No one saw this coming, but the reality of the situation is that the Calgary Flames were taken all the way to Game 7 by the Dallas Stars. Both teams can look back at this series and learn from it, but learnings and reflections are for the offseason. It’s now or never for both the Flames and Stars. What will ensue on the Saddledome ice in the series finale? We asked, you answered.
A series of unfortunate events
The Flames were heavy favourites, with analysts, pundits, and fans alike slotting the Flames are clear victors. Few expected this series to go to seven games, and fewer expected the series to shape up the way it has. A shocking disappearance of the Flames’ regular season dominance, an all-time goaltending battle between a veteran and a rookie, and a gruelling chess match of defensive shutdowns and low-event hockey have all been themes of the series.
Now with just one chance remaining, do the Flames send themselves to their first Battle of Alberta of the modern era, or do the Stars takeover the narrative?
A quick history of Calgary’s Game 7s
The Flames are heading into their first Game 7 since 2008, when they were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. They’re currently on a three-game losing streak when playing in Game 7s, which includes the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. The last Game 7 that was won by Calgary was also during the 2004 Cup run, which saw the Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Conference Quarterfinals.
So this 2021–22 iteration of the Flames, Game 7 experience only comes from playoff veterans who played in those games with other teams. If a player was drafted by the Calgary Flames, this is their first Game 7 ever—from Mikael Backlund all the way through to Matthew Tkachuk and Dillon Dube.
No matter the outcome, this single game with give the Flames valuable playoff experience.
The stats of the series
The Flames and Stars have been the lowest-scoring series of the first round so far. A large reason being the stellar play of Jacob Markstrom and Jake Oettinger. Both goalies have been outstanding, and they’ve both won games for their teams.
The thing is, most expected the Stars to play the style of hockey they have played, no one thought the Flames would be in this situation. The Flames were among the league’s top scoring teams, and yet they’ve been held to a fraction of their previous scoring rates. Their highest-scoring game saw four goals—one of which was an empty-netter. They’ve scored one, zero, two, four, three, and two goals over the first six games of the series. Mind-boggling.
Turning to some advanced metrics, this is how the series have broken down in terms of expected goals. Stats are from NaturalStatTrick.com, including 5v5 score- and venue-adjusted stats as well as all situations stats. Note the table only shows the Flames’ expected goal percentages and the Stars would have the exact opposite percentages.
|Game State||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Game 6|
The easy way to look at this is aside from Game 6 where the Stars completely dominated the Flames at all situations, Calgary had otherwise been playing fairly decent hockey. They just have not scored goals to match it.
There were tight battles—not surprising in the playoffs—but the Flames typically held the edge in controlling the game flow. Most times this is a recipe for success, but right now it’s starting to build up pressure for a team that has yet to truly figure out how to score in the playoffs.
Turning to the goaltenders in the series, here’s how their goals saved above expected (GSAx) numbers breakdown. We’ll look at all situations only to reflect their actual play over the course of every game.
|Player||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Game 6|
Both goaltenders have yet to have a truly bad game, and in fact if there’s a goaltending case for an early Conn Smythe favourite, either of these goalies are definitely shortlisted.
What’s to come in Game 7
Most are expecting or hoping for a Flames win, with a strong majority selecting a close battle for one final showdown. Based on how the first six games have gone, chances are it will be exactly that. With both goaltenders playing their best games, this series finale is set for another grudge match. We’ll see who comes out on top.
Which players will show up tonight for either team? How do you think Game 7 will play out? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire