The Calgary Flames roared through 2021-22, finishing first in the Pacific Division. Their 50-21-11 record (111 points) was the second-best season in franchise history, behind only the 1988-89 team that won the Stanley Cup. Not a bad place to be in. The Flames were a force to be reckoned with this season, finishing sixth in goals for at 293 and third in goals against with 208. As a result, Calgary also had the second-best goal differential in the NHL (+85).
After a couple of difficult seasons of underperforming, Johnny Gaudreau finally bounced back in a big way, setting career highs in goals (40), assists (75), and points (115). The same can be said for his linemates Matthew Tkachuk, who hit the 40-goal and 100-point marks for the first time in his career, and Elias Lindholm, who set career highs in goals (42) and points (82).
On the other hand, the Dallas Stars sort of stumbled into a playoff spot as the Vegas Golden Knights slumped and the Winnipeg Jets disappointed all season. Dallas finished with a 46-30-6 record (98 points). The Stars are the only playoff team with a negative goal differential (-8) and have scored the least amount of goals of any playoff team (238). The only thing they really had going for them in this regard is being average in goals against, finishing 14th (246).
The biggest bright spot on the Stars’ roster was the top offensive line with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, as well as a 37-year-old Joe Pavelski, all having career years. Pavelski had 81 points, Robertson scored 41 goals and 79 points, and Hintz had 37 goals and 72 points.
On paper, this series looks like a pretty big mismatch as the Flames appear to overpower the Stars in most aspects. But there are a few spots where Dallas may have an advantage and could even the series out. After all, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs back in 2020, Dallas did win.
Calgary Flames Series Analysis
One might think that with an offence led by two 100+ point scorers, the Flames might be a bit top-heavy and lack scoring depth. That is far from the case. The emergence of Andrew Mangiapane, who scored 35 goals, and the additions of Blake Coleman (33 points) and Tyler Toffoli (11 goals in 37 games) give the Flames scoring threats and depth that reaches two or three lines down. This even spreads to the defence as Rasmus Andersson had a 50-point year and Noah Hanifin ended the season at 48 points.
Coleman will be a particularly interesting watch for the Flames as he comes off of back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He exudes the type of player that succeeds in the playoffs with a combination of speed, physicality, and offensive contributions to round it all out.
The depth on this team will be crucial for the Flames’ success heading into the postseason. So far, Gaudreau has had mixed results in the playoffs and struggled mightily a few seasons ago against the Colorado Avalanche. Granted, this was also following an injury to Tkachuk and we now know how important he is to the energy and momentum of the team. But it will be in the back of everyone’s minds whether or not this top line can keep producing come playoff time, given historical performances.
In net, Jacob Markstrom is recognized as a big save goalie, a gamechanger. He lived up to his reputation during the regular season with a 2.22 GAA, a .922 SV%, nine shutouts, and a 26.09 GSAA (good for third in the league).
Dallas Stars Series Analysis
Another year, another Dallas Stars team that is okay to good defensively but cannot score at all. 2021-22 was no different. Luckily, Hintz, Robertson, and Pavelski took the offensive load for the team as Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn no longer appear capable of doing so. Their scoring depth drops off rather quickly after the top few.
Unfortunately for Dallas, the Flames have a couple of excellent two-way forwards more than capable of defending a single-line offensive threat. The Stars will desperately need their middle-six forward to step up and produce. Players like Denis Gurianov, Joel Kiviranta, Luke Glendening, and Radek Faksa will be incredibly important throughout this series.
Defensively, the Stars might have a slight edge on account of having a player like Miro Heiskanen. He is low-key one of the best defenders in the league. A smooth-skating, smart, two-way threat with a history of being a playoff performer in his young career. Back in 2019-20, he had 26 points in 27 games during the Stars’ run to the Cup Final.
Alongside Heiskanen is John Klingberg, a strong playmaker that the Stars will need to be in top passing form to help drive any sort of offence against the Flames. He had 47 points in 74 games during the regular season, which is right in line with his counterparts Hanifin and Andersson.
Jake Oettinger looks to make a splash in his first playoffs as a starter. After a strong regular season, he finished with a record of 30-15-1, a .914 SV%, and a 2.53 GAA. He will be put to the test quickly by the highly powered Flames offence.
Flames vs. Stars Series Prediction
Calgary Flames in 5
The Flames are the clear favourites in this series. They have the advantage on paper in nearly every aspect and I find it hard to see an outcome where they lose this series.
In my view, the best chance for the Stars to compete in this series and possibly complete the upset is to play and win the mental game. If Dallas can ignore or even negate the emotional impact that Tkachuk has on the ice, the Flames will have a harder time getting into the game. They will also have to focus on stifling Gaudreau, which is something that other teams have done quite well at in past playoffs.
What are your predictions for this series? Drop them in a comment down below!
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