The Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars kicked off their Best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Flames emerging victorious by a 3-2 score. Calgary got two goals from Dillon Dube and a game winner from Rasmus Andersson in the victory. You can read our whole game recap here.
It was a strong performance in Game 1, and here are three of the biggest reasons why the Flames now lead the series.
1. Dillon Dube
For the most part I had tried to avoid centering these reasons on any one specific player during the Jets series. That changes tonight with a spectacular opening period from the Flames young forward. Perhaps this is more an indication of just how good the entire line was, but Dube deserves special credit for his pair of goals in tonight’s game.
Once again the line of Milan Lucic, Sam Bennett, and Dube were absolutely stellar for the Flames, registering four of the Flames seven high danger chances in the game and putting up very strong xGF% numbers between 57 and 60%. Bennett had five hits in the game while Lucic was 11/16 in faceoffs, a spot we hadn’t really seen him during the season.
Oh yeah, Lucic also set up the opening goal with a perfect one touch cross-ice pass on a zone entry to Dube who put a well-aimed one timer past a sprawling Anton Khudobin. Later in the period, Dube showed some of that speed we had seen flashes of, winding up in the neutral zone and grabbing the angle on Andrej Sekera before beating Khudobin by going around him and across the crease.
The Stars are a team that loves to defend when they get up 1-0, so being able to get two goals was critical to getting the game and the series started on the right foot. Also, did you know Dillon Dube was drafted with the pick acquired for Kris Russell in 2016??
2. Team Resolve
I hate myself for saying this, but my hopes have been too tainted by past Flames teams. As soon as Dallas tied the game up with two goals in nine seconds, I immediately thought “Here we go again” as the Flames would crumble and give up another goal or two, lose Game 1, and set a bad tone for the series.
Instead, the Flames would bounce right back and generate some scoring chances before Rasmus Andersson would get a bit of puck luck with his shot deflecting off a stick and right into the top corner past Khudobin. The goal seemed to settle the Flames back into the controlling game they were in before the goals against.
Another example was resolve was to see Matthew Tkachuk drop the mitts with Corey Perry, a player who had held the Flames in the palm of his hand during his time with the Anaheim Ducks. It showed that Calgary wasn’t going to be pushed around by him this year and was a big step forward in my opinion.
3. Stout Defensive Play
Heading into this series and knowing the overall strength of Dallas defensively, I was concerned that the Flames may not be able to match their stinginess. Instead what we saw was a very impressive performance by the team defensively, only giving up a total of three high danger chances at all strengths throughout the game.
The two Dallas goals were also pretty unlucky so it’s easy to give the team a pass there. The Flames limited Dallas to just one high danger chance in the third and five total chances. Dallas also only had eight shots to Calgary’s seven despite the Flames holding a one goal lead. Calgary routinely limited Dallas’ chances in the slot, keeping the majority of their shots to the outside as you can see below.
The Stars most frequent opportunities were blue line shot attempts, and although they scored twice on long range attempts, this is usually a great recipe for success as we saw tonight.
Finally, Calgary did a tremendous job in the final few minutes, limiting Dallas from entering the offensive zone until the final minute where Mark Giordano took a delay of game penalty. On that PK Cam Talbot made a couple of great saves and the structure shut down any prolonged chances.
If there’s a way to describe tonight’s win as a whole, I would label it as confident. The Flames looked in control and didn’t back away from any challenges that faced them. They lead the series 1-0, and now the next step is to see if they can conquer their Game 2 demons.
by Michael MacGillivray