Game Takes: Flames 2 Stars 0 (Flames Lead series 2-1)

August 14th, 2020 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Yo Adrian!

Growing up in the 80s Rocky was a staple. The first movie was more drama than fight scenes, the second ratcheted up a little bit, and the third a full on popcorn eating feast of boxing highlights.

In the movies Rocky always had this annoying strategy that clearly always worked. He’s lay back, take an absolute beating, but then come on when the other guy tired himself out punching Rocky in head so many times and then win the fight with a knock out.

Tonight the Flames seemed to deploy a similar strategy to Balboa, as they spent way too much time in their own zone, relied far too much on Cam Talbot, but skated away with a 2-0 victory.

Sure they didn’t give up that many ten bell chances, the Stars only had 8 on the night five on five, but they generated so little … not a recipe for success generally.

Lineup Changes

Sometimes you make change because you lose, little adjustments, the tweak needed to get things back on track and going in the right direction.

Tonight is one of the other kind, a forced change due to injury in the case of Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk was likely concussed on an inadvertent sandwich job between Jamie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak, taking him out of the lineup for the pivotal game three against the Dallas Stars.

So the defense stays the same. Mark Giordano with TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, and Erik Gustafsson on the third pairing with Derek Forbort.

In goal, a bit of a surprise in my mind as Cam Talbot starts again for the 7th straight game despite taking the loss last night.

The big changes come up front with Tkachuk out. Alan Quine, a tweener with playoff experience is in, and so to is Zach Rinaldo for Mark Jankowski as the Flames try to add some truculence with their emotional leader out. With the change Ward did his best to keep two lines intact and alter the other two. So Sean Monahan centers Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm (no change), the third line stays as is with Sam Bennett centering Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube (no change). Altered lines had Tobias Rieder joining Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, and Derek Ryan centering Zach Rinaldo and Alan Quine.

The Talbot Choice

I think we can safely say that Cam Talbot is going to be the guy … the ride or die for the Calgary Flames until their clock strikes midnight.

Given the back to back nights, the loss last night, and the soft goal that Talbot gave up … if they were going to make a change they likely would have made it for tonight’s game.

I’m fine either way as I honestly don’t see either guy as elite starters, probably average, or maybe even slightly below. But part of me is curious to see a David Rittich start in the post season and what he would do with it.

Coming in Talbot’s save percentage of .927 is 15th among goalies that have played 120 or more minutes, but he’s 6th worst in managing the tough shots with a high danger save percentage of only .800.

But tonight he posts a shut out in a game where the Flames generated next to nothing, and gave up just a little more than that. Talbot obviously perfect on the night, but more specifically perfect on the 10 high danger chances he faced.

Another Shorty

Mikael Backlund’s second period short handed tally (may be changed to Elias Lindholm at some point, hard to say), gave the Flames the first goal in the game, but also their third short handed goal in the post season – the other two from Tobias Rieder.

With three to date they lead the post season in short handed goals to go with a healthy powerplay that also ranks near the top.

Five on five the Flames have done a reasonable job of limiting chances, and their special teams seem to be the fuel that drives the boat the rest of the way.

Baby Steps for the Top Line

Were they great? Yeah .. .no.

But they took a step or two towards being dangerous five on five which is a step that was sorely needed. More zone time, more actual plays, and less just listless wandering.

The tale of the tape shows they actually generated two five on five high danger scoring chances, while giving up two as well.

You won’t see them as game stars, but at least we saw them!

Delay of Game

You almost wonder if there should be a rule on the books for two things that we saw at the end (sort of) of the second period.

Number one, a delay of game penalty for a guy that breaks the glass with his stick out of frustration. Really, a puck over the glass is a pretty minor pause compared to the chaos of a having to replace a pane of glass. Why not?

Secondly, they need to decide a rule as to whether or not they leave the ice and tack on the time to the next period. Who broke the ice? The other team gets to decide?

Seemed odd to see the whole thing hanging up in the air with the Stars trying to sway things toward getting clean ice.

Slushy Ice?

Have to wonder if maybe the ice surface in the bubble cities is going to erode over time. Tonight the puck was bouncing everywhere for both clubs, but really noticeable when the Flames were trying to kick off a first period powerplay from behind their net.

Erik Gustafsson and Johnny Gaudreau each had the puck bounce over their sticks twice as the puck bounced and rolled around.

Will be interesting to see if it’s a matter of the heat of August, and it will get better as the rounds progress and the weather outside cools down, or if it’s wear and tear and it’s only going to get worse through the rounds.

The Push Back

Periods in a hockey game often act like chapters in a book; they’re often quite different.

Tonight the first period had a few chapters of it’s own.

At first it looked like Calgary was in trouble as the Stars took it to the Flames and without the help of some posts the Stars would have been up a goal or two. Then the last ten minutes had the Flames take over the period sending the Stars to a eight minute streak with no shots on goal, and a big lead in shots for the Flames by the end of the period.

Win or lose, the curious side of me is wanting to find out what this team is made of. They’ve disappointed in recent playoffs and seasons, but so far in this year’s oddity they’ve showed some resolve. With the spanking by the Stars in game two it was an excellent chance to see how they’d respond.

The answer? Very poorly, then wait … really good, then very rope a dope the rest of the way. Call the inquiry unanswered.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Flames 23 Stars 35
Face Offs – Flames 52%
Special Teams – Flames 0/2 Stars 0/4

Player Stats:

Points – Calgary received a point each from TJ Brodie, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Mark Giordano and Alan Quine.
Plus/Minus – Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie were both +2 on the night for the Flames.
Shots – Mikael Backlund and Johnny Gaudreau both posted four shots each.

Fancy Stats

The Stars had the better of the five on five shot attempts at 67% on period splits of 42%/85% and 67%. Score effects has some of that, but certainly not all, the Flames played way too much of this game in their zone and on their heels. The high danger scoring chances five on five were 8-4 for Dallas, eight being a decent number to give up, four being a terrible number to generate. The expected goal split was 67% in Dallas’ favour.

In all situations the Stars had 67% of the shot attempts, 63% of the high danger chances and 67% of the xGF%.

Individually you wouldn’t expect the numbers to be good, and they weren’t. One player avoided being on the wrong side of the balance, Tobias Rieder at 50% flat. Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson were both close at 47%. Backlund and Derek Ryan were next. On the bottom end we saw the third line and the second defense pairing in the 20s.

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