Over the last week, the first round series between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames has brought a dramatic change of fortune. Calgary looked ready to roll coming out of Game 1. The Stars didn’t have their game legs and everything pointed to a continuation of the extended losing streak that ended the regular season.
Play improved for the Stars over the next few games, but a fortunate few bounces and impeccable timing evened up the series at 2-2. Game 5 was the first contest that felt like a standard Dallas game. A few timely goals, solid netminding, followed by a shutdown in the final period brought a 2-1 win.
The Flames’ third line of Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett and Dillon Dube, that dominated Game 1 with a combination of speed and physicality has been neutralized. In the meantime, their top line has yet to find their form.
In many ways, Calgary has not recovered from the loss of Matthew Tkachuk toward the end of Game 1. The Flames’ second line has missed his scoring touch, and although Tobias Rieder has performed well, he is still a fourth liner playing up the lineup. Tkachuk’s energy and abrasiveness are the heart and soul of the team, and while Lucic and Bennett can still bring the hits, without Tkachuk, the team has lost its identity.
To this point, the Flames haven’t found any answers to the Stars’ top three lines. The fourth line of Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson and Corey Perry have been exposed at times and the shot share for the series shows it. It’s a line of parts, thrown together because they don’t have a spot on one of the other lines, and they tend to bring out weaknesses in one another.
Game 6 is a home game for the Flames, so with last change they will look for advantages. The Bennett line against the Dickinson line at 5-on-5 is about the only thing that Calgary has going for them, so expect to see that matchup. If the Stars can hold their own there, the top three lines should be at an advantage.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Roope Hintz (24) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Calgary Flames Lineup
Johnny Gaudreau (13) - Sean Monahan (23) - Elias Lindholm (28)
Tobias Rieder (16) - Mikael Backlund (11) - Andrew Mangiapane (88)
Milan Lucic (17) - Sam Bennett (93) - Dillon Dube (29)
Zac Rinaldo (36) - Derek Ryan (10) - Alan Quine (89)
Mark Giordano (5) - T J Brodie (7)
Noah Hanifin (55) - Rasmus Andersson (4)
Derek Forbort (20) - Erik Gustafsson (56)
Cam Talbot (39)
Keys to the Game
5-on-5 play. The Stars have been dominant outside of special teams. Stay out of the box and make the Flames earn their goals.
Be ready for a final push. Calgary media has been riding the Flames for poor starts their last few games. Sounds familiar, right? This is an elimination game, so expect a major early push in the first period.
Physical play. If the game is close, expect the Flames to get chippy. Don’t take the bait.
The crease. Dallas has been able to open up their inside game while keeping Calgary to the outside. It’s been the key to their wins. Don’t settle.