For two years in a row now, the Calgary Flames have been on the wrong end of pulling ahead in a series just to let their opponent flip the script and control the remainder of the series. The Flames have blown various leads in the playoffs lately, whether in a series or in-game, but perhaps there’s been none bigger than their Game Six setback against the Dallas Stars—a wound still far too fresh in the Flames’ memory.
The Flames seemed poised to make a splash in the 2020 Playoffs. There was much worry about facing off against Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets, where a lack of offence could have immediately sent the Flames home. However, they found their scoring and solved Hellebuyck, and they were buoyed by outstanding goaltending of the own, courtesy of Cam Talbot.
Talbot earned the nod to start in the playoffs after a strong showing during the Return To Play training camp and exhibition game against the Edmonton Oilers. With whatever goaltending questions and issues the Flames might have had heading into the playoffs, Talbot was determined to be the answer. And the answer he was.
Yes he Cam 2020
Talbot’s goaltending resume now includes a big play-in series win with the Flames and a valiant first round effort as well. In the ten games he played, he posted two shutouts, seven quality starts, and finished with a final save percentage of .924 (which includes the Stars’ Game 6 onslaught). All data included is courtesy of Hockey Reference.
There’s really nothing but praise for Talbot, who was by and large the Flames’ best player in the 2020 Playoffs. He was their crutch when their even strength play wasn’t working, he was their best penalty killer, and he had one of the best goaltending performances the Flames have received in the playoffs since their Stanley Cup run in 2003-04.
While that may be hard to believe (or is it?), it’s certainly true. No other Flames goaltender has played as well in the playoffs as Talbot has since Miikka Kiprusoff’s legendary performance. Let’s see how the Flames goaltenders of yesteryear and the distant past have stacked up sandwiched between the 2004 run and Talbot’s outstanding performance.
The years between
Last year, the Flames were eliminated in five games at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, but goaltending wasn’t to blame. In fact, Smith was arguably the Flames’ best player in that series too. It was one of those moments where Smith successfully warded off any ill-will from the regular season and showed the Flames that he was going to leave it all on the line.
The Flames did in fact boast the tandem of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson at one point, both of whom played well enough during the regular season and bring the Flames back into the playoff picture. Unfortunately, when it came to the actual playoffs, Elliott was not able to buy a save and Johnson saw limited action in a single relief game when it was too little too late. We all know how this one ended.
2015, also known as the last time the Flames won a playoff series. Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, and Micheal Ferland were three big reasons the Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks, but no player was bigger than Matt Stajan.
Turning back to the goalies, Jonas Hiller was great when he won and was relied upon in the first series. But he was also bad when he lost and he quickly tumbled right into the backup spot after a few mishaps and Karri Ramo took over the reigns. Unfortunately, the Flames just couldn’t find a way to beat the Anaheim Ducks in Round Two.
The last playoffs appearance of Kiprusoff’s storied career was… not great. After the lockout year, the Flames made it to four consecutive playoffs between 2005-06 through to 2008-09. They also had four consecutive first round exits. Kiprusoff was still a great goaltender throughout these years, even winning the Vezina and William M. Jennings trophies in 2005-06. But when it came to the playoffs, Calgary failed to advance a single time.
The Flames lost two series in Game Seven against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2006 and the San Jose Sharks in 2008. In their other two attempts, they were pushed to the brink of elimination in Game Six and weren’t able to mount a comeback against the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009.
It’s still a great shame that the Flames weren’t able to find themselves in extended postseason runs after the lockout as Jarome Iginla and Kiprusoff’s prime years quickly passed.
The Stanley Cup run
We finally get to 2004. The storied Flames playoff run was magical in every aspect, and Kiprusoff’s goaltending was phenomenal. He did everything right, and had a stellar stat line. Fifteen wins, a .928 save percentage, and five shutouts. An unforgettable performance from the Flames’ all time great.
Where do the Flames go from here
It’s been sixteen years since the Flames had a goaltender post more than one shutout in the playoffs. It’s been sixteen years since the Flames had a goaltender post more than four wins in the playoffs. It’s been sixteen years…
No matter how you break it down, Talbot definitively had the best playoff performance of any Flames goaltender since the Kiprusoff era. Talbot was the Flames’ best player in the 2020 Playoffs, there’s zero room for debate. For everything he did for the Flames this past month, it’s shame it had to end this early.
Talbot’s going to be a starter next season, no doubt about it. Whether that’s with the Flames or another team remains to be known. There’s only one thing left to say to close out the 2020 season for the Flames: Wham, bam, thank you Cam.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images
Credit note: Reddit user /u/KaRnAgEGiLL coincidentally posted the same stats regarding Flames goaltender save percentages in the playoffs prior to this article being published.