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A much different Flames team tries to get revenge against Dallas for 2020

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Photo credit:Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
7 months ago
In the summer of 2020, the Calgary Flames headed up to the bubble in Edmonton for the modified NHL post-season. The Flames felt pretty good about themselves, beating the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round.
They faced the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. Matthew Tkachuk suffered a concussion, the Flames were completely off-kilter afterwards, and they lost unceremoniously to Dallas in six games.
A much different Flames club will try to avenge that defeat over the next two weeks.

Anatomy of a loss

With or without Tkachuk, the story of the 2020 Flames playoff run was “Man, they really could’ve won that series.” It was a team that found ways to lose.
  • The Flames won Game 1 by a 3-2 score, letting a 2-0 lead slip away, but getting a go-ahead goal from Rasmus Andersson that held up for the entire third period.
  • The Flames lost Tkachuk in the third period of Game 2, but even before that it was a game with wild swings. They were down 3-1 by early in the second period, but rallied back to tie the game 4-4 by late in the third period before allowing the game-winning goal from Jamie Oleksiak with 40 seconds left in regulation.
  • Cam Talbot was superb in Game 3, making 35 saves in a 2-0 Flames win. It was their last win of the series.
  • Game 4 was another game with wild swings and frequent lead changes. The Flames lead 4-3 late in regulation, but allowed the game-tying goal from Joe Pavelski with 12 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Alexander Radulov scored 16:05 into extra time to win it for Dallas and tie the series at 2-2.
  • Game 5 was a tight-checking, low-scoring game, where the Flames lost 2-1 because they just couldn’t get good enough scoring chances to get a second goal to tie the game. (Dallas defended really well in the third period and the Flames couldn’t get any chances between the dots in Dallas’ zone.)
  • The Flames got out to a 3-0 lead early in Game 6, but gave up seven unanswered goals and were eliminated by the Stars with a 7-3 loss.
The series featured five one-goal games and then the 7-3 loss. The Flames had a chance to win basically every game that they lost, but ultimately they lacked consistency, structure and composure.
But this is a much different version of the Flames.

Ch-ch-changes

Here’s the lineup that the Flames trotted out for Game 6 against Dallas in August 2020:
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Tobias Rieder
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Elias Lindholm
Milan Lucic – Sam Bennett – Dillon Dube
Buddy Robinson – Mark Jankowski – Derek Ryan
Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson
Derek Forbort – Erik Gustafsson
Cam Talbot
David Rittich
Of the 20 players that dressed in that game, just eight are active with the Flames right now. (If you want to count Matthew Tkachuk, since he was injured, then it’s nine.)
Due to long-term injuries and/or departures, the Flames have swapped out Monahan, Rieder, Bennett, Robinson, Jankowski, Ryan, Giordano, Brodie, Forbort, Gustafsson, Talbot and Rittich (and interim coach Geoff Ward and assistant coaches Ray Edwards and Martin Gelinas) in favour of Blake Coleman, Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Calle Jarnkrok, Brett Ritchie, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Oliver Kylington, Erik Gudbranson, Dan Vladar and Jacob Markstrom.
Kylington was already in the organization – he was the seventh defender in 2020 – but the Flames still have completely swapped out their goalies, two of three defensive pairings, and almost half of their forwards since that Dallas loss. (And the majority of their coaching staff.)

A different team plays differently

File this under “Well, yeah, Ryan…” but the Flames have changed out much of their roster and their coaching staff, so they play much differently than their 2020 counterparts.
But the 2022 edition of the Flames score first more often than not. They tend not to trail in games. Their playing style has been defined by a structured five-man unit that plays a voracious forecheck in all three zones. They’re less prone to wild swings in play and momentum than they were in previous seasons.
A great example of this came in the Flames’ dramatic comeback win over Dallas back in February.

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Here’s how Flames games have worked in the past. When they got scored on early and got down a goal or two, they tended to open up their checking style a bit and go for “home run” plays – high-risk, high-reward offensive plays facilitated by stretch passes – which often resulted in turnovers, odd-man scoring chances against and often more goals against. By opening up, they often opened up way too much and made themselves vulnerable to counter-punch offense from the other team.
Departed Flames captain Mark Giordano once noted that the Flames tried to score all the goals they needed for a comeback all at once, rather than chipping away at the opposition. This year’s vintage seems completely confident sticking to the program and chipping away. Against Dallas, they didn’t really make gigantic changes that led to their third period comeback. They just stuck to their game, wore Dallas down, and took the game over.
If the Flames can play more or less the same way in this series as they did in February – and the way they have pretty much since 2022 began – they’ll be a big challenge for the Stars.
If the remaining core Flames are hoping to gain some measure of revenge from 2020, the recipe may be quite simple: just keep doing what they’ve been doing for the bulk of the last 82 games.

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