Through two games, Jake Oettinger has yet to allow an even-strength goal against the Calgary Flames.
The Dallas Stars’ rookie goaltender’s first pair of NHL playoff starts have gone pretty well. He’s a big factor in the Stars’ split at the Saddledome to steal home-ice advantage in this first-round series.
With 54 saves and just a single goal against – a powerplay marker in Game 1 – Oettinger leads all playoff backstops with a .50 goals-against average and .982 save percentage.
But the 23-year-old netminder has had it relatively easy so far.
“We had a lot (of shots) from the outside, I think, from our top guys,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said after the 2-0 Stars shutout in Game 2. “They’ve got to be a little more — just be around the goalie more. If you get in front of him, that’s part of it.”
Sutter said before the series that Oettinger is a great goaltender. He’s even better when he can see every puck and doesn’t have to battle for the space in front of him.
The Stars do a great job boxing players out and the Flames are going to need to find a way to fight through that and set up more high-danger chances from the slot.
Easier said than done.
“It’s playoff hockey — it’s not easy to score goals in the first place, let alone playing a team like this,” Calgary Flames winger Tyler Toffoli said Thursday night.
Toffoli looked more dangerous than he has in a while, with two shots, a missed net and a blocked attempt in Game 2. Oettinger did make a nice pad save on him in the third, but the playoff veteran hasn’t scored since April 9 in Seattle.
“We’ve got to find a way and kind of dig deep,” said.
And get deep, says Sutter.
“Their defense blocks out. That’s a top defence in terms of that structure part. I said that before the series. They don’t give up much,” Sutter said. “Your big guys are going to have to get inside to score.”
Johnny Gaudreau, who had 40 goals and 115 points in the regular season, scored on his opening shift on Thursday. But the play was offside, and he wasn’t even sure if Oettinger was trying to stop him on the breakaway.
“I think we’re fine,” Gaudreau said confidently.
“I thought we had plenty of scoring chances. We’ve just got to score; got to bear down and put the puck in the net, starting with myself.”
With one goal through two games, it goes much deeper than Gaudreau and Toffoli. There is plenty of firepower on the NHL’s sixth-highest scoring team in the regular season.
“Obviously, we want to score more goals,” said 35-goal scorer Andrew Mangiapane on Friday before the Flames flew to Dallas. “There are opportunities there for us to score more. We’ve just got to get more traffic and bodies to the net, and I think that scoring will come.
“The way we’re playing defensively — connected, all five together — it’s good. It needs to continue like that. But as far as the offence, get a greasy one and bearing down on some of our chances and it’s a different kind of series.”
Despite some of the external disappointment in the way things have gone offensively, the game plan in Dallas doesn’t change, says Toffoli.
“Our goal was to go into Dallas and win two games anyways. It doesn’t really change our mindset, I don’t think,” he said. “We have to go there and be prepared to play in Game 3 and just try to take control of the series again.”