Calgary Flames fans shuttered when they saw their team’s projected lines heading into a crucial Game 4 against the Dallas Stars. It was impossible to notice that penciled in on the third line was Brett Ritchie, a player who managed just three goals and four points in 41 games this season. It seemed to be an odd choice to promote him while demoting Andrew Mangiapane, given the fact the entire roster had managed just three goals through the first three games of the series.

As it turns out, however, having Ritchie on the second line during rushes in practice appears to have been clever gamesmanship from Darryl Sutter, as the 28-year-old wasn’t only absent from the second line, but the whole lineup entirely, as he ended up being listed as a healthy scratch shortly before puck drop. Whether or not it was a coincidence with Sutter’s mind games, the Flames’ offence finally came to life in Game 4, as they were able to fire four past Jake Oettinger while also registering 54 shots on net in what ended as a 4-1 final.

Leading the way was Johnny Gaudreau, who responded well after being called out by Sutter two nights prior. He scored on a penalty shot in the third to put his team up 2-0, before setting up Elias Lindholm less than five minutes later to extend the lead to three. It was a crucial performance for Johnny Hockey, as whispers were starting to arise in relation to his past playoff struggles. While Monday night’s performance was certainly a step in the right direction, this Flames team needs him and Matthew Tkachuk, amongst others, to amp things up if they hope to go on a deep playoff run.

Gaudreau & Tkachuk Showing Signs of Life

While there were several reasons the Flames were able to have such a great 2021-22 season, perhaps the biggest of all was the play of their top line. All three of Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Lindholm were able to set career highs and formed a line that was arguably the best we saw from any team in the NHL.