After a lot of back and forth, Friday’s win over Dallas combined with the Nashville loss cemented a first-round matchup against the Stars, a rematch of the 2020 series that saw the Flames bow out in six games.
This is a chance for the Flames to exorcise their demons of 2020, which saw them lose to the Stanley Cup finalist Dallas Stars in the first round. A lot has changed since then – new personnel, a new coach, and a new style of play that saw the Flames finish first in the Pacific with 111 points.
There are some keys variables for the Flames to come away with a series win.
Shut Down the Robertson Line
Since joining the NHL, Jason Robertson has been on fire. The most recent example is this year’s campaign, netting 41 goals and 79 points for the Stars. The Star’s first line of Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski has been dominant, sporting a 59.5 xGF% in almost 800 minutes together.
Aside from that, the rest of the Star’s forwards have been mediocre at best. This is very much the definition of a one-line team, with the addition of ghosts of former superstars like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
For more context, the aforementioned line of Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski finished with 79, 72, and 81 points respectively. The next best on the team, Tyler Seguin, didn’t crack 50. The good news is that the Flames are dominant in driving play 5v5, and can match the Gaudreau line to the Robertson line. Doing this should render the Stars’ offence powerless and help the Flames make the second round.
Win the Goaltending Duel
Since Bishop’s retirement and the injuries to both Braden Holtby and Anton Khudobin, Jake Oettinger, Stars stand-in No.1, has played well for a rookie. He finished the year as the 28th best goaltender based on his GSAA of 4. For context, Jacob Markstrom finished fifth among goalies with a GSAA of 16.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Markstrom has been the better goalie this year. The Calgary Flames will need Markstrom to be at his best to win the series.
Flames fans have had a hard time putting the Flames and consistency in the same sentence over the years. The 2021-2022 season has been a refreshing one as the team has played a consistently dominant style of hockey throughout the year, showcased by their second-place finish in the Western Conference.
They’re a top 5 team in both CF% and xG%, further cementing their dominance. The Flames can roll 4 lines with confidence and expect to keep the puck going the other way.
Defensively, their blueliners are fantastic with getting the puck up the ice with breakout passes and breaking up plays before they become dangerous. The Flames never take their foot off the gas, and somehow get even scarier after getting the lead. If the Flames can continue to play the way they’ve played in the regular season against the Stars, they won’t have an issue.
Both on paper and analytically, the Flames are a much better team than the Dallas Stars and should dominate them in the first round. With excellent shutdown players, superior goaltending, and an overall better team, the Flames should oust the Dallas Stars in 5 games and move on to the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.