Welcome to the NHL playoffs – coaching edition. And when it comes to Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, that world can become pretty entertaining.
Gamesmanship is always top of mind for the veteran bench boss. He’s no stranger to opinions on officiating. Or orchestrating an intriguing opening faceoff against an opponent who’s been a little too outspoken.
Sutter’s line combinations have also become a hot topic of late.
Prior to Game 4 in the series against the Dallas Stars, he swapped Andrew Mangiapane and Brett Ritchie in the morning skate. Come game time, he scratched Ritchie and inserted defenceman Michael Stone.
“It’s a very fluid situation that’s evolving as the day goes along,” Sutter said after that early practice.
Ahead of Game 5 on Wednesday in Calgary, the Flames coach wasn’t in the same joking mood when asked if he might stick with the 11 forwards, seven defencemen that earned them a 4-1 win in their last outing in Dallas.
Sutter was lobbed a softball when asked if it continues to be a fluid situation.
“Unless the visiting team wants to go first and you ask them the question and they answer it honestly, then why would I answer it,” Sutter said on Wednesday. “Get (Stars head coach) Rick (Bowness) up here, and we’ll talk about our starting lineups, just so it’s friendly for the media. Let’s go.”
The insertion of Stone led to the Flames’ best result of the series so far. Not only did the veteran blast eight shots on goal, he gave some of the defencemen a break. Sutter suggested some fatigue was setting in after Game 1 saw them lose Rasmus Andersson for the final 40 minutes after a game misconduct.
“What I said when we played seven D was I didn’t like our defensive play,” Sutter said. “We won the game. Won one lost two, won one. Changed the lineup.”
On the other side, it looks like the Dallas Stars might be mixing things up. Typical top-liners Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz were separated in the Stars skate on Wednesday.
But Sutter said he wasn’t aware of what the opposition was planning to do for the critical contest.
“You ask Rick that,” he said. “Then tell me so I can tell our players that.”
Milan Lucic also addressed his opening faceoff against Jamie Benn in Game 4. Barely able to keep a straight face, he continued the party line about being on his strong side to take the draw.
It should be noted that centre-ice faceoffs don’t generally fall into a strong side/weak side category.
However, the grins in the video are more evidence of all the games within the games.
"It's going to be a lot of fun with the C of Red going, being excited as they're going to be."
Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis share their thoughts on facing the Stars for Game 5 tonight. pic.twitter.com/2DndHRWgI9
— y – Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) May 11, 2022