Though it didn’t come as easy as most had imagined, the Calgary Flames were able to pull off a thrilling Game 7 overtime victory to eliminate the Dallas Stars from the playoffs on Sunday night. Like the rest of the series, things didn’t come easy as Darryl Sutter’s squad found themselves trailing 1-0 early, as well as 2-1 at one point during the second period. Credit to them, however, as they were able to overcome both deficits and eventually go on to win the game.
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Scoring the overtime winner was Johnny Gaudreau, who appears to be fully moved on from his well-documented past playoff struggles. As great as he was, several other players on this Flames roster stepped up as well, as they were able to advance on what was a very solid team effort for the majority of the series. Here are the three main reasons they were able to move on to the second round.
Top Stars Showed up When It Mattered
No Flames player was perfect in this series, but several individuals stepped up at crucial times. As mentioned, Gaudreau did just that by scoring the overtime winner. On top of that, he was without a doubt his team’s best player throughout the series, though even he went through brief periods of struggles, one of which resulted in him getting called out by Sutter.
One star on this Flames roster who really struggled at times throughout the series was Matthew Tkachuk. Like Gaudreau, he too has been criticized for his postseason performances in the past, and was goalless through the first six games of the series. As the saying goes, however, big players step up in big moments, and Tkachuk did just that on his second-period tally on Sunday evening that tied the game up at two apiece.
In order to have continued success moving forward, this Flames team will need these two to be at their best. For Gaudreau, that doesn’t appear to be much of a concern, as for the most part in this series he was excellent. The same cannot be said for Tkachuk, though his big goal in Game 7 may very well be what gets him going.
Depth Scoring Came up Clutch
Much like what was written above, the Flames did not receive the depth scoring they would have liked throughout the entirety of the series. With the additions Brad Treliving made at or near the trade deadline, many expected this team to score with relative ease during the playoffs. That wasn’t the case, as the Stars had a great defensive game plan which limited not only the Flames’ top players at times but their secondary scorers as well.
With that being said, this team’s depth also stepped up at crucial times. A perfect example is Tyler Toffoli, who like Tkachuk was held without a goal through the first six games of the series, but was able to put home a deflection early into the second period to tie things up at one. His two points through seven games isn’t ideal, but he deserves credit for showing up when needed the most.
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A similar sentiment can be said for Andrew Mangiapane, who by no means was at his best, but chose his only goal of the series to come at a very important time. His lone tally came in the third period of Game 5 in what was a 1-1 tie at the time. That goal gave the Flames their first lead of the evening and was one that they never gave up.
One player who was providing secondary scoring on a more consistent basis was Mikael Backlund, who is tied with Elias Lindholm for the team lead in goals with three. He was also able to add the primary assist on that Mangiapane goal mentioned above. The hope now is that he will be able to keep things rolling while some others look to find the consistency he has shown.
Timely Saves From Markstrom
The story of this series was undoubtedly the play of Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger, but make no mistake; Markstrom himself was absolutely incredible. While he didn’t face nearly as much rubber, he had several timely saves throughout the entirety of the series, and will head into the second round with a phenomenal 1.53 goals-against average along with a .943 save percentage.
This Flames team had a ton of pressure on them heading into Game 7 and had every reason to crumble after Jamie Benn put the Stars on the board just 40 seconds in. Instead of crumbling, however, the entire Flames team including their Swedish netminder, were able to regroup and play a nearly perfect game from there on out.
Markstrom is sure to be tested more in the second round against a much more offensively gifted team in the Edmonton Oilers. With that being said, he was fantastic all season long regardless of the competition, and that shouldn’t be expected to change. He has completely established himself as one of the league’s elite goaltenders and is a major part of the reason why so many consider this Flames team to be a contender.
Thrilling Series Ahead
For anybody who had complaints of the Flames’ first-round series being dull, that will not be the case in round two. The Oilers are a team who come at you offensively in waves, which at times can lead to some defensive lapses. This series will likely be much higher scoring than what we saw in round one against the Stars. While seeing another 9-5 outing like we saw between these clubs earlier in the season is unlikely, goals shouldn’t be as hard to come by for the Flames in this one. In the same breath, however, shutting things down defensively won’t be as easy of a task either, meaning they will need to be at their best from the opening puck drop of Game 1.