Analyzing the Calgary Flames Most Likely Playoff Matchups

Apr 2, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (55) celebrates his goal with teammates against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (55) celebrates his goal with teammates against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

With the playoffs starting in under a month, Calgary Flames fans have a lot to be excited about. With a playoff berth all but guaranteed and a sizeable lead for first in the Pacific, things are looking great for the team going into their final 10 games of the season.

It’s been an enjoyable rollercoaster of a season for Flames fans in the 2021-2022 NHL season. From a new coach to a Covid outbreak to questions about the roster, this team has exceeded all expectations.

Not only slated to make the playoffs, they are projected to win the division and face the first wildcard team as a result. Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic published his projections of the most likely playoff matches, which I’ll be analyzing below to see who the Flames want to face and who to avoid.

Nashville Predators

112. . 1-0-0. . . 151. 0-0-1.

The Nashville Predators are positioned to be the most likely opponent for the Calgary Flames after last nights results, with a 45% chance to meet in the first round.  Flames fans may not know what to expect from the Predators, as the teams have faced just once this year but are slated to play twice in the final two weeks of the season.

Nashville are an intriguing team as their numbers have been subpar – they are regularly out-chanced, outshot, and are usually just about even in terms of expected goals. However, their PDO has been high this season – which sits at a 1.015, good for fourth in the league.

Another reason for Nashville’s success this season has been the play of their number one goalie Jusse Saros. He’s been a fantastic player for the Predators this year, saving almost 25 goals above expected.

For reference, Jacob Markstrom has saved about 13 goals above expected. When you’re a team with middling advanced stats like the Predators, that kind of goaltending is crucial for winning both the regular season and playoff games.

Overall, Nashville is a middling hockey team playing in front of a fantastic goaltender with great scoring support – not necessarily because of the quality of the roster, but from high shooting percentages and lots of puck luck.

Dallas Stars

119. . . 112. . 1-1-0. . 1-0-1

The Dallas Stars are projected to be the Calgary Flames’ second most likely opponent, with a 41% chance of meeting in the first round. Flames fans know this team well, as they lost in six games to the Stars during the 2020 playoffs.

During the 2021-2022 season, the teams have met twice and will meet a third time on April 21st. It’s no secret that the Flames have been on a roll for most of the season, but the Stars have picked it up lately too, totalling the 6th most points in the NHL since February 11th.

Analytically, the story is much different. Calgary has been outright dominant this year and the numbers reflect that. The Flames hold an advantage in xGoals%, Shot Attempts%, and a higher shooting and save percentage.

A dark horse in the series could be the goalie matchup – Dallas’ starter, Jake Oettinger, has a great stat line on the year and has similar analytical results to Jacob Markstrom with fewer games played. If Darryl Sutter continues to play Jacob Markstrom as much as he has, the rested goalie could be the difference in this series.

Heading Into the Playoffs

With Nashville and Dallas being the two most probable opponents for the Calgary Flames this postseason, the Flames have a few priorities before they get there.

The first is to rest Jacob Markstrom. It’s pretty clear that no matter who the Flames face in the first round, goaltending is going to be a major factor for both sides. A rested Markstrom could do wonders for the Flames chances to make it a deep playoff run.

Another is to continue to keep their foot on the pedal and clinch the division to ensure they’re facing that first wildcard team rather than one of L.A or Edmonton.

Based on the results so far, I think the Flames can handle both teams in a best-of-seven series. If I got to choose, however, I think Nashville gives the Flames the best chance of winning. Their style of play is reliant on goaltending and high shooting percentages.

The Flames excel at limiting chances and moving the puck the other way, and I think they can handle Nashville tidily.

All data in this article was pulled from MoneyPuck, The Athletic, Dobber’s Frozen Tools, and NaturalStatTrick

Next. West coast road trip just what the doctor ordered for Calgary Flames. dark