Jamie Benn was paying Matthew Tkachuk a backhanded compliment when the Calgary Flames forward’s name came up on Monday.
Tkachuk has been engaged physically with a number of Benn’s Dallas Stars teammates. His heavy hit on John Klingberg kicked off the hostility in Game 1. Tkachuk dropped the gloves with Michael Raffl shortly after that. He also responded to Klingberg’s threats of retribution on Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson by repeatedly roughing up the Stars blueliner.
Benn says there’s a reason Tkachuk did not accept his offers to tussle.
Asked if he was surprised about the refusals, Benn offered a short, confident answer.
“No,” said the Stars captain. “He’s a smart kid.”
If you follow the buzz on social media, many beleaguered Calgary Flames fans and Internet trolls are piling on both Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau as the playoff storyline unfolds.
Tkachuk for his penchant for being so heavily involved in the extracurriculars.
Both for their lack of finish so far in the series.
Never mind that a win on Monday would swing home-ice advantage back to the Calgary Flames as they head to the Saddledome for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Are the Flames capable of stepping up in playoffs?
Their response on the ice tonight will go a long way in determining whether these Darryl Sutter coached Flames are capable of taking a step forward in the NHL playoffs.
Anything less than their best game and the narrative that’s haunted them for years will be tough to shake.
“I know what gets me going in games and I know the way that I need to play for this team to be successful,” Tkachuk said on Sunday.
Gaudreau had a 115-point season and led the NHL in regular-season points. Tkachuk also cracked the 100-point plateau for the first time in his young career. They were two thirds of the top trio in the league – the first time a line saw each member score 40 goals in three decades of action.
But playoffs is where legacies are made.
“I’d rather have a guy who scores a big goal than a guy who scores 40,” Sutter said this week when talking about the need for his Calgary Flames to finish their opportunities.
“Look at the three games. Every goal is a big goal. You take out the empty netters, that’s how it is.”
Breakaway save still haunting Flames fans
Gaudreau’s late Game 3 breakaway that was turned away by young Stars goalie Jake Oettinger is still haunting fans. As much as Gaudreau lamented the missed opportunity, he plans on seeing more of them with better outcomes.
“I had a lot of chances (in Game 3). Five, six shots,” Gaudreau said on Sunday. “A couple of them were pretty Grade A opportunities. So I’m happy I’m getting those looks and obviously, I’ll find the net there eventually.
“But yeah, obviously you want that one back for sure.”
The series doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the Flames biggest stars.
Oettinger made three big saves on the Calgary Flames’ trio of top opportunities in Game 3.
They’ll all have to figure out how to solve the 23-year-old goalie who has allowed just three goals against in total.
Sutter said sticking to the process is a good message, but that they “need it in a hurry.”
“It’s not easy, it’s tough; it’s tough to win a game. We have guys that have won one (playoff) game, or something like that. They’re early in their careers,” Sutter said.
“Now they’re learning how hard it is to try and win another one.”