For a situation to improve, one of two things need to happen. Option one, stick with what you’re doing, but do it better. Alternatively, take a look at the system, and make structural improvements.
Of course, you can select door number three — do nothing and hope for the best.
I’m cheating a bit here. Everything that you’ve read so far is a direct copy from the Stars-Flames preview that I wrote for game two of the playoff series from the bubble.
Being the playoffs, at this point I’d usually drop into a discussion of, based on observations from game one, what adjustments the coaches should consider in order to exploit their teams advantages and to hide their teams weaknesses.
That’s a bit problematic after game one. First off, the first period, where Calgary used the energy in the building to jump Dallas from the opening faceoff, set a tone and a narrative for the rest of the game. I’m not sure that I buy the “Stars came out flat” storyline - I’m more likely to view it as the Flames being absolutely pumped. Either way, there was a decided difference, and the fact that the Stars survived the onslaught is somewhat amazing.
Second, the remainder of the game was played without John Klingberg and Rasmus Andersson - two top four defenders who each set the tone for their respective teams on the backend.
With that, I’m not sure how much either coach will read into the run of play during the second and third periods. Certainly, it was low event hockey. But even there, how much of that was Calgary locking things down versus Dallas struggling to establish any kind of offensive zone threat, especially without their primary blueline playmaker.
That said, I’m thinking that both coaches are somewhat happy with what happened in the final 40 minutes. I’m thinking that there won’t be too many changes - call it “door number three” for the time being.
A few things to look at related to how each team creates offense and channels defense.
Calgary defends by collapsing into the low slot. It leaves them vulnerable to shots from the high slot - assuming that a player can get a shot through the mass of humanity in front of the net.
Dallas emphasizes mucking it up in the crease, but they do have some players who can get their shot off from the high slot, including defenders. One of the Stars best opportunities in game one was Ryan Suter in this sweet spot, but he missed the net. On the forward side, Jason Robertson, Jacob Peterson, and Joel Kiviranta all have shown the capacity to “get lost” in this zone, and Dallas should make the effort to get there.
Given the Flames defensive tendencies, the low slot/crease is going to be a war. The Stars will still go there, but its not going to be for the feint of heart.
On the other side of the ice, the Flames generate a bunch of offense from between the circles - mid-slot if you will (OK - they generate a bunch of offense from everywhere).
Fortunately for the Stars, this is an area of strength for their defense, and a scatter shot diagram from game one shows that the team did a solid job of shot suppression directly in front of Jake Oettinger.
Ultimately, game one was low event hockey. The Flames top line was kept in check. The Stars had a few opportunities to even things up, including multiple power plays.
Dallas is a big underdog in this series for a reason. Calgary is one of the best teams in the NHL, and in game one, Dallas had opportunities to win the game. That’s at least a good starting point and going into game two, and Dallas is in a similar spot against the Flames right now to where they were two seasons ago.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Michael Raffl (18) - Jamie Benn (14) - Denis Guvianov (34)
Vladislav Namestnikov (92) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Luke Glendenning (11)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Radek Faksa (12) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Ryan Suter (20) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Joel Hanley (44) - Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
Calgary Flames Lineup
Johnny Gaudreau (13) - Elias Lindholm (28) - Matthew Tkachuk (19)
Andrew Mangiapane (88) - Mikael Backlund (11) - Tyler Toffoli (73)
Dillon Dube (29) - Calle Jarnkrok (91) - Blake Coleman (20)
Milan Lucic (17) - Trevor Lewis (22) - Brett Ritchie (24)
Noah Hanifin (55) - Rasmus Andersson (4)
Oliver Kylington (58) - Chris Tanev (8)
Nikita Zadorov (16) - Erik Gudbranson (44)
Jacob Markstrom (25)
Keys to the Game
Physicality. Both teams got caught up in the physical muck, and it led to a number of power plays. Calgary is the bigger and more consistently physical team. Dallas needs to pick and choose their spots - and not get caught up in physicality for its own sake.
Shooting Angles. Calgary is going to pack the crease. The Stars will battle to get there, but they may find more offensive success by getting the puck to the high crease.
Rush Chances. Face it. Calgary is going to win the possession battle/shot share/zone time. If the offense isn’t coming in any other way, the Stars may need to use the threat of outside speed to keep the Flames from aggressively pinching off the blue line.