If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Not quite a piece of machinery on Darryl Sutter’s farm a few hours north in Viking, but the rancher-slash-coach has done more than his fair share of cultivating the Calgary Flames lineup throughout the regular season to yield some great success.
So, with the puck dropping on the Flames’ opening round tilt against the Dallas Stars, there’s really no reason for Sutter to slash and burn one of the — if not the — best lineup Calgary’s seen iced in the playoffs in a couple of decades.
That means the top trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk are expected to remain intact when the series gets underway.
All three had career years this season, with Gaudreau reaching 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists), Tkachuk hitting 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists), and Lindholm netting himself a personal-best 82 points (42 goals, 40 assists). Collectively, they finished 1-2-3 for a combined +182.
Their combined total of 301 points topped any collective three players in the NHL, including the Edmonton Oilers trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman.
Flames projected lineup
Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane — Mikael Backlund — Tyler Toffoli
Dillon Dube — Calle Jarnkrok — Blake Coleman
Milan Lucic — Trevor Lewis — Brett Ritchie
Noah Hanifin — Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington — Christopher Tanev
Nikita Zadorov — Erik Gudbranson
That should leave the foursome of forwards Adam Ruzicka and Ryan Carpenter and blueliners Michael Stone and Connor Mackey in the press box to start.
Dallas will try to counter with its own formidable top line.
The trio of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski have been one of the NHL’s most consistent trios. In fact, only Calgary’s top line, with 965.3 minutes, played more than the Stars’ trio of 791.1.
Stars projected lineup
Jason Robertson — Roope Hintz — Joe Pavelski
Jamie Benn — Vladislav Namestnikov — Tyler Seguin
Joel Kiviranta — Radek Faksa — Denis Gurianov
Michael Raffl — Luke Glendening — Alexander Radulov
Ryan Suter — Miro Heiskanen
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Joel Hanley — Jani Hakanpaa
The series opens with Game 1 at 8 pm MT and will be broadcast on TV on CBC and Sportsnet and on radio on Sportsnet 960.