In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at what’s happening with the team as it heads into Game 5 against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The first-round series is tied 2-2. If the series plays true to script thus far, Flames goalie Cam Talbot will stone the Stars, but we’ll see.
Item One: Austin Czarnik Has Left the Bubble
Austin Czarnik will be unavailable to the Flames. The 27-year-old forward left the bubble to attend to a family matter, and no timeline has been given for his return. If he is able to come back, he’ll be forced to quarantine for four days and, during those four days, must receive four straight negative COVID-19 tests.
Czarnik only played eight games during the regular season and hasn’t suited up during the postseason. He spent much of the 2019-20 season with the Flames’ AHL affiliate Stockton Heat and, in fact, was a point-per-game player with them (16 goals, 17 assists, in 32 games). His game hasn’t yet translated to the NHL, but his season was slowed by injury.
Item Two: Geoff Ward Is Clear: Don’t Blame Cam Talbot
Flames head coach Geoff Ward has been in Talbot’s corner all postseason. After the 5-4, Game 2 loss, Ward sent a message to the rest of his team when he came back with Talbot for Game 3. Talbot responded with a 2-0 shutout.
Talbot was sharp in Game 2, making 35 saves, and he has looked strong throughout the first-round series. Game 3 was the fourth postseason shutout in Talbot’s career and his second in 2020.
Although he gave up five goals in the 5-4, Game 4 overtime loss to the Stars, it’s tough to blame Talbot for that loss either. He stopped 57 shots, but the Flames’ poor play spoiled his strong game. He had the team ahead during the third period, but the Stars threw 21 shots on net and scored the game-tying goal with only 11.9 seconds left in regulation time.
Item Three: Matthew Tkachuk Is a Game-Day Decision
Matthew Tkachuk has already missed two games and might miss Game 5. He might be close to coming back because, before each game, his status is marked as questionable.
It’s especially tough to find out information about a player’s status during the playoffs, and Ward hasn’t helped. He said that there was “nothing new” to report about Tkachuk’s status.
Because he didn’t skate in warm-ups during Games 3 and 4, Flames fans will have to wait until game-time on Tuesday to see what’s happening. If he takes the warm-ups, he’ll likely play.
Item Four: Ward Critiques Team for Taking Stupid Penalties
Ward has been clear about one thing: his team is taking too many penalties. That’s especially troubling if his team continues to rely on their goalie to keep them in this series. During Sunday’s game, the Flames took seven penalties and the Stars scored twice. Basically, that was the game.
After Game 4, Ward critiqued his team’s discipline and sided with the officiating: “That’s probably the one thing we need to take a serious look at. Our discipline needs to be better. I looked at all the calls, and they were calls, and I’ve got no issue with what the referees were calling. The fact is we can’t put ourselves short-handed that many times,” (from Ward to Flames charges after tough OT loss: Too many penalties, Kristen Anderson, Calgary Sun, 08/17/20).
Item Five: Tobias Rieder Has Become a Shorthanded Scoring Machine
It’s really good to see Tobias Rieder contributing. He didn’t score a single goal with the Edmonton Oilers last season, after a successful time with the Arizona Coyotes for four seasons. This postseason, he’s shown great scoring in the oddest of places, especially on the penalty kill.
Rieder scored again during Sunday’s game, which was his third shorthanded goal of the postseason. For a short time, his third-period goal had the Flames ahead 4-3, but the team couldn’t hold it. With his goal, Rieder became the seventh player in NHL history to score three shorthanded goals during a single postseason. He has four points in eight games.
Item Six: Johnny Gaudreau Scores 2 Points in Sunday’s Overtime Loss
While Rieder is scoring shorthanded, Johnny Gaudreau is helping to carry the Flames’ power play. Both of Gaudreau’s points (a goal and an assist) came on second-period power plays.
So far, Johnny Hockey has scored three goals and three assists in eight games.
Item Seven: Sam Bennett Has 2 Straight Postseasons of Success
Last season, when the Flames were ousted from the first round of the playoffs, it seemed as if Sam Bennett was one of the few players who showed up, scoring five points in five games. This postseason, Bennett’s been just as good, scoring five goals and seven points in eight games.
Curiously, the fourth-overall pick from the 2014 Draft doesn’t score nearly as much during the regular season. However, during the playoffs, Bennett shows up.
What’s Next for the Flames?
It’s been an up-and-down series for the Flames. The Stars will come into Game 5 with the momentum of having stormed back to overwhelm Talbot and the Flames’ defense at the end of Game 4.
Can the Flames regroup for Game 5 and offer their goalie a bit more help? Will Tkachuk play? Both are important if the Flames are to take a 3-2 series lead.