Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames First Round Preview

Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
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After a dramatic last two weeks of the season for the Dallas Stars, it wasn’t apparent they were going to make it to the playoffs, but they found a way to grind it out. And with a little help from the Arizona Coyotes of all teams, defeating the Nashville Predators in one of the biggest comebacks of the season, the Stars found themselves in the first Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames steamrolled the Pacific Division, finishing in first place. The first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature these two teams squaring off: the Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames.

This will be the third time that these two teams are meeting in the first round. Both previous times, the winner of the series advanced to the Stanley Cup Final; the Minnesota North Stars in 1981 and the Dallas Stars in 2020. This match-up will be only the second series in 20 years to have four 40+ goal scorers make an appearance; Elias Lindholm (42), Matthew Tkachuk (42), Jason Robertson (41), and Johnny Gaudreau (40). The Flames also have two 100+ point players going into the playoffs, Gaudreau and Tkachuk.

Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames Series Preview

Two of the NHL’s Best Top Lines Face Off

There is no doubt this season has been one of the highest-scoring years for the National Hockey League. The Flames’ top line holds the most goals in the regular season for the whole league at 124 goals. It consists of forwards Lindholm, Tkachuk, and Gaudreau. 28-year-old, Gaudreau, is tied for the second-most points recorded on the season with the Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau at 115 points. Gaudreau also finished the season at a +64 rating. This is the best +/- rating since Wayne Gretzky in the 1986-1987 season. His linemates finished the season at an impressive +61 (Lindholm) and +57 (Tkachuk). The Flames’ top line is responsible for 42.61% of the team’s scoring.

The Stars’ top line is also having a notable season, scoring a combined 105 goals during the regular season. This line consists of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz and 40+ goal scorer, Robertson. At 37 years old, Pavelski broke a new career-high with 81 points. Hintz has been the most solid two-way player for the Stars this season. Although Hintz has not seen a normal season since his NHL debut in 2018, he established career-high goals, assists, and points. The 25-year-old forward also leads the Stars in shorthanded goals at three. It is no secret that Robertson is having a heck of a sophomore year, being only one of four to score 40+ goals in Dallas Stars franchise history. He is in the company of Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin. The Stars’ top line is responsible for 45.06% of the team’s scoring.

Dueling Defense Matchups

The defence on both sides has their work cut out for them, with the scoring ability between the two teams. The Flames’ top defensive pair is made up of Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin. Andersson is having a career-high season in points and finished this season with a +/- rating of +30. He also leads the team in time on ice, with an average of 22:40 minutes a game. Hanifin tied his career-high goals at ten and finished the season with a +/- rating of +27. The pair played 81 games together and had a goals-against per 60 minutes played of 2.21. Combined, the two defensemen recorded 98 points on the season.

The Stars shuffled defensive lines for a good portion of the beginning of the season. At the end of the season, the established top defensive line was made up of veteran Ryan Suter and Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen, arguably one of the most elite defensemen in the league, hit career-high points and finished the season with a +/- rating of +3. He leads the Stars in time on ice, with an average of 24:53 minutes a game. Suter, who has the most goals out of all the Stars defensemen, finished the season with a +/- rating of +1. The pair played 69 games together and had a goals-against per 60 minutes played of 1.68. Combined, the two defensemen recorded 68 points on the season.

Goaltending Showdown

It has been said that goaltending wins playoff series and with the calibre of goalies and talented forwards who have been putting up massive numbers this season, that could very well be true this series. In an interview, Flames head coach Darryl Sutter states “if there is a comparable in this series, it’s the two goalies.” The Flames’ number one goalie, Jacob Markstrom, has been in the Vezina Trophy conversation, due to his elite goaltending this season. Markstrom has 63 starts this season, with a record of 37-15-9 and a save percentage of .922%. He also holds the league-high number of shutouts, logging nine shutouts this season. He also hit career-low goals-against average of 2.22. The Flames’ backup goalie, Daniel Vladar, has 24 starts this season and went 15-8-3. It’s safe to assume that the Flames will go with Markstrom for the majority of the post-season unless circumstances change.

Since the Stars acquired goaltender Scott Wedgewood, from the Coyotes at the trade deadline, there has not been an apparent number one goalie. Dallas has gone through a slew of goaltender issues, even though they started the season with four goalies. Injuries ravaged the goalies they had, leaving them with Wedgewood and Jake Oettinger. Oettinger has gotten the majority of the starts this season. In 46 starts, Oettinger went 30-15-1 with a save percentage of .914% and has a goals-against-average of 2.53. Wedgewood, who only has 7 starts with Dallas, went 3-1-3. His season save percentage, mostly with the Coyotes, is .910% and he has a goals-against-average of 3.14. The duties of these two goalies will most likely be shared throughout Dallas’ time in the post-season.

Series Prediction

It is no secret that the Flames are the favourite to win this first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The numbers and stats are tilted in the Flames’ favour in almost every category. The goal differential, for starters, is a big one. The Flames finished the season with a goal differential of +85. Meanwhile, the Stars finished the season out at a concerning -8. Dallas is the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential.

But Dallas is built for the playoffs. And they play a physical, gritty game that has proven to take them on a deep playoff run in the past. They will need to find some scoring depth from other lines if they want to be successful in this series. However, they certainly do not need to be counted out before the series starts, despite how it looks on paper. They thrive in the underdog role and that is what they are this postseason, underdogs.

In previous contests earlier in the season, the games have been decided by one goal two out of the three times they met. With the top lines and goaltending running the show in this series, a very close series would not be surprising. And a game seven ending is very possible. However, all 19 ESPN analysts picked the Flames to win very early on in the series. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night in Calgary.

Prediction: Calgary in 6.

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