Flames Weekly: Down 2-1 Against the Dallas Stars in Low Scoring Series

Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was, and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.

Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Weekly

The playoffs – it was the one thing head coach Darryl Sutter never wanted to talk about during the regular season. Making the NHL’s “season season” was always the number one goal for the Flames’ bench boss, and that’s why he never wanted to pat anyone on the back for having a record-scoring year or for reaching a career milestone. He always said that his group hasn’t accomplished anything, so that’s why the 2021-22 postseason feels like it has so much riding on it. However, just three games into the first round, it’s been a very disappointing offensive effort for the boys in red.

Markstrom Perfect, First Line Delivers In Game 1 Victory

The Flames looked like they’d been launched from a cannon during the first 10 minutes of this game. The electric atmosphere at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night was amped up even more after multiple big hits, tenacious checking, great goaltending and an early power-play goal that gave the home team a lead they never gave up.

It took Calgary’s top-scoring trio exactly five seconds into the Flames’ first power play to connect and take the first lead of the series. Elias Lindholm won the faceoff and after a couple of quick passes from Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, the Swedish center blasted a one-timer past the Stars’ Jake Oettinger. 

The way this game started, it looked like the Flames’ trio of 40-goal scorers would dominate Dallas, but after outshooting the visitors 11-3 in the first period, the Stars pushed back and it ended up becoming a tough slog. It was difficult for either team to establish any rhythm, as both sides clogged up the middle and played a tight-checking game. Not only was this a defensive battle, but it also featured some rough stuff at the end of the first frame.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Flames’ Game 1 Victory Over Stars

After Tkachuk laid out John Klingberg with a huge hit, he immediately fought Michael Raffl. Just as that tilt was wrapping up, Rasmus Andersson and Klingberg decided to drop the gloves as well, but that second bout cost them both a game misconduct, since any secondary fight warrants an automatic ejection. In the end, the Flames hung on for a 1-0 victory in a game that featured a boatload of penalties, an extremely solid outing from Jacob Markstrom and very little 5-on-5 flow.

Stars Flip the Script and Shut Out Flames in Game 2

Heading into the series, the goaltending matchup was one area that I would have given the edge to the Flames. Markstrom was coming off a career year, one that will likely see the big Swede be named a top-three finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Meanwhile, Oettinger was completely green by comparison, having just 79 career games between the pipes. This series was his first exposure to NHL playoff hockey, but you’d never know it by the way he’s been playing lately.

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Oettinger stopped every one of Calgary’s 29 shots on Thursday and has been very good so far. The 23-year-old made 49 consecutive saves in his first two NHL playoff starts and finished Game 2 without a goal against in 114:59. That’s impressive. I would not have expected Dallas would be winning the goaltending battle, but it’s not like the Stars’ netminder has been otherworldly. The Flames haven’t really tested him – at least not yet.

In fact, Sutter admitted that the Flames have not been getting enough traffic in front of Dallas’ crease. “If you get in front of him, that’s part of it,” the head coach said after the game. “We had a lot from the outside from our top guys. But they’ve got to… just be around the goalie more.”

The Flames are Officially in Trouble After Game 3 Loss in Dallas

Despite having trouble finding the back of the net after the first two games, the Flames still had a chance to take a 2-1 lead as the series shifted to Dallas on Saturday. Much like Game 2, Calgary found themselves down 1-0 in the first period but unlike their previous contest, the boys in red battled back to tie the game after an ugly goal by Trevor Lewis.

The Flames then took their first lead since the five-minute mark of Game 1 when the top line connected for a hardworking goal. Tkachuk won a puck battle, Gaudreau scooped it up and dished it to Lindholm, who finished the play with a great one-timer. However, Calgary couldn’t hold the lead, as the Stars’ Joe Pavelski knotted the game at two just eight minutes later.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Stars Game 3 Win Over the Calgary Flames

Midway through the final frame, it felt like the game might go to overtime, but Blake Coleman’s ill-timed slashing penalty at the nine-minute mark gave Dallas a crucial power play. Pavelski scored his second of the night to capitalize on the opportunity and give the home squad a lead they never relinquished. Gaudreau had a golden breakaway chance with just three minutes left in regulation that could have sent this tilt to extra time, but Oettinger foiled him with a game-saving stop.

After the game, the head coach didn’t mince words about the missed opportunity from his leading scorer. “We had a breakaway with, what, two or three minutes left?” said Sutter. “Those guys have to put it away. That’s their job.” The Flames have scored a grand total of three goals in three games, which is definitely not enough to win a playoff series. Consider me officially concerned.

The Week’s Winners and Losers

  • While the Flames are smack dab in the middle of their first-round series, the organization’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate has a bye to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. However, it was still an eventful week for the idle Stockton Heat as the team found out that rookie puck stopper Dustin Wolf was named the AHL’s top goaltender for the 2021-22 season. Wolf finished his first year in Stockton with a 33-9-4 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. Not too shabby.
  • Staying with the Heat, the team also found out that their head coach Mitch Love was named the 2022 AHL Coach of the Year. The Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award is voted on by fellow coaches and media across the AHL and is given annually to the league’s top bench boss. Stockton finished the regular season with an impressive 45–16–7 record and begin their postseason run on Tuesday night with a second-round battle against the Bakersfield Condors.
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has made it very clear that he wants to see the Flames build a new building, and after watching Calgary play Dallas at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night, he probably feels even more strongly about it. After the game, Bettman was stuck in an elevator for over a minute while heading from the media level to the ground floor. When a local reporter asked the commish about the state of the Dome when he finally emerged from the jammed elevator, the league’s top boss simply replied, “You need a new arena.” For once, I actually agree with the guy.
  • While a lot of players on the Flames’ roster have limited playoff experience, there are a handful of guys who have gone all the way. However, that doesn’t mean they still don’t get butterflies in their stomachs as they make their way to the rink. Milan Lucic may have 127 postseason contests under his belt, but he fully admits that he still gets nervous before puck drop. “I don’t think it matters whether it’s your first time in the playoffs or your 11th time in the playoffs, I still had the nerves and the sweats on the drive, as well. I think it’s a great feeling to have. That means you’re excited, you’re ready.”

Flames Week Ahead

The Flames will face off against the Stars Monday night in Dallas, and while it’s not technically a must-win game… it kind of feels like one. The series then moves back to Calgary on Wednesday for Game 5. If they can win at least one of the next two contests, they’ll drop the puck for Game 6 in Big D on Friday night. If the series goes the distance, the winner-take-all Game 7 will be at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday. By the time I write next Monday’s column, we’ll know the Flames’ opening round fate (insert foreboding soundtrack here).

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