The Calgary Flames are battling their own history, as well as the Dallas Stars, in their Western Conference first-round series.
Heading into Saturday’s Game 3 at Dallas, the Flames are well aware of the parallels between their recent playoff failures, especially after a 2-0 defeat to the Stars on Thursday that has the best-of-seven series tied 1-1.
The Flames won their opening playoff game in the first round in both 2019 and 2020, but lost both second games on the way to being eliminated.
“In the past, ’18-19, we got really high after the first game and really low after the second game and just could never really recover after that loss at home against Colorado,” center Mikael Backlund said. “It feels way different now against Dallas. You learn from your past mistakes, so for me personally, that’s how I go about life and I’m just really excited.”
The Flames, who won the opener 1-0 against the Stars on Tuesday, are getting placed under the microscope. Despite being one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, an early Game 1 power-play goal by Elias Lindholm in the opener is their only score, despite holding a significant edge in shots.
“We need to have confidence, right?” Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane said. “We’re a good team. We know that. We’ve had success during the regular season, of course.
“Now we’ve got to have confidence and that swagger that we are a good team. Just because we lose one game, it really doesn’t matter for us.”
Added forward Tyler Toffoli: “Our goal was to go into Dallas and win two games anyways. It doesn’t really change our mindset, I don’t think. We have to go there … and just try to take control of the series again.”
A big factor in Calgary’s offensive struggles has been Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger, who has risen to the occasion in his first two NHL playoff starts. Oettinger has stopped 54 of 55 shots and has a shutout streak of 114 minutes, 59 seconds.
“I think he’s enjoying being center stage,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “I think he’s enjoying being given the ball and running with it. Some guys are intimidated by that, he’s not.”
For his part, Oettinger appears to be unfazed by the situation and unconcerned about personal accolades, such as being the youngest goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff shutout.
“This time of year, the only thing that matters is wins,” Oettinger said. “They have a great goalie on the other end and we know it’s going to be tight, so the margin for error for me is very slim.”
The Dallas skaters deserve credit for the job they have done limiting Calgary’s quality opportunities. The Flames have not been generating as many chances off the rush, nor second chances after Oettinger has made a save.
“That’s how we have to play,” Bowness said. “We have to grind it out with them. This is one of the best defensive teams in the league. They’re not going to give you a lot of chances, no matter if you play Dallas Stars hockey, whatever hockey. They don’t give you very much.”
It should help their confidence that the Stars won with that gameplan. After all, they remain the underdogs, even if they now own home-ice advantage.
“It was a good team win,” captain Jamie Benn said. “I thought we made it too easy on them in the first game. We were better (Thursday). They’re going to have their pushes and their good shifts, but we handled them well and we found a way.”
–Field Level Media