every game.”
A lot of folks have been waiting for this — to see what sort of magic and mayhem the mouthguard-chomping left-winger will provide during his first playoff run.
This kid, it seems, is tailor-made for this time of year.
He hopes so.
“I haven’t done anything in the playoffs, so I don’t listen to anything like that,” Matthew said. “I mean, I have to go out and prove it.”
That starts Thursday.
“Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs every year, watching the finals, watching Game 7s, Game 7 overtimes. It’s something that you just dream about when you’re younger,” he said, recalling the Carolina Hurricanes’ championship run in 2006 – the same year that the Flames last celebrated a W in Anaheim – as his first vivid memory of watching the spring slugfests.
“So now that it’s here and I’m playing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s pretty crazy and it’s exciting.”