Never have I been so devastated and so happy within the span of 20 minutes. Here I am, sitting in my Flames jersey writing this edition of the Afterburner. The same Flames jersey that I was so close to wiping my tears with earlier tonight. The Flames came through. They had a slow first period, and a meh second period. After that, they had an unbelievable third that I am still trying to wrap my head around.
The Flames did not play a perfect game. I think that is very obvious. There were missed passes, sloppy plays, pucks hopping over sticks, and overall it was not a good time. What they did do however, is play a perfect third period. What an incredible turnaround.
That type of resilience is amazing to see during a time of the year where we are used to seeing no fight from this team. This is the first time this series that the team who scored first ended up losing. It is also the first time this series that the team who won the most faceoffs lost the game. Just when I started to lose hope, the team came through big time. You could really make a TV show out of this team. Riverdome maybe?
The first two periods
The only way to describe the first 40 minutes is that the Flames were just there. They were playing hockey and so were the Stars. Neither team really had an edge over each other. Every stat was close except HDCF which Dallas had six compared to Calgary’s one. Five of those chances however, were from the first period. The Flames were in the game, but it really felt like they were out of it. After two periods, the Flames did not come close to putting up enough quality chances. Zero shots at 5v5 came from right in front of the net. Take a look at the heat map below from Natural Stat Trick.
In the second period, a complete fluke of a goal got past Markstrom. Jason Robertson‘s shot was saved by Markstrom, ricocheted off Hanifin, and it then went into the net. With the way this series has gone, and the way those first couple periods went, I truly thought that the game was a wrap.
Despite the goal against, the Flames were showing some push back during the second period. Flames led the CF% with 62.22%. In the first period, Flames had a CF% of 53.85%. They took a tiny step in their push, and it was really a teaser for what the third period was going to be like.
One thing that was great to see at the beginning of the game however, was this monster hit from Erik Gudbranson. Jamie Benn, who got fined twice in his last two games, went down in a hurry— a rare sight for the Dallas captain.
Mangiapane, Backlund, Coleman terrific again
I do not know how many times we have to preach this, but do not separate this line ever again. What an incredible game from these three players. This is the line that dragged the Flames back into the game. First came the incredible set up from Andrew Mangiapane to set up Mikael Backlund for a goal right in front of the net, and what a play it was.
Also, shoutout to the guy throwing popcorn into the air around the 16 second mark. It’s safe to say that this goal brought the fans both inside and outside the Saddledome back to life. The best moment by far was when Mangiapane launched a rocket and went bar down to take the lead. The Breadman rose to the occasion, and he went absolutely yeastmode with this shot.
What a phenomenal call by Rick Ball. What a shot from Andrew Mangiapane. What a sound that the cross bar made with the puck. What a reaction from the crowd. What a celebration from Mangiapane. This was absolutely electric. Leah Hextall on ESPN had a great call on this goal as well. I will be watching these clips many times, I can promise you that.
The line finished with a 41.67% CF%, 55.34% xGF%, and a 75% HDCF%. Not bad at all for such a tight checking game. If this line stays together, which it should, the Flames will have two elite lines that Dallas will have to try and deal with. That should be a problem for them.
The penalty kill and Markstrom
One thing that I have not talked about yet which I think really deserves some attention is how fantastic the Flames’ penalty kill has been all series long. Out of the 20 times the Flames have had to kill a penalty, they have only allowed a goal twice. That is a 90% penalty kill. This is the second best penalty kill in the playoffs as the Flames are right behind the Washington Capitals who have managed to kill all their penalties—against the Florida Panthers no less.
It is very reassuring to have a penalty kill performing the way it has been during this series, especially with how tight every single game is. Every goal feels like it is so much more valuable with how low-scoring and defensive this series has been. But one reason why the Flames have been able to take a lead in the series is because of the penalty kill.
Jacob Markstrom once again was fantastic. Time and time again he shows up for this team and makes key saves at key times. Even during this game, in the late moments of the third period, noted Flames killer Joe Pavelski had an incredible chance right in front of the net to tie the game. Jacob Markstrom had other plans. Throughout this series, he has proved to the league why he is a Vezina finalist.
One more win
The Flames are now up in this series 3–2. They just need one more win to finally move on to the second round for the first time in seven years. One more win to get rid of the demons. One more win until they can show the league that they mean business. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, as I have been hurt way too many times by this franchise. However Round 2 is right there. If the Flames want it, they will need to show up in Dallas and play a full 60 minutes. Here’s hoping that they do.