Flames couldnt overcome Tkachuks injury in first-round loss to Stars

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The Calgary Flames were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday.

The Flames entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the West after defeating the Winnipeg Jets in four games in their best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Calgary was the No. 8 seed in the Qualifiers after finishing the regular season with a .564 points percentage (36-27-7).

Here is a look at what happened during the 2020 postseason for the Flames and why things could be even better next season:

 

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: TJ Brodie, D; Travis Hamonic, D; Derek Forbort, D; Erik Gustafsson, D; Michael Stone, D; Cam Talbot, G; Austin Czarnik, F; Tobias Rieder, F; Zac Rinaldo, F.

Potential restricted free agents: Mark Jankowski, F; Andrew Mangiapane, F; Oliver Kylington, D.

Potential 2020 NHL Draft picks: 7

 

What went wrong

Under siege: Calgary lost three games by one goal each and had trouble limiting the number of scoring chances generated by Dallas throughout the series. No goalie has faced more shots on goal in the first round than Talbot (206) and only Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo has matched that workload, in the Eastern Conference First Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Talbot held the fort as best he could until faltering in a four-goal stumble in Game 6, but still exits the postseason with a 2.42 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 10 games.

Loss of Tkachuk: Matthew Tkachuk, who led the Flames with 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists) in 69 games during the regular season, was injured following a collision with Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and forward Jamie Benn in Game 2 and never returned to the series. His timely vocals, offense, and ability to agitate were elements others on the Flames couldn’t replicate.

Not enough scoring 5-on-5: Calgary’s three highest-scoring forwards after Tkachuk — Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm — were held to one even-strength point, an assist, in the series. In fact, the Flames managed just nine even-strength goals against the Stars, though they did have eight special-teams goals — five on the power play and three shorthanded.

 

Reasons for optimism

Calgary’s core: Despite less production offensively Calgary’s core still is very talented. Gaudreau, who finished second on the Flames with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists), is one season removed from an NHL career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) in 2018-19. Lindholm, who was third with 54 points, scored an NHL career-high 29 goals, though his point total fell by 24 from the previous season. Monahan, fourth with 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists), was down from an NHL career-high 34 goals in 2018-19. Their numbers dipped, but there’s no reason yet to suggest this season is the new norm for the group.

The kids are alright: The Flames have some younger players that stepped up to either earn a full-time opportunity or expand on one they previously grasped. Defenseman Rasmus Andersson, in his second full season in the NHL and firmly entrenched on Calgary’s second pairing, set NHL career highs in goals (5), points (22), shots (124) and average time on ice (17:52). Mangiapane, a fixture on the Flames second line with Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk, had an NHL career-high 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists). Forward Dillon Dube, 22, had four goals in nine playoff games.

Possible changing of the guard: Calgary could potentially lose up to five defensemen who are unrestricted free agents in the offseason, but that could also lead to a younger core moving forward. Andersson and defense partner Noah Hanifin, each 23, are already a formidable middle pair. Kylington, 23 was also featured routinely in the regular season, and Juuso Valimaki, the No. 16 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, missed the entire season recovering from knee surgery in September but should be a fixture on the Flames next season. The group, of course, will still be fronted by 36-year-old captain Mark Giordano.

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