During the regular season, the Calgary Flames had a few really strong individual performances. While Johnny Gaudreau got strong Hart Trophy consideration and Elias Lindholm received Selke Trophy consideration, arguably Matthew Tkachuk didn’t receive the accolades he deserved for his excellence.
But through six playoff games against Dallas, the Flames simply haven’t gotten the same kind of difference-making play from Tkachuk. And they’ll really need it if they want to win Game 7.
Let’s begin this rundown with a simple admission: I think Tkachuk is injured. He had a pair of fights early in this series, and after this bout in Game 3 he was seen tending to some hand wounds.
Since that fight, he hasn’t been amazing. But even before that fight, he wasn’t spectacular.
Among Flames forwards, Tkachuk doesn’t rank particularly highly in terms of his ability to generate offense (stats via Natural Stat Trick):
Tkachuk is one of the most-used forwards on the team. He’s been a fixture on the first line and the top power play unit. But he’s also been bounced around a bit lately, spending a good chunk of Game 5 on the third line with Dillon Dube and Calle Jarnkrok when Darryl Sutter wanted to get more pace into the team’s game (and particularly the first line’s game).
Through six games, Johnny Gaudreau has a goal and five assists – one power play point and five at even strength. During the same span, Tkachuk (whose cap hit led the Flames in regular season) had four assists – two power play and two at even strength. With Gaudreau on the ice in all situations, the Flames are out-scoring Dallas 7-5. With Tkachuk, it’s even at 5-5. Tkachuk hasn’t been bad, but given his regular season excellence many likely expected more from him.
Gaudreau has been a factor in this series. Andrew Mangiapane has been a factor in this series. Jacob Markstrom has been a factor in this series. Despite his physical battles and points thus far, Tkachuk hasn’t been a deciding factor in this series so far. And the time is running low for him to be one.
If he’s healthy, he needs to step it up. If he’s hurt, he either needs to sit out or find different ways of contributing. The Flames desperately need the emotional engagement and battle level of Tkachuk to be in full force in Game 7, even if he doesn’t score or set up goals himself. He’s a talented, versatile, savvy hockey player. He needs to show off those attributes in Game 7 if the Flames hope to see the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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