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EDMONTON, ALBERTA - AUGUST 11: Alexander Radulov #47 of the Dallas Stars skates against Cam Talbot #39 of the Calgary Flames during the third period in Game One of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 11, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Stars 3-2.
Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn is shoved to the ice by Calgary Flames defenceman Derek Forbort in front of goaltender Cam Talbot during the second period in Game 1 of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
Cam Talbot of the Calgary Flames stops a shot from Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in Game 4 of the Western Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 06, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta.
EDMONTON — Two games into the Calgary Flames’ first-round playoff series against the Dallas Stars, it has become apparent that this is Cam Talbot’s net to lose.
Regardless of what the outcome was going to be in Thursday’s Game 2, the 33-year-old Caledonia, Ont., native established himself as the reliable, go-to guy. It’s been a moment that, really, Talbot has been preparing for his entire career until this point.
His experience. His struggles. His successes. His approach to the National Hockey League’s ‘Return to Play’ initiative and re-start training camp. His demeanour.
All of it has contributed to why the Flames went with Talbot — the netminder signed over a year ago in hopes of re-discovering his game — to start the post-season.
“In this unique situation with no fans where you kind of have to find your own motivation, Cam has such a strong mental game,” pointed out Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet as Talbot enjoyed a few days away from the media. “We’ve always said he’s unflappable.
“If things go bad, he shakes things off better than most goalies I’ve seen.”
The back-to-back scenario of Games 2 and 3 — the latter of which goes Friday at 8:30 p.m. MT, CBC, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 960 The Fan) — may present a different situation. Will they take the approach of the Boston Bruins — who played back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday — and start their No. 1 both nights?
Or will they take the approach of the Carolina Hurricanes? They started James Reimer in Game 2 after starting Petr Mrazek in their first game.
Still, there’s a case to be made that Talbot is capable of this type of assignment, mentally and physically.
That’s not to say the Flames don’t have confidence in David Rittich, who carried the bulk of the workload at the start of the 2019-20 regular season and who inked a two-year deal with Calgary last summer.
Any long playoff-run is a marathon, not a sprint, and chances are the Flames will need both netminders at some point during what they expect will be a lengthy stay in Edmonton.
But Talbot has earned the right to stay in there.
“I think his past experience of a long run, being around a guy like (Henrik) Lundqvist who has a lot of experience,” Sigalet said. “He also went on a long run in Edmonton that’s helped him for sure … he’s been super-focused, mentally strong, always in good position and when you’re confident, you make things look easy like Cam is doing right now. It’s nice to see that and the guys feed off it.”
Take Tuesday’s 3-2 win in Game 1, for example. A stretch of nine seconds in the second frame resulted in back-to-back goals from the Stars to knot the score 2-2. Screened somewhat by TJ Brodie battling in front, a shot by Denis Gurianov banked in off Brodie’s backside and in. Then, another long bomb from Jamie Benn took an odd hop off the ice and underneath Talbot’s right arm.
Yet instead of crumbling under pressure, Talbot was more concerned about the next shot and next face-off rather than what had just occurred.
As a result, the Flames continued onward and eventually were able to score again — thanks to Rasmus Andersson — before the second period ended.
Albeit, if it was a home game in the Lone Star State — which, technically, it should have been on both Tuesday and Thursday but … the pandemic — the Dallas faithful would have been chirping Talbot and trying to throw him off his game. The Stars, inevitably, would have fed off that emotion.
Still, it’s about working with the cards you’re dealt and that’s exactly what Talbot was able to do in that situation.
“The next shot he got, he looked so calm … he can put it behind him quicker than most guys,” Sigalet said. “In the past, if that would happen to our team, they would fold. Our team did the exact opposite. It kind of elevated our game. Whether that was to help get him out or to push forward, it was good on our team to just put that behind us.”
It’s one example and, of course, there are many situations that will arise in the post-season.
But at the moment, the Flames have confidence in him.
“They’ve seen him do it all year down the stretch and even in the training camp he had,” Sigalet said. “There’s a lot of faith in Cam from our team. They’re out there battling for him. Things aren’t always going to go great, but they just know how mentally strong he is and they know he’s going to put everything out there for the team. He’s definitely a mentally strong guy.
“I don’t think it matters what happens out here, he’s really good at putting everything behind him and moving on.”
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