Game Takes: Stars 2 Flames 1

March 27th, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Want me to find a silver lining for this?

Sure … easy. Better now than in two weeks (April 10th to be exact), as an offensive face plant in a seven game series would be a disaster.

The scary side of this though is the potential for the Calgary Flames to have been figured out. Let them have the outside, get outplayed, but find a way to score a goal or two and take your chances. Not a bad strategy for anyone playing the Flames in the first round, especially if they’re an underdog looking to steal a game or two.

Tonight more of the same. The Flames out of sync but out playing their opposition, not getting a bounce and having one or two plays go against them creating a loss. A crazy bouncing puck gives Radulov a break and a powerplay goal. In the third a puck bouncing every where results in another ugly powerplay marker. TJ Brodie gets the Flames out of their funk with a goalie pulled goal but that’s as close as they get, 2-1 Dallas.

Line Up Changes

Where do we start?

With the top line sputtering, Bill Peters altered all four lines in order to shake up (punish) all three skaters on the top line and perhaps get players away from thinking too much.

Johnny Gaudreau gets Derek Ryan and Michael Frolik, Sean Monahan gets Austin Czarnik and James Neal, the Mikael Backlund Matthew Tkachuk duo gets a new linemate in Elias Lindholm, and the fourth line is the first line from the Stockton Heat early last year; Mark Jankowski between Andrew Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway.

If you were to rank those lines I honest don’t know how you’d come up with a second and third line. The jacked up 3M line is the new first line and the Jankowski line is the fourth but honestly couldn’t tell you the 2nd and 3rd lines in rank.

Won’t matter anyway, as they only lasted two periods.

No changes to the defense pairings and the goaltender sees David Rittich back in net after sitting out three straight with a bug.

Rittich Start

Can’t blame David Rittich for either Dallas goal, both were on broken plays down a man and he did what he could with a full on breakaway and then a diving attempt on the second goal.

It will be interesting to see where they go on the weekend with a home date against the Ducks and then a game in San Jose against the Sharks that’s starting to take on more importance.

Lately we’ve seen David Rittich getting more starts against top teams, and Smith getting most of the starts against the lesser lights though illness for both goaltenders has cast a boatload of doubt on any conclusions we could possibly make on the rotation.

At this point I think I’d be 70/30 that Rittich starts game one of the playoffs, but I’m allowed to change my mind!

New Lines Dirt

That was a mess.

A literal mess. I think it was a message sending mission and hopefully that was delivered and understood and we can get back to logic when it comes to building the Flame’s forward lines. None of the four groups had any cohesion to start the game, then found it midway through the first but then lost it again completely.

By the opening faceoff of the third things were back to normal, which helped to some degree, but not to the point where they were able to get things done.

I didn’t like Michael Frolik on the Gaudreau line, he’s a everything on net guy and Gaudreau likes to find the higher scoring chance. Monahan with Neal spooked me for a lack of line speed, seemed like a disaster defensively, though they did much better than I expected.

I do think the overall message will be helpful as they were thinking too much and not reacting. Expecting much better against Anaheim.

Monahan Specifically

Thought he played a better game, at least relatively speaking to what we’ve seen of late. He finished +1 on the pulled goalie marker by Brodie with 17 minutes of ice time. Underlying stats suggest a good night as well as he had 65% in terms of shot attempts.

Overall he seemed a little more comfortable with the puck and held on and found outlets more often than what we’ve seen in recent games.

The panel after the second period suggested he’s injured, which has certainly been a theory, and if that’s the case it’s a shame to lose back to back seasons to injury in the second half. We won’t find out until after the team is eliminated (or celebrating!) so until then at least tonight seemed like a step in the right direction.

LateĀ Face-offs

The Flames lost five straight key face offs to end the game, a dagger to the heart with a team trying to find a tying goal.

Three for Elias Lindholm and two for Sean Monahan.

Overall in the game they had 52% of the draws, which surprised me given how poorly the final minute and a half went for the home side. The lack of prowess in the circle seems part and parcel to the overall lack of confidence from the group of late; normally they’re money on the draws on the man advantage or the goalie pulled.

Some bad voodoo with this team in the last couple of games, after everything went their way for the better part of five games leading in.

Ben Bishop Injury

Such a good goalie.

Such a bad bet for a long term contract.

I’ll be the first to admit that things haven’t gone the way I thought they would in the Flame’s nets this and last season. I had David Rittich as a neat story, but Jon Gillies and then eventually Tyler Parsons pushing to be the number one goaltender in Calgary.

Ben Bishop on a long term expensive contract would have just blocked the way for the next anointed one.

Now two years later and we have David Rittich battling Mike Smith, Gillies struggling at the AHL level and Parsons facing his second straight lost season due to injury and mental stress.

But the bottom line? Ben Bishop can’t be counted on. He gets hurt far too often. The injury tonight may even send the Stars down to the bottom wild card spot and a first round matchup with the Flames, or even worse out the party altogether.

Standings Implications

It really looked like the Flames had the conference all sewed up. They had three straight home games before travelling to San Jose and the hammer.

Now meek losses to L.A. and Dallas, tempered somewhat by the Sharks continued struggles has that game in Northern California on Sunday night much more interesting.

The Flames still lead the Sharks by six points, with San Jose now having a game in hand that will be made up tomorrow when they play the Blackhawks. Calgary plays Friday against the Ducks, and then the Sharks play the Knights on Saturday before playing Calgary back to back.

Calgary is still in the driver seat but they best get out of this scoring funk soon.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Calgary 36 Stars 23
Face Offs – Flames 52%
Special Teams – Flames 0/2 Stars 2/2

Player Stats:
Points – Johnny Gaudreau, TJ Brodie and Noah Hanifin with one each.
Plus/Minus – Six players at +1
Shots – Mark Giordano with 9!

Fancy Stats

Score effects just like the L.A. game, but yet another night where Calgary demolishes their opposition. Calgary gets 63% of the shot attempts with period splits of 61%/56% and 76%. In terms of scoring chances the final was 25-16 Calgary for 61%, and high danger chances were 10-5 Calgary (67%) five on five.

In all situations it was 63% Calgary in shot attempts, 63% Calgary in scoring chances and 58% Calgary in high danger chances.

That’s three straight games now where the Flames have kept the opposition to five or less high danger chances in five on five hockey; despite the drought that’s a very good sign.

Individually, the Flames had all but four players in the black. Only Mark Jankowski, Oscar Fantenberg, Garnet Hathaway and Andrew Mangiapane were under the 50% mark. TJ Brodie led the way with 81% with his partner Mark Giordano just behind at 80%. The revamped 3M line was just behind as Lindholm, Tkachuk and Backlund were at 78%.

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