Game Takes: Stars 2 Flames 1 (Stars lead series 3-2)

August 18th, 2020 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Honestly that was better.

Sure the Flames lost the game in the end, a 2-1 setback to the Dallas Stars in game five of their best of seven series, but at least they were forcing the issue and in the game.

Far too often in both games three and four the Flames were on their heels and letting the Stars take the game to them.

A rough start for Calgary as the Stars pretty much kept the script from the previous two games for the opening period, but then a push back for both periods two and three had Calgary within inches of tying the game up and forcing overtime.

It certainly makes sense, but the Flames have looked much better when trailing than when tied or up in a game. Desperation possibly, and also the Stars taking the foot off the gas as well.

Line Up Changes

No changes at all for Geoff Ward in game five on the series tied at two.

In goal is Cam Talbot for his 9th straight playoff start for the Flames this August (yes that’s still odd).

No change on the blueline as Mark Giordano skates with his regular partner TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, and Derek Forbort paired with Erik Gustaffson.

Up front still no Matthew Tkachuk so no change as well to the four trios. Sean Monahan with Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund between Andrew Mangiapane and Tobias Rieder, Sam Bennett with Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube, and Derek Ryan with Zach Rinaldo and Alan Quine.

Backlund a Beast

What a game from Mikael Backlund, … well post season really.

After struggling against Nathan McKinnon and the Avalanche last year, it’s been great to see Backlund reassert himself as a quality second line center in this league.

He’s been one of Calgary’s best puck carriers through the post season, and always seems to create something out of nothing when too many of his teammates go invisible.

Second Pairing Rough Night

They were better in the third of course, but the second pairing of Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin had a rough two periods to start tonight.

Long shifts with failed exits (not all their fault), too many turnover, and missing checks in scoring areas had them in trouble in most of their shifts in the first half of the game.

A big surprise for Rasmus Andersson, who has struggled in this series after looking great down the stretch and against Winnipeg in the play in round.

Chance-less Third

As much as you like the fight in the team in how they responded after the Stars went ahead, they just didn’t get the puck to the dangerous areas enough to create the havoc needed to tie the game.

A third period 15-6 edge in shots looks good on paper, but neither team had a single high danger scoring chance in the third period.

Some of the players are driving to the paint, and you need to get a bounce or two as well, but far too many players are shooting pucks while taking the angle wide and creating very little.

Rinaldo over Jankowski Again

As others have pointed out, it’s pretty puzzling to see Geoff Ward go with Zach Rinaldo over Mark Jankowski again, especially after a game four loss.

Rinaldo doesn’t have a role or a purpose.

He doesn’t play much, and he isn’t making a difference physically or agitating.

Now this isn’t to say Mark Jankowski is the bomb, he’s a deeply flawed hockey player without a pulse more often than not. But he has become a solid penalty killer, which gives him a role and a purpose.

To me it’s a no brainer.

The Second Period Switch

Interesting tweak to the lines to start the second period with Tobias Rieder moving to the top line, with Elias Lindholm sliding down to the second line to play with Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane.

Now let the jokes start …

Rieder is supposed to help the top line?

No it’s rescuing Lindholm from the sinking ship?

Or is it helping Mikael Backlund, a player that was clearly on to start the game.

But overall it seemed to work. The top line developed a cycle for the first time in the playoffs, and the second line had zone time with the additional support from Lindholm.

Gaudreau Popping

Good to see a little life in Johnny Gaudreau in this one.

He was moving his feet, seemed less perimeter and was creating for really the first time since we returned to play on August 1st. The Flames have been living on special teams, and the third line, a recipe that just can’t be sustained as the opposition starts to get ratcheted up so finding some life on the top line is a huge boon for the team.

Gaudreau is an electric player when he’s on, but he seems to have developed a huge disparity between his good and bad games. It sure appears to be a confidence issue, and if that’s the case maybe he’s finding it now.

Monahan Not

While Gaudreau is looking better, his center had a rough game, maybe his worst of the post season.

Sean Monahan looked disinterested at time, maybe frightened … or possibly hurt. He let up on loose pucks, turned away from contact, and looked to be one of the big factors in the Dallas go ahead goal in the third period. He lost a puck battle, and then didn’t fight through his check to take away the passing lane creating the shot from the point and Klinberg goal.

If he’s hurt he’s hurt.

But if he’s not he’s got to man up.

Special Teams

A tight playoff game is often decided by special teams, and that was the case again today in the loss to the Stars.

The Flames failed on all four of their chances, and were victimized by a short handed goal to open the scoring for the Stars. Dallas was 0/2 on their two chances.

The Calgary powerplay at 5 on 4 only created on high danger chance, and they gave one up as well. That’s about five minutes of wasted opportunity for the Flames.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Flames 29 Stars 32
Face Offs – Flames 57%
Special Teams – Flames 0/4 Stars 0/2

Player Stats:

Points – Only one guy with a point as Mikael Backlund’s goal was unassisted in the first period.
Plus/Minus – Andrew Mangiapane and Erik Gustaffson were the only skaters on the plus side of the afternoon.
Shots – Sam Bennett continues to impress, leading the team with five shots on goal.

Fancy Stats

A virtual tie in shot attempts five on five, though the Stars had the edge 57-56 (rounds to just 50%) on period splits of 65%/58% and 32% score effects playing a role of course. Dallas had 61% of the high danger chances and an xGF% of 53% through the game.

In all situations the Flames had 52% of the shot attempts, 38% of the high danger chances and a xGF% of just 46%.

More players on the positive side for the Flames in this one, as Mikael Backlund led the way with 64% in five on five shot attempts. Milan Lucic, Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson were also in the 60s. Alan Quine was at the bottom of the pile with just 28%, his linemates Derek Ryan and Zach Rinaldo not much better.


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