The 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here! Now that the qualifying round and round-robin seeding rounds are over, the matchups are set for the first round of the playoffs in both the Eastern and Western Conference. One of the more intriguing first-round matchups in the Western Conference is the Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars. The Stars went 1-2 in the round-robin and finished third in the Western Conference. While the Flames knocked off the Winnipeg Jets in four games in the qualifying round.
One team is playing really well, while the other team is looking for answers. This is the first time these two teams will meet in the playoffs. The Minnesota North Stars defeated the Flames in the 1981 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two teams faced off during the regular season with the Flames owning a 2-1 record. Let’s take a deeper look into the Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars first-round matchup.
Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars
Flames Power Play
The Calgary Flames power play is clicking on all cylinders after their series against the Winnipeg Jets. Calgary’s power play unit is clicking at a rate of 29.4 percent. This young high flying team has so many weapons with Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk leading the way. Even though Gaudreau had a lower production rate this season, he found his spark again in the qualifying round. The Flames torched the Jets in the qualifying round for every mistake they made in Games 1, 3, and 4. Monahan led the way for the Flames with six points in the qualifying round. The Flames are able to give a number of different looks on the power play with their depth on offence.
And they got timely goals on the power play. When the game was tight against the Jets, the Flames were able to score to break the game wide open and cruise to a series victory. The Dallas Stars have to stay out of the penalty box if they want a chance in this series. Calgary made the Jets pay for dumb penalties they took. In particular, when they allowed Tkachuk to get under their skin. That is something the Stars need to avoid, but that is the style of game Tkachuk plays.
Dallas Offensive Struggles
While the round-robin games may have been glorified preseason games, the Stars have problems scoring goals. Shutout in two of four games. No production from Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Roope Hintz, and Alexander Radulov is concerning. What is more concerning is that Seguin was unfit to play for the final round-robin game against the St. Louis Blues. His status for Game 1 is up in the air. The Stars hope once the series against the Flames starts, so too will the offence. But it is difficult for teams to just turn things on and off again. It is the same old story when it comes to the Stars, the lack of production from the forwards. It is the playoffs after all, how much more motivation do Seguin and Benn need?
They felt the pain of losing in a Game 7 to the Blues in the second round last year. If the Stars do not get the production they need from their top players, this will be a short series. They can’t rely on their bottom-six forwards to score goals considering their age. The Stars are built around two players and if they can’t get it done this season, questions will be raised.
The one thing that is going in favour of the Stars is how they play defence. With Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg anchoring the Stars’ defence, they have one of the best in the league. Even without Roman Polak, the Stars still have the depth necessary to make a far run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Dallas plays a defence first style that leads to low scoring games as we saw in the round-robin games. But they can’t have their defencemen be their leading scorers on the team. The Stars have a tough task slowing down a high flying Flames team that has a lot of weapons on offence. Dallas will need to shut them down in order to win.
On the flip side of things, the Flames are starting to play the kind of defence that wins in the playoffs. Under head coach Geoff Ward, the Flames have committed to a defence first mentality. As we saw in the qualifying round, they were able to shut down a weakened Jets team. When they had the lead, the Flames attacked the puck and limited their opponent’s chances. They will need to keep that up going forward.
The goaltending in the Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars first-round matchup is interesting. Cam Talbot is playing well for the Flames. He may not get the credit for stopping a weakened Jets team. But Talbot came up with the goods when the Jets were pressing. There was a battle between Talbot and David Rittich this season, but Ward decided to go with the veteran. However, it is a two-goalie system nowadays in the NHL, but having Talbot playing this well makes him the clear cut number one heading into the series with the Stars.
There are some question marks surrounding the goaltending of the Dallas Stars. Anton Khudobin played the last round-robin game for the Stars. Ben Bishop like Seguin, was unfit to play in the Stars for periods of time during the round-robin series. He did not start training camp on time and missed two games for the Stars. Even though he practiced with the team, he was not ready to go. This has to raise eyebrows because he was a reason the Stars got as far as they did last year. His status for the first round is still unknown. While they have a capable backup in Khudobin, the Stars’ best chance to win is with Bishop in between the pipes.
The Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars first-round series has the potential to be a fun series to watch with the offence both teams possess. Both teams have much to prove, especially the Flames after coming up short last year in the playoffs. The way the Flames are playing there is no reason why they can’t beat a Stars’ team that can’t score at the moment. And with Milan Lucic starting to play like his old self, that spells danger for the Stars. If the Stars can’t get going, the Flames could make this a short series. Obviously, things can change, but this is the Flames series to lose.
Flames in six games.
Embed from Getty Images