59Rasmus Andersson
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Lineup changes, the all-rookie pairing and desperation: notes before Game 5

Both clubs congregated at the Scotiabank Saddledome prior to Game 5 between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche. Here are the main takeaways from both clubs’ morning skates.

The Flames make a big line-up change

The big news after morning skate was the insertion of Austin Czarnik into the lineup, bumping James Neal (and his $5.75 million cap hit) to the sidelines. Flames head coach Bill Peters explained the move when speaking to the media.

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When [Czarnik]’s come into the lineup he’s given us an element of skill in the offensive zone. We want to hang onto pucks and spend some time in there.

He noted that they considered some other options, but the key was there were players who play special teams roles that they couldn’t replace if they moved them out.

A spectator for the previous four playoff dates, Czarnik has a perspective on what the Flames need to do in order to extend the series.

“A lot of their offense comes from their top line, that’s where a lot of their momentum comes from,” said Czarnik. “I think if we can stop them, we’ll have a good shot here tonight. We’re a team that can thrive on transition and little things like that, so I think if we can have good transition, get pucks in, not try to be too fancy, get shots on net, we can have success.”

The all-rookie pairing

The Flames are keeping rookie Juuso Valimaki in the lineup, where he’s paired with fellow rookie Rasmus Andersson. Andersson had a lot of praise for his defensive teammate and didn’t have a ton of advice for the young Finn prior to his playoff debut.

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“He’s really composed and he’s handling the pressure really well,” said Andersson. “I just tried to tell him before the game ‘just enjoy it.’ It’s fun. It’s the best time of the year. Just really enjoy it. It doesn’t happen everyday and I thought he did. He was doing really well and I thought we played a strong game together.”

Not a lot of teams used an all-rookie pairing in the regular season, let alone the playoffs. But the key to their success, said Andersson, was their ability to stick to what makes them effective.

“We’re both pretty good with handling pressure and just stick with it really and play our game,” said Andersson. “I tried to tell him they put us in for a reason, and it’s to make plays, and we’ve just got to keep doing that. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first period or overtime, we’ve just got to keep making plays and I think that’s where he was really good. We didn’t really panic a lot, we tried to keep the puck with each other and move it up to our forwards.”

No tomorrow

The Flames know what the score is in the series. They also know they can’t win all three games they need to advance at once.

“It’s one game at a time,” said Giordano. “We get tonight, and we move on from there. But we have to focus on really trying to get back to our game. Moving pucks, jumping into the play as D-men, generating that quick pace. Once we get back to that, we’ll be fine.”

There’s not a lot that really needed to be said to motivate the Flames for this one.

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“Guys are well-aware of everything and the circumstances that are in front of us,” said Peters. “I liked our energy on Wednesday in Colorado. I liked lots of our game. I thought the thing we didn’t do was when they got momentum in the third we didn’t find a way to put an end to it.”

The Flames will need to find a way to control momentum in this game, or else it’ll be a long night (and a short playoff round).

Keep an eye on Makar

Colorado rookie blueliner Cale Makar is playing his first professional game in his hometown rink – his parents actually still have season tickets. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar noted that playing on the road won’t impact how they’re using him.

“Not based on what I saw from him in the two games in Denver,” said Bednar. “I just think that we’ll let him play. He looks like he’s a real confident player. He’s real good on the defensive side of things and is contributing on the offensive side, as well. I don’t think we have to alter anything there at all. He looks like an NHL player who’s been around for awhile.”

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  • Karma

    A dirtbag named Lazarus wrote some truly awful things that made me want come here and troll as payback.
    Because of this, I’ve been reading a fair number of comments and I’ve had enough.
    You guys are passionate about hockey and about your team and I respect that. My beef is with fools like Lazarus, not you guys.
    I apologize for my trolling and wish you the best of luck tonight.
    Go kick some Colorado butt.

    • Derian Hatcher

      I concur. Lazarus seemed to take extreme joy in kicking the Oilers when they are down. “Fans” (???). Like him seem to miss that the passion both Oiler and flames fans feel toward their respective teams are very much the same There are some intelligent and passionate fans on both ON and FN. the trolls.on both sites …well they are like that for a reason. I’ll leave it at that.

      Flames win tonight Czarnik scores the winner

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        I do a little trolling, I think chirping is good, but there’s a limit.

        And I know I’ve hit that limit when: “Kass-brought to you by BTF 2.0” shows up here!

        • Porcupine at a balloon party

          Consistently been on a PK that’s struggled? Is he that good that Frolik couldn’t handle his duties for a game or two here and there? I don’t see it. Our PK has not been good all year, can’t see how he is that important to it.
          Consistently been Calgary’s lowest CF% forward?
          Consistently NOT put up points when his linemates have been on a heater since February?

          Simply playing devils advocate here. I like the guy. But haven’t been able to justify him CONSISTENTLY getting a spot over Czarnik or Dube. Sure Czarnik and Dube can start strong and then tail off as they play more games, but why not cycle them all in? Yes Dube was in AHL (rightfully so), but was Hathaway that much more impactful that throwing in Czarnik over him for a few games would’ve hurt the team? I would argue otherwise, but kind of a moot since we’ll never really know.

          I really in no way want to bag on Hathaway though. But he’s a 12th forward. 12th Forwards get interchanged generally. That was why I suggested Hathaway may of been the other guy Peters was considering (although there really was nothing to consider, Neal sucks)

        • Porcupine at a balloon party

          agreed. mentioned that before last game I think it was. Want to see both mango and Ryan bumped up for that matter. My comment to Hathaway wasn’t that he SHOULD be taken out, but rather based on Peters’ comments about special teams play that they “couldn’t replace.” I have nothing against Hathaway, and 100% have been on the “sit neal” train, but he would probably be my second in line to replace if needs be. Can’t see why Dube can’t do what Hathaway does; faster, more skilled and can still add a physical presence even with a smaller frame. This hasn’t really been a rough/tough series either. Peters doesn’t really sit his centres, it’s the wings that get interchanged.

          Don’t see how Monahan has been worse than Hathaway. I know everyone wants to rag on him, but lots of guys have disappeared to lesser and greater extents than Monahan; but at least he’s scored a goal

  • Abagofpucks

    It’s pretty damn hard to beat a desperate hockey team in the playoffs, with that said, you guys have to stay out of the box number 1, and a quick transition with attention to getting pucks on net with wingers willing to go to the blue paint and battle for rebounds and so on. And 3rd your defense has to stay in front of opposing players, if they keep getting caught deep your gonna be in big trouble and you better hope Smith brings his A+ game as well.
    But like i said in the beginning It’s hard to beat a desperate hockey team in the playoffs and that’s your faint hope clause……. good luck we will be watching.

  • Richard B. Rittich

    I almost gave away my tickets for tonight. Then I thought what kind of fan would I be quitting when things look bad for the team. Time to hurt the vocal chords in support. GFG!

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I don’t hold out much hope for a win tonight. The Flames were broken beyond repair following the last game. Giving up a 2-goal lead with 10 minutes left and losing in OT. Busted and shattered were the looks on the faces of the Flame players when they arrived back in Calgary. I last saw such forlorn faces on refugees fleering war-torn Syria.

  • Budgie

    One game at a time, backs against the wall. Backlund took heat for his penalty, what I saw was a horrible call, MacKinnon went down but Backlund’s stick didn’t hook him down-the angle I saw was no tripping occurred. It felt horrible to see Calgary 5 minutes away from a win and the Ref calls a chintzy penalty. Not as bad as Kerry Fraser’s in 2004 Cup final against Tampa with a minute left, Calgary Net empty, but a bad call by any standards. Take tonight’s game for Smith, he has proven to be a huge Net-minder who battles hard.

    • Justthateasy

      Yep and important part of the game where everything was let go and a chintzy call like that. I say it was a fix. Not saying that we didn’t lose it. But that call made it very easy for the Avs and opened the door. What is with that? You don’t call borderline at that stage of the game unless you’re on the take or you want to be a hero or you’re just plain incompetent.
      We had better see the home team get every advantage tonight.

    • jupiter

      NHL Officials need to be replaced by automation. Handicapping hockey has to be maddening for odds makers in Vegas. No consistency what so ever with officiating.

      • Cageyvet

        Canucks fan here, so I haven’t had to directly suffer from the calls in the playoffs for a few years……sigh……but the hockey fan in me goes bonkers over the blown reviews even more than the on-ice calls, which are much more difficult.

        Even when it’s a team I hate, I look at those reviews for both goals and suspensions from an “if it was my team, how would I feel about this?” perspective. Too often, I’d be angry and incredulous at the interpretation. The officiating and war room is continuing to ruin hockey games for fans at the most critical times. You’re emotionally invested in your team, and often financially as well, and this is the level of crap you have to deal with. Frustrating, and Bettman doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the integrity of his product, just what makes money. It blows.

        I have friends and relatives in Calgary, and we have taunted each other mercilessly over the years, but as hockey fans, with good-nature and love of the game underlying it all. I’m down with a Canadian team going the distance, and hope you get to win or lose fairly, without having to question “what if” due to the damn officiating of the best game on the planet.

  • Pizzaman

    Flames were better last game in many ways…playing at home with BP having last change will result in a win. Both Valimaki and Czarnik will add speed compared to the last Flames home game.

  • Vernon30

    The Flames have played horribly, but could be up 3-1. Smith has played his way into another season in the NHL. Almost certainly not in a Flames sweater. Historically, they’ve always had a tough time getting out of around 1. 89-90, 93-94, both great records, both playoff upsets. In 89 and 04 took 7 plus games, OT in both, to get through.

  • MiamiRedhawks

    Unless they change the game plan, season over. They need to open up the ice in the neutral zone. Instead of trying to open it in offensive zone, when they are waiting. Always turns into dump and chase.

  • buts

    TJ plays he man instead of the puck in game 2 and if Backlund doesn’t have a brainfart we are up 3-1. BP has taken Neal out and moved Frolik down…..did we give up when the Germans bombed pearl harbour? No ….GFG

  • Chucky

    It does look like the James Neil experiment has reached a sorry end and hopefully Treliving has learned a lesson regrding the UFA market.

    Do the Flames have a buyout option this year or do they need to wait for a buyout? Looks to me like they would need to pay him $1.518 Million for 8 years, seems a huge amount.

    It would be nice if Smith can find a way to control rebounds tonight and give his team a chance.

  • Franko J

    I will be mildly surprised if they do win. I just think after the loss from the other night might have been too much and right now they are very mentally fragile and won’t be able to respond to the adversity. Besides Smith has played lights out and I don’t think it is sustainable. Especially with how the team is playing in front of him. Maybe they can respond in the fashion the Sharks did last night and keep their season alive. However, I very skeptical the top six can elevate their game. If anything this game will be a determining point where this team is heading. All I can do is watch the game and see what will unfold. Let’s go Flames play with the us vs rest of the world mentality. A word to THE PENN do the Flames “GOT THIS” tonight?

  • SgtRoadBlock

    Big moves r coming this year core players r being move out like i said 4 weeks, That last 3 weeks of this Seasons playing out of the playoff teams mask this teams weakness in the end..

    Plus r power play sucks cow bells and we have let in 2 short handed goals that don’t = 2nd playoff

  • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

    “Austin Czarnik into the lineup, bumping James Neal”

    About freaking time!!! We would have won game 4 if Neal wasn’t floating around on the second goal. We need more speed to compete with Colorado.

  • _vntony

    I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but I’m a little worried about Sam Bennett being on the first line.
    I know he’s been the Flames’ best forward but sometimes he gets it in his head that he can do it all on his own. I hope he plays a simple north-south game and just hits hard and forechecks harder.
    That said, I’m happy about him getting his chance on the top line and Neal sitting.

  • Franko J

    Get ready for the handshakes Flames.
    Too many turnovers. Talk about being relieved Neal is not in the lineup, well once again the Flames “big guns” are non-existent.