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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Calgary Flames’ Game 1 victory over the Dallas Stars

The Calgary Flames began their 2022 Stanley Cup playoff journey on Tuesday night with a home win over the Dallas Stars. The game began with much pomp, circumstance, and ballyhoo, but turned into a bit of a grinding slog in the second period. Nevertheless, the Flames managed to grind out a victory.

Here are five takeaways from Game 1.

They are who we thought they’d be

The Flames probably had a goal to minimize chances at five-on-five. They out-shot Dallas 19-10, out-chanced them 11-9 and high-danger chances were even at 3-3. The Flames were pretty good at five-on-five overall, but when the game became penalty-filled in the second period, their momentum got completely up-ended. (Their power play wasn’t all that good aside from their first one in the first period that resulted in their lone goal, but neither was Dallas’.)

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The game turned into a bit of a slog in the second period and lacked flow, but give the Flames credit: they managed to embrace the slog. They scored first and never trailed in this game, as they also managed to accomplish many times during the regular season.

Not a ton of space for skillin’ it up

Dallas’ plan seemed to be sicking mixtures of forwards at the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk and trying to keep them bottled up. It largely worked, thanks to some nice hustle and physicality from guys like Michael Raffl and Luke Glendening (and a mixture of others).

Similarly, the Flames threw a bunch of forwards at Jason Robertson’s top line for Dallas, but it was usually Noah Hanifin or Chris Tanev sent onto the ice after the Stars sniper and his cronies. Again, it largely worked.

Overall, the approach for both teams seemed to be to clog up the middle of the ice in the neutral and defensive zones and rely on turnovers and mistakes for counterattacks. As a result, the skill players on both sides weren’t horribly noticeable for much of the game. (If this approach continues, and we suspect it will, then special teams will be huge for each team’s big guns to have an impact.)

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And don’t discount the impact, on both sides, of losing puck-moving defenders Rasmus Andersson and John Klingberg after the first period. Both are adept at using a smart pass (or jumping into the rush) to create odd-man rushes and other offensive chances. Take them out and throw their ample ice time onto their defensive mates, and suddenly the game slows down quite a bit.

Both goaltenders were good (but had help)

Jacob Markstrom faced just 16 shots in this game and was quite good – as noted, he only faced three high-danger chances at five-on-five. He earned the shutout, but his team did a good job at making his life easy.

Jake Oettinger faced 26 shots in this game and was also quite good. He faced three high-danger chances, as well, and really it was just a heck of a one-timer shot by Lindholm on the power play that decided the game.

Both sides of the goaltending duel were full marks, though both teams not generating a ton of offensive chances definitely contributed to their success.

The officials are calling the rulebook (for now…)

The two teams combined for 60 minutes in penalties, most of which were in the second period. Prior to the game, head coach Darryl Sutter pointed out how penalty-filled the Monday night playoff openers, and he noted how right he was in his post-game press conference.

The frequent penalties prompted chants of “Ref, you suck!” from the Saddledome crowd and boos when the officials hit the ice for the third period.

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But here were the calls they made: illegal check to the head, holding, interference, too many men, unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting (x4), roughing, another interference, another roughing, tripping and another too many men. All the calls they made were pretty obvious penalties. The only real iffy calls were the interference and roughing calls, but in the context of the flow of the game they were all pretty egregious and warranted the penalties.

If nothing else, the gentlemen in stripes sent a message to both teams in Game 1: keep it clean, because they’ve seemingly been instructed to call the rulebook.

It was hot in the old barn on Tuesday night

The third period was slightly delayed due to ice concerns. Sportsnet 960 The Fan’s Matt Rose found out why: the building was too dang hot.

The outside temperature was 17 degrees when the game began. The building was full and lively, and it was just the second sell-out of the season. But between the warm external temperature and so many amped-up fans in attendance, no wonder the ice plant in the NHL’s oldest barn had some challenges.

Kudos to the Saddledome ice crew, though: when asked, Sutter didn’t recall any issues with the ‘Dome ice, which is a big accomplishment given the circumstances in the building. Let’s hope that can continue, because it’s the factors that contributed to how muggy the arena was aren’t likely to go away for the remainder of the post-season. Heck, they might even get worse.

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