Game Takes: Stars 7 Flames 3 (Dallas Wins Series 4-2)

August 21st, 2020 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Being a Calgary Flames fan builds character.

You develop a certain scar tissue year in and year out as the team consistently finds new ways to under perform or let you down in the post season. That is … in seasons where they make the post season at all.

Have to hand it to the 2019-20 Calgary Flames though, they’ve found a new way to wrap things up in a spectacular fashion that will not only leave a mark, but a lasting image that just won’t go away no matter how long this next off season is.

The Flames did pretty much everything right to start on Thursday night.

They came out flying, completely overwhelmed the Dallas Stars in running up a 8-0 shot lead, and a quick 3-0 lead on goals by Andrew Mangiapane, Johnny Gaudreau and Rasmus Andersson.

Then a complete collapse of both goaltenders in the second period erased a 3-1 lead and replaced it with a 6-3 deficit, in a period where the Stars had 12 shots, the Flames 12 shots. The scoring chances in the second were 7-6 Dallas. Five goals!

From there despite having the overall play, shot attempts, scoring chances, zone time, and expected goal split firmly on their side the Flames were doomed, the season over.

A head scratcher that will not soon be forgotten.


Lineup Changes

Another game without Matthew Tkachuk unfortunately, the biggest impact potential that could have shaken out for a win or die game six.

So the big thing heading into this one was the configuration of the top line and second line in terms of homes for Elias Lindholm and Tobias Rieder, and potentially a change on the fourth line.

But we ended up getting more than we expected.

A top line of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau with Tobias Rieder starting on the right side, a second line with Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapae joined by Elias Lindholm; both moves made for the second period of game five. The third line is unchanged with Sam Bennett centering Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube, and then an all new fourth line with Derek Ryan between Mark Jankowski and a surprise starter Buddy Robinson.

No change to the defenseman of course as Mark Giordano is teamed up with TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin with Rasmus Andersson, and Erick Gustafsson with Derek Forbort.

Cam Talbot again starts in goal, his 10th straight start of these playoffs.

The Decision

That will create discussion for years.

Cam Talbot was one of the team’s most impactful players through nine playoff games this year, but had a rough go of it on Thursday night. Pulling him for momentum is certainly a tried and true remedy for a team struggling with great results in the past, but it completely imploded on the Calgary Flames when David Rittich had the puck pinball into his net twice not really giving him a chance to settle in.

The decision will be questioned because David Rittich hasn’t played a meaningful second of a hockey since March, and the entire season was on the line.

Given the nature of the goals, perhaps things wouldn’t have been any different … Talbot certainly wasn’t looking all that confident after getting beat cleanly on what looked like unscreened shots and then missing a dribbler through his pads.

But as it turned out, it couldn’t have gone worse.

What to do with Geoff Ward

It will be interesting to see what the Flames do with their head coach as well.

The list of positives for keeping Geoff Ward are many. The team came together; Cam Talbot last night said it was one of the closest teams he’s been on and that didn’t include just NHL hockey, but all the way back to his childhood. That’s worth something.

The team was relatively successful under his tutelage … a good record to finish the regular season after they struggled to start under Bill Peters, the victory over the Jets in the play in round, and then showing up with a little more vigor against the Stars than they did last year against the Avalanche.

So next you dig into style of play and systems. The Flames had success, but their underlying numbers weren’t all that stellar, and they didn’t seem to have an answer for the Stars when they wound up their forecheck in this series. That could be the team itself and not the head coach however, so it will be interesting to see how the management group proceeds.

What to do with Goaltending?

Cam Talbot felt like he let his teammates down, and I guess he did in game six. But you can’t overlook the fact that the guy stole the team’s last win in this series (game three) or this one would have been over in five and he never would have had a chance for the game six misstep.

He wasn’t good last night, but he’s a solid veteran goaltender.

I’d have no problem bringing him back in a similar role as this year, perhaps on a two year deal, but I really hope they don’t pay him as a bonafide starter because I just don’t think he is.

David Rittich is the bigger enigma, and I’m not just talking about his second period stint. His play tailed hard this season, a pattern we’ve seen for the last two years now. He’s signed for another year so they have an option to take another look at him, but is anyone convinced he’s the guy going forward?

Bottom line … the Flames had middling goaltending during the regular season, and they were 10th in team save percentage in the tournament.

You don’t win with middling goaltending.

Maybe Dustin Wolf can Carter Hart soon.

Lucic Penalty

Interesting how much the vantage point changes your view of things.

Live I thought Lucic made a foolish play (which in the end he of course did taking two minutes) by pushing a Dallas player into his goaltender.

The reverse replay however showed Dickenson stopping up and coming into Lucic first, and Lucic being the bigger man met the aggression and Dickenson went flying.

Did he mean to put him into his goaltender? Perhaps. But it wasn’t as cut and dried as it looked from the first angle.

The one thing that can’t be argued is the impact on the game for both his penalties really. Goaltending certainly played a role as well, as you need a save, but there’s no denying the Lucic first period penalty started a chain of events that left us all shocked by midway through the second period.

The 10 Games As a Whole

Interesting to dig into the player’s stats for the tournament as a whole.

The take away from the following lists? Keep an eye on Dillon Dube, he could be a first line player and not a middle sixer as expected. And Sam Bennett is all over these lists either in the top three, or residing in 4th and 5th in most.


  1. Sam Bennett 8
  2. Sean Monahan 8
  3. Johnny Gaudreau 7


  1. Sam Bennett 5
  2. Johnny Gaudreau 4
  3. Dillon Dube 4
  4. Michael Backlund 4

Individual Scoring Chances (5on5):

  1. Dillon Dube 11
  2. Sam Bennett 9
  3. Sean Monahan 7

CF% (5on5):

  1. Mikael Backlund 50.2%
  2. Dillon Dube 49.8%
  3. Andrew Mangiapane 49.6%

xGF% (5on5):

  1. Dillon Dube 54.6%
  2. Sam Bennett 54.1%
  3. Matthew Tkachuk 53.2%

Sam Bennett Watch

Would have to assume the Flames will now view Sam Bennett in a different light.

That is if Geoff Ward comes back.

A new coach could alter the path completely, but you’d think Ward would certainly give Bennett a look up the middle next year and on a line with guys that forecheck and play physical. It clearly worked. There is puck luck, but all the underlying data suggest Sam Bennett was an impact player in these playoffs.

And it changed him.

He started carrying the puck more, and with better results. He saw the ice better and found open linemates and defenseman. He drove to the net and created havoc. He started hitting the net with his shot.

If someone blows their socks off with an offer you certainly look at it, but the days of moving Sam Bennett for a change of scenery are over.

Or at least delayed until we see how he looks down the middle in the regular season.

Here Comes Change

The Flames got by the Jets, and played some quality hockey.

They didn’t completely implode and play scared. They worked their asses off and showed up every game.

But this is year two for this core, and year three for many and they just haven’t gotten things done to a level that would suggest you don’t make changes.

NHL teams make changes every year, players come and players go. This team has Tobias Rieder, Zach Rinaldo, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustaffson and Cam Talbot all on expiring contracts. There is going to be change.

But the big thing to watch will be the core pieces, because they just don’t seem to have the right mix to drive play and change the flow of a game that isn’t going their way. The emergence of Dillon Dube, and to a lesser extent Andrew Mangiapane, and the rebound of Sam Bennett gives them some options up front if they want to move on from one of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund. On the blueline change is guaranteed with UFAs leaving and a salary cap, but also the entry of a hopefully healthy Juuso Valimaki going forward.

My guess is two or three of Brodie, Hamonic, Gaudreau, Monahan, Backlund, Giordano won’t be here next year.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Flames 41 Stars 24
Face Offs – Flames 54%
Special Teams – Flames 1/3 Stars 2/2

Player Stats:

Points – Eight different players had one point for the Calgary Flames, on three first period goals.
Plus/Minus – The Calgary third and fourth lines were even, as well as Derek Forbort. The rest of the team was at least -1.
Shots – Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett all had five shots apiece to pace the team.

Fancy Stats

The Calgary Flames, largely outplayed in the series, had a 66% edge in five on five shot attempts last night on period splits of 71%/52% and 73%, score effects certainly helping in the third. The Flames had 63% of the high danger chances and an expected goal split of 63% five on five.

In all situations the Flames had 66% of the shot attempts, 63% of the high danger chances and 60% for xGF%. Yeah they lost!

Individually the Flames were lead by Sam Bennett at 80%, with Derek Ryan, Johnny Gaudreau, TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin, Mark Giordano and Mark Jankowski all in the 70s. Not a single player was under water on the night, but Derek Forbort did finish at 50% exactly.


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