This was probably the best Calgary Flames playoff game we have seen in years. The Flames played like how they have all season. The Flames generated 54 shots (yes 54), and allowed 34 shots against. A high volume of shots, and a lower volume of shots allowed, we saw this type of play from this team for pretty much 82 games, and it is very encouraging to finally see them translate it to the playoffs. On top of this, much more of their shots were generated from right in front of the net.
This is exactly what you need to beat a goalie who is performing as well as Jake Oettinger has been. Now we know it is possible, and if they can do it once, they can do it again. The Flames out shot, out blocked, and in the end, outscored the Dallas Stars. Also, Jacob Markstrom was phenomenal again.
I am extremely glad to share with you all that my heart rate has finally slowed down from roughly 150bpm for two days straight. I am now, dare I say, kind of happy again? Let’s hope this lasts long, I like this feeling a lot.
The series is now 2–2, and we know that there will at least be a Game 6. I know I said it before, but now I am saying it with much more confidence. This series is not over. Not even close.
Again, let’s start off this edition of the Afterburner with another poem from our very own Bill Tran:
Matthew Tkachuk and the top line
That is exactly what we need from Matthew Tkachuk. Good things happen when your best players stay on the ice. We didn’t see Tkachuk challenge anybody to a fight, and he got back at John Klingberg and the Stars the best way he could—with a win in their own arena. Matthew Tkachuk is seen by a lot in the Flames community as a future captain of this franchise. The way he performed last night is what you expect from a captain. He was contributing, effective on the ice, and was a vocal leader on the bench. Take a look at how engaged Tkachuk is on the bench after Johnny Gaudreau‘s filthy penalty shot.
Tkachuk can be engaged in a playoff game without putting himself in the box for five minutes. It is that simple. Matthew Tkachuk recorded one assist, and was on the ice for 12 scoring chances and only six chances against. In fact, the whole top line played pretty well this game.
The top line of Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm only recorded a CF% of 45%, but they generated a goal, a SCF% of 60%, and a HDCF% of 50%. Those stats are pretty mediocre, however what really stands out is that they generated a xGF% of 73.20%. Not bad from the top line. We have seen better, but this is a good start for the line to get things going this series.
Oh, and for all the “Gaudreau disappears in the playoffs” naysayers, I have two things to say: First off, did you see that filthy penalty shot? Yes it was a penalty shot, but he completely undressed a goalie who is playing at an incredible level. Second of all, Gaudreau has four points in four games this series, and he has recorded a point in 57% of the Flames goals this series. So he very much in fact has not disappeared in the slightest.
Coleman’s stint on the second line
As Sutter opted to dress seven defenceman and 11 forwards, the lines did need to rotate. One of the lines that played some of the most minutes on the Flames? Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman. They played 3:15 together, but wow were they excellent. The line generated a CF% of 82.35%, a SF% of 91.67%, and a xGF% of 74.97%. Those are some very, very good results in a small playoff sample.
Was Sutter using this game as a chance to see what this line can do without fully showing his hand? Maybe. But one thing that is clear is that this line absolutely needs to stay together. I said it before and I will say it again: This line was elite during the regular season.
In a series where goals are incredibly hard to come by for both teams, both offence and defence are incredibly important as one mistake can cost you the game. This line is elite both offensively and defensively, and it might just be the key to moving on to Round 2 for the Flames.
Dominance after the 5-on-3
Rasmus Andersson scored a goal from the point during a 5-on-3 power play which gave the Flames a 1–0 advantage. Andersson scored at the 9:57 mark of the second period, and following that goal, the Flames were really able to keep the puck in the offensive zone. This was the best shift we have seen from the Flames without a doubt. Dallas tried to clear the puck after the Flames cycled and got some chances, however the Flames quickly got the puck back and pushed right back into the offensive zone. The Stars were not even able to change.
Dallas had another chance to clear, however Seguin ended up icing the puck instead. This was pure dominance from the Flames and it was very encouraging to see. The team was finally able to showcase why it was the best 5v5 team in the regular season.
Unfortunately, the zone time ended with a penalty being called on Mangiapane. However, the Flames were able to keep Jason Robertson on the ice for a full 3:25, and Klingberg for 3:35. Every other Star on the ice had a shift that was at least 2 minutes. That is an incredibly long shift for the team and if you are the Flames, that is exactly what you want. Wear them down, and find your chances. By far the best hockey we have seen from this group this series.
Faceoffs were a strength
During Game 3, faceoffs were a struggle for the Flames, especially when they were trying to kill the penalty from Blake Coleman. This game, the story was much different. The Flames won the faceoff battle, and eventually won the game. We saw key faceoffs won at key times.
Throughout this series, the team that has won the most faceoffs has ended up winning the game. In Game 1, the Flames won 56% of the faceoffs and won 1–0. Game 2, Dallas won 57% of the faceoffs and won 2–0. Game 3, Dallas again with 53% of the faceoffs and a 4–2 victory. Finally with Game 4, the Flames won 56% of the faceoffs and won 4–1. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
For a series that is incredibly defensive, where offensive chances, and zone time is tough to come by, faceoffs are key. If the Flames want to win this series, I am sure a major focus is being placed on the performance in this area.
Carry forward the momentum
Game 4 was a must-win for the Flames, and they certainly showed up. Scoring three goals on a goalie who is on a heater like Oettinger is has got to feel good, and it is something that they should carry forward with them into future games.
This game showed the Flames that it is very much possible that they can win this series with their style of play. Scoring a power play goal, and a 5v5 goal has got to boost the confidence of this group, and the Flames are right back in this series. This win felt pretty good, but in the words of Kobe Bryant: