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About Last Night Round 1 Game 5: Flames slow start burns them as Stars take 3-2 lead

Another day, another game where the Flames did not start on time. They came out very flat, and the Stars most certainly did not. At the tail end of a four on four, the Stars made a play up ice and as the Flames went to the man-advantage, Jamie Benn took a pass from Tyler Seguin and put it past Cam Talbot to put the Stars up 1-0. The Stars kept pressing, but with seconds left in the first, Mikael Backlund faked a shot then took a laser shot that beat Anton Khudobin through traffic to even the score at 1-1.

The second period the Flames started to find their feet. Coach Geoff Ward moved Elias Lindholm down to the second line and elevated Tobias Rieder to play alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. This paid dividends, as the Flames were able to get zone time and set up plays, but the Stars kept them to the outside. The score stayed level at 1-1.

Early in the third, the Stars started by pressing hard again. Just minutes in, John Klinberg’s howler from the point cut through traffic and beat Talbot up high for the Stars to regain the lead. The Flames pressed but were unable to generate many quality chances. The Stars hung on to beat the Flames 2-1.

Statistical Breakdown

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Team Stats

5v5 Player Stats

Calgary Flames
  • Backlund was impressive in this one with the only goal and a team leading 63.6% CF. Stick taps to Milan Lucic for posting the second best CF at 61.3%
  • Alan Quine posted a team low 28% CF in almost nine minutes of icetime. Not great to see him getting buried in a limited number of shifts.
  • Noah Hanifin was individually quite good with a whopping ten individual corsi attempts, although only two of those hit the net.
Dallas Stars
  • Playing in a team low six minutes of icetime, Taylor Fedun posted a team high 75% CF
  • Jason Dickinson was completely underwater with a team low 21.4% CF
  • Miro Heiskanen showed once again why he is considered an elite blueliner, posting eight individual shot attempts, six of which were scoring chances
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Thoughts on the Game

After a rough last game in which they were outplayed, outshot, and outchanced, but somehow found a way to hang on, the Flames responded reasonably well. They were able to establish offensive zone time, mostly keep the Stars to the outside, and limit the Stars offensive threat substantially. No Stars skater had more than one high danger chance in this one.

But old habits die hard. The Flames again struggled to start on time. Dallas had the lion’s share of chances early on, and rang a couple of chances off the bar. Once again, the Flames relied on Talbot to bail them out too many times early on.

The big issue that they need to address is their zone exits. The Flames are very sloppy when they try to transition from defense to offense. They do not control the puck leaving the zone, and rely on either rimming the puck around the boards or making a pass through the neutral zone when none exists. As a result, they struggle to get the puck out of the zone, and when they do it often ends up right back in the Stars’ hands. This is not good enough at this point in the season. Dallas is doing a great job of clogging up the neutral zone and challenging the Flames in their own zone. The boys in red need to find a way to break the press with either quicker passes or by finding a way to skate through the pressure if they are going to have success next game.

The Flames really struggled in the first but seemed to turn a corner in the second period when coach Ward shuffled up his line. The first line has been repeatedly demolished at 5v5, generating their first high danger chance of these playoffs last game. Even with 80% offensive zone starts in the first period, the top line was completely underwater in terms of possession.

Moving Rieder, who struggled to score at Rogers Place last season, to the top line seemed to work wonders. The line finished with a 66.7% CF, a full 36% better than the line did with Lindholm. They generated two high danger chances in the second period, allowed zero against, and only allowed one scoring chance against. Time will tell whether Ward keeps this group together for the next game, but it seemed to be working much better than the alternative.

The second group also looked much better with Lindholm on it. Posting a team high 75% CF with 44% offensive zone starts, this was a much stronger game for them. Backlund looked better than he has the last few games, and having Lindholm there gives the line another faceoff taker, and another strong two-way option. With the absence of Matthew Tkachuk looming large, Lindholm on the 3M (MME?) line can be useful countering the top Stars’ skaters.

The Flames now find their backs against the wall. It is do or die time in Edmonton for them. They need a win in the next game, or it will be time to hit the greens for the remainder of the season. The Flames will need to do a few things right to get through to game seven.

  1. They are going to need to find a way to get quality high danger chances on net. The top Flames players have been limited at 5v5 in this regard especially. The Flames managed zero high danger chances in the third period, and registering only six scoring chances the whole game. Their goal came from the high slot, which while a great place to shoot, is not going to give you as much success as from right in front of the net. The Stars’ defense has been very good at boxing the Flames’ skaters out, but they need to find a way to the blue paint in order to be successful.
  2. The Flames’ defense needs to be sharper. Somehow the elite Flames’ defense, which has been a cornerstone of this team’s success has fallen short. As pointed out by our friend Ryan Pike of the PHWA, only Erik Gustafsson has been on the ice for more Flames shot attempts and scoring chances than those taken by Dallas. The opposition Stars have been completely in control of this series. Somehow the Flames have to find a way to shut them down. This starts by limiting rush attempts going the other way. Tracking back as a unit to minimize odd-man rushes. It also means the Flames need to work harder when they regain control to transition from defense to offense.
  3. Cam Talbot needs to be at his very best again. He has been the MVP for the Flames this post-season, and it has not been close. He has been their best player by a mile, and in game six, they will need him to be just as good if not better. He has been the one who has kept them in this series, and if they have a chance of making it to the next round, he may need to be even better.

If the Flames can do these three things, they stand the best chance of making it to game seven and beyond. These are not big asks. We have seen them do all of this and more in the regular season. They just need to come out to play totally fired up for game six. Let’s see if they can make fans proud!

The Gaud, the Bad, and the UGLY

Good: Once again, another great game from Sam Bennett who was electric up and down the ice. He threw three hits, but also had five shot attempts, and two individual high danger chances for. Another Playoff Bennett game.

Bad: The Flames had 17 minutes in the third to try and tie the game, but could not generate a single high danger chance for. They need to work harder to get inside the high danger zones and get chances.

Ugly: Dallas once again was the hungrier team in this one. They played with a lot of fight and took the game to the Flames.

Next Game

Opponent: Dallas Stars
Record: 2-3

Photo by: Bruce Bennett/ Getty Images

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