The Calgary Flames find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. With so many games against opponents in a similar situation, every game matters, especially those against other bubble teams. Last night’s showdown between the Flames and Dallas Stars was exactly that: a Western showdown with big playoff implications.
Still without starting netminder Mike Smith, Jon Gillies tended the Flames’ crease opposite Ben Bishop for the Stars. The first period was a back and forth affair. It included a lengthy Flames 5on3 powerplay, but the closest chance they managed to create was a Dougie Hamilton snapper that rang off the crossbar. The Stars would open the scoring in the dying minutes off a patient play from Devin Shore and the Flames entered the first intermission down by one goal. The first period wasn’t great, but that changed in the second and third periods.
The Flames were, without a doubt, the better team in the latter two periods. Save for several penalties called by the trigger happy referees, they drove play and pushed hard to equalize. Unfortunately, nothing could get by Bishop last night, and the Flames fell 2-0. Bishop made 38 saves in his shutout performance.
Player of the Game: Mark Giordano
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Matthew Tkachuk completely dominated the Stars last night, posting a game high 82.4% CF.
- In his Flames debut, Chris Stewart posted a team worst 34.5% CF.
- In addition to Stewart, only two other players had less than 50% CF: Michael Stone and TJ Brodie.
- The rest of the team was at 50% or higher, with six players above 70% CF.
- The Stars only had one player above 50% CF: Shore.
- The Stars had eight players post a sub 40% CF%, with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn being the worst at 27.3% and 26.3% respectively.
- The Flames won the all situations SCF battle with 65.2%, and all situations HDCF battle with 70.8%.
- Bishop posted a 1.000% SV%.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
John: Lots of things didn’t go right last night for the Flames, but that was in large part due to Bishop completely stymieing the team at every turn. Should they have won this game? Probably. Their complete dominance of the Stars in all major statistical categories cannot be overlooked. At one point in the 3rd period, the Flames had a +94% in CF%, which ended at 73.4% at 5v5. They simply could not solve Bishop. Of course the Flames also could not find the net most of the time, with the majority of SA missing the net.
The major takeaway from last night’s game is obviously going to be Stewart’s debut, and how that impacted the team. I was completely for the claim on Stewart and I was excited to see what he could bring to the team. Everyone was quick to judge his debut on the top line, but you have to give the guy a chance first before jumping to conclusions. It didn’t go as well as the team would have hoped I’m sure, but the problem I have after has nothing to do with his missed clearing attemp that led to the eventual winner.
Coming out of the Colorado matinee, the Flames looked outstanding. They beat the Avalanche in every aspect, and controlled the game from start to finish. Yes the trade deadline came afterwards, but did the Flames look like they needed a lineup change? Absolutely not. If you plan on inserting Stewart, I would have expected playing on the third line with Mark Jankowski and Garnet Hathaway would have been a worth while debut. Instead, Sam Bennett was demoted after showing fantastic chemistry with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The new look top line was able to generate some chances, but all in all it was a failed experiment.
To put the decision in a statistical perepctive, Gaudreau posted a CF% of 23.8% with Stewart and 82.4% without. Monahan showed the same drastic trend, posting a 31.8% with Stewart, but a 78.6% without him. To contrast their numbers with Bennett, Gaudreau and Monahan posted a 72.7% and 77.8% respectively with Bennett on their wing.
What is even more of a shock was that Stewart also took multiple shifts with Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk, effectively swapping out Michael Frolik. For Gulutzan to think a spot on the 3M line was the solution is beyond confusing.
I have absolutely no problem with Stewart being in the lineup, as long as he is deployed properly. He wasn’t acquired with considerable assets, therefore he shouldn’t be used as such. The fact that Gulutzan didn’t give him a chance to acclimate properly, with say the third or fourth lines, makes the amount of scrutiny he will receive far greater than it should be. Stewart has been lauded for how amazing of a teammate he has been, and frankly it’s not fair to expect him to score 20 goals on the top line. I hope to see him remain in the lineup, but simply just with a different configuration.
Karim: Sometimes you just aren’t going to win. Bishop was too good last night and I just don’t think the Flames’ loss can be pegged on any player. Bishop committed bank robbery and there wasn’t anything that the Flames could do about it.
The Flames fired 38 shots on net, and had a whopping 43 scoring chances, 17 of which were high danger chances. Bishop was a man possessed, that’s all there is to it.
Glen Gulutzan got a bench minor for saying a bad word, so hopefully everyone who was calling for his head for not showing enough emotion can stop using that ridiculous reasoning.
Tonight’s matchup against the Avalanche is massive. It’s the biggest game of the year in respect to potential playoff odds swings. If the Flames win, their odds go up by 10%. Lose and they go down by 10%. If there was any game where the Flames needed to put together a full effort, it’s tonight.
You’ll all be happy to know that I started digging for vibranium last night in my backyard in an effort to cure Smith as soon as possible.
What needs to be fixed? Minor Penalties.
Calgary took six minor penalties last night, leading to a 1/6 conversion by the Stars. Questionable officiating aside, the Flames put themselves in an awful position by taking so many unnecessary penalties. Bennett once again took an offensive zone infraction, while others like Curtis Lazar and Hathaway took infractions that insult their place in the lineup. Yes the Flames were completely denied on their PP opportunities, but when pace of play was being dictated by Calgary, these minor penalties do more than just put the team down a player. They change the focus from attack to defend, which last night threw them off the rails.
What needs to continue? Control.
The Flames showed how dominant they can be. In the second and third periods, they rolled over the Stars possession wise, and made a serious push to win the game. They won’t run into extraterrestrial goaltending every night, so keeping up this level of game control is a recipe of success tonight and going forward.
The Flames face the Colorado Avalanche tonight on the second half of a back-to-back. David Rittich will likely get the start, his first in three games. This is as close to a must-win game as we’ve had this year.