How the Flames fared against potential playoff opponents this season

Apr 27 2022, 6:37 pm

And then there were, officially, two.Ā 

The Calgary Flames will play one of two opponents in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, an almost identical split in odds between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.Ā 

The Flames have a 51.3% chance of hosting the Predators in the opening round of playoffs, and a 48.7% look at welcoming the visiting Stars.Ā 

Either make an intriguing matchup for the Flames, who have long clinched a berth and were assured the Pacific Division title last week to set up a date with the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.Ā 

Both have faced the Flames recently, too, giving Calgary a close-up look at a potential opponent when the playoffs start next week.Ā 

Here’s a look at each.

Dallas Stars

Technically, Dallas has yet to clinch a berth in the playoffs, though it sits equal with Nashville at 95 points entering action Wednesday. The Predators hold the tie-breaking edge because of their 35 regulation wins, whereas the Stars sit at 30. The Vegas Golden Knights could, in theory, catch Dallas in points and overtake the wild card spot based on the same time-breaker, though those odds aren’t likely.Ā 

So what does Dallas look like against Calgary?Ā 

The Stars went 1-2-0 this season against the Flames, including a 4-3 overtime win at Calgary on November 4, a 4-3 regulation loss at Dallas on February 1, and, most recently, a 4-2 loss at the Saddledome on April 21. In all, the Stars averaged 3.00 goals for and 3.67 goals against and generated 26.3 shots while giving up 36.7 shots against.Ā 

“They have a lot of good players up front,” Flames blueliner Noah Hanifin said in February. “They’re a really good team on paper. Even their D, they’ve got a lot of real mobile defencemen on the back end that can jump into the play and create odd-man rushes.Ā 

“They have some really good veteran forwards up front that have been around for a long time and have had success.”

In the odds-and-ends department, Dallas is the NHL’s second-best faceoff team at 54.6%. They’re in the upper-half of the league in terms of limiting shots against and are slightly above average in generating shots themselves. The Stars are also the league’s least penalized team, spending just 543 minutes in the box by way of 247 penalties taken, though their penalty kill ranks 18th in the league at 79.1%. Their power play, at 22.1%, ranks 12th.Ā 

In terms of personnel, defenceman Miro Heiskanen paced Dallas in scoring against Calgary, netting four assists in three games. Jamie Benn and Jason Robertson, Dallas’ lone 40-goal scorer, each scored twice in the series. Jake Oettinger started two of three games against Calgary, posting a 3.56 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in two losses.Ā 

Nashville Predators

Nashville, unlike Dallas, has already secured its spot in the playoffs and cannot be caught by the Golden Knights. That means the Predators are guaranteed to face either the Flames or the Central Division and Western Conference-leading Colorado Avalanche. Only five teams in the West have more regulation wins than Nashville’s 35.Ā 

None of those 35 came at the expense of Calgary.

The Predators, however, went 2-0-1 against Calgary, picking up five of a possible six points. Each team scored nine goals in the series, which includes a Predators’ 3-2 overtime win at Calgary on November 2, a 3-2 shootout win at Nashville on April 19, and Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss at Bridgestone Arena. Calgary limited Nashville to an average of 24.0 shots per game in the three-game set while firing 33.0 on Predators goaltenders.Ā 

Playing twice in the span of a week might’ve added some spice to the latter two meetings. The Flames and Predators combined for 74 hits in Tuesday’s thriller.Ā 

“This game wasn’t going to be one that you just go through the motions,” Calgary forward Milan Lucic said. “They’re playing to clinch a playoff spot, and it’s a possible first-round matchup. I think everyone here and who watched on TV got their money’s worth. I’ve got to say… I’ve played over a thousand games now, and that’s probably a top-five game I’ve been a part of with the goals, the hits, the fights, the emotion, the crowd. It was a great game to be a part of.

“If we play them, if we don’t play them, whoever we play, it was definitely a playoff-type game.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise.Ā 

Nashville paces the NHL with 2,400 hits this season. Calgary, by comparison, is 18th with 1,799. The Predators are also the league’s most penalized team, serving 1,010 minutes for an average of 12:37 per game. The 381 penalties taken are the pace-setter and, surprisingly, so are their 358 penalties drawn. They’ve got a top-five power play at 24.6%, but their penalty kill falters at 78.9% — 19th best.Ā 

Whichever team plays the Predators might’ve caught a break, too. Starting goaltender Juuse Saros left Tuesday’s loss in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. He’s tuned Calgary for two wins and a .926 save percentage in three appearances. Matt Duchene has been equally unforgiving, netting six points (three goals, three assists) in three games. Mikael Granlund and Filip Forsberg have been equally unforgiving. Granlund has five assists against the Flames, and Forsberg has scored four goals.Ā 

The scenarios

On paper, the Stars have the easier slate remaining on their schedule. They play both games at home against non-playoff teams in the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday before closing out the docket against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.Ā 

The Predators also have two games remaining — both on the road and both without Saros. They’ll visit the Avalanche on Thursday before closing out in Arizona on Friday.Ā 

Whoever fetches the most points out of the remaining two-game set will face the Flames, while a tie will see Nashville travel to Calgary to open the playoffs, while Dallas will fly to Colorado.Ā 

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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