The Dallas Stars look to go up 3-1 in the series in Game 4 at home against the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
Stars-Flames Intensity Will Only Get Higher
The first three games of this series have arguably been the most physical across the entire league. After another penalty-filled Game 3, the Stars expect the intensity to continue to increase as the Flames look to even the series.
“The longer you get into a series, the more intense it gets,” Michael Raffl said. “It’s only going to go up from here and I can’t wait for tonight and going forward.”
The key for Dallas will be to match or better the intensity brought by Calgary. They were able to do it in Games 2 and 3 and had success because of it. If they can slow the Flames down at the start once again, they could establish their game and begin to put some doubt in their opponent.
“Every series is the same,” Bowness said. “As the series goes on, it gets more intense. You just keep raising the level of intensity as much as you can. Calgary doesn’t want to go down 3-1, we want to put them down 3-1. The intensity just automatically goes along with the predicament the team finds themselves in. We’ll handle it, we’ll be fine.”
The intensity has not slowed after the whistle, in fact, you could even say it has increased. John Klingberg, Rasmus Andersson, Jamie Benn, Matthew Tkachuk, Michael Raffl, Milan Lucic, and the list goes on of players that have been in the middle of many post-whistle activities.
“I love the intensity,” Rick Bowness said. “It’s an intense physical game out there. When you are challenged in our league, you’ve got to stand up for yourself. Right now, the stakes are the highest and you want your players to respond to that.”
In Game 3, it was Tkachuk and Klingberg that dropped the gloves, but after that, Benn took over and worked on Tkachuk, trying to get the young forward to bite.
Tkachuk did not go for it, although Benn stayed in his ear with comments like “I’m right here, Matty” and “I’ll stay a little longer so you can get me when I am tired” for the entire 60 minutes. This morning, he was asked if he was surprised that Tkachuk did not accept his invitation to fight.
“No,” Benn smiled. “He’s a smart kid.”
Stars Believe They Can Play Better
Dallas did not play a perfect game on Saturday night, that is no secret. They burped up a few pucks, took some bad penalties, and forced Jake Oettinger to make some timely saves including a breakaway stop on Johnny Gaudreau in the closing minutes. Heading into Game 4, Rick Bowness believes that they can play a lot better.
“We would like to tighten up in a few areas,” Bowness said. “We are giving up too many scoring chances and that’s not our team. Offensively, we can do more. We need a balanced attack but there are a few things we have been emphasizing since Game 1 and will keep emphasizing that with our team for creating more offense.”
At the same time, Calgary also believes they can play a lot better, and that is part of the fun of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both teams want to get going while they also try to stop the opponent from finding their game. It is a mental and physical battle that will continue throughout the entirety of the series.
“We can play better, I am convinced of that,” Bowness said. “I know Darryl [Sutter] is saying the same thing about his team. There is not a lot of room out there right now. So, it is easy for us to say we can play better but when you are on the ice and things are happening as fast as they are, it’s a lot harder. Can we play better? Yeah. Are they going to let us play better? Probably not. We’re trying to not let their team get going either.”
One line that has made a huge difference so far in the series is the trio of Jamie Benn, Michael Raffl, and Denis Gurianov. Raffl has one goal, 12 hits, and 13 penalty minutes, Benn has 11 hits and has been a leader both physically and vocally, and Gurianov has displayed a much higher defensive responsibility. At the same time, they also know they can provide more offense and the Stars could use some scoring from them.
“I like how physical we’ve played but I think we can hold onto pucks a little longer, create a little more in the O-zone, and at the same time, take care of our own end,” Benn said.
Flames Scouting Report
It is pretty simple for the Calgary Flames. Win tonight, and they head back home in a best of three with home-ice advantage. Lose, and they will be forced to win three straight, something that has been done only 9.2% of the time through NHL history.
“Our group still feels really good, really confident in our ability,” Calgary forward Blake Coleman said. “We win one game we have home ice back, and that’s the goal coming in here. There’s no panic in our room. We have a lot of guys who have been here in these situations. Like I said, it’s seven games for a reason.”
- Jake Oettinger is in net
- Alexander Radulov will re-enter the lineup after missing Game 3. Marian Studenic will come out.
He Said It
“I think we approach it shift by shift and one game at a time. Raffl said when asked how they will handle the desperation from Calgary. “It doesn’t matter what the series is at, you prepare yourself mentally from now on until the puck drops, physically you have got to be ready. You go out there, try to win your one-on-one battle right away, and go from there.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!