NHL Western Conference playoffs: Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars series preview and predictions

The NHL playoffs are finally here, and after clinching the number one seed for the Pacific Division, the Calgary Flames will face off against the number one wild card team from the West, the Dallas Stars. This matchup has been touted as a chess match between two expert head coaches. Can the Flames live up to the expectations that come with being a one seed? Or will the Stars shock the hockey world and advance themselves to the next round…

The season series was won by the Flames after going 2-0-1. This matchup will be decided by the team’s top lines and goaltending. The Flames’ top line all scored at least 40 goals this season, while the Stars top line all recorded 72 or more points. Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom recorded a league-high nine shutouts for Calgary, and Jake Oettinger for the Stars posted an impressive 30-15-1 record. Let’s break down this matchup and see who we think has the edge…

Breaking down the Calgary Flames

The Flames are entering this matchup as a heavy favorite. After putting together the second-best season in franchise history, Calgary has raised expectations and has been coined as one of the favorites to win the Cup. With 50 wins and 111 points, the Flames shattered all expectations this season after playing a highly-skilled, incredibly fast, and hard-nosed style of hockey.

The Flames top line put together one of the best seasons in recent memory. Johnny Gaudreau finished with the second-best plus/minus since 1985-1986, only trailing Wayne Gretzky. Unbelievably, the players who finished with the third and fourth-best plus/minus since 1986 are Gaudreau’s linemates, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. All three players recorded 40 or more goals, and Tkachuk and Gaudreau finished with more than 100 points.

Jacob Markstrom was instrumental in the Flames success this season. The goaltender went 37-15-9 posting a 2.22 GAA and .922 SVP with a league-leading nine shutouts. He will get some serious consideration for the best goaltender of the season. With his help, the Flames allowed the third-fewest goals per game. Like the rest of the Flames team, he has his sights set on Lord Stanley.

Breaking down the Dallas Stars

The Stars crawled their way into a Wild Card spot after a very shaky start to the season. The Stars were able to find a level of consistency that saw them winning more often than not. However, the Stars are the only team in the league to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential (-8 on the season). While everyone that makes the postseason has a chance to do some damage, the expectations for the Stars are extremely low and they are entering the playoffs as the third-largest underdog…

While they might not have had the same season as the Flames top line, the Stars top line is nothing to overlook. Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Joe Pavelski all put up career years for the Stars this season. Defensively they were tasked with defending their opponents’ top lines all season, and they still managed a solid offensive output. Robertson finished the season with 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games. Meanwhile, Pavelski seems to get better with age as he posted a career-high 81 points in 82 games despite playing in his 16th season. His durability and experience could prove to be vital for this matchup, he has seen two Stanley Cup Finals.

The Stars split goaltending duties for most of the season between three different players. They are projected to roll with Jake Oettinger as their starter until he gives them a reason to change things up. Oettinger had a solid year, but with the uncertainty of not having a solidified number one, the Stars might be at a serious disadvantage in the net. Oettinger is entering the playoffs on a three-game win streak, so he does have momentum and the talent to steal a game or two.

Calgary Flames vs Dallas Stars series prediction: Flames 4-1

The regular-season series was won by the Flames after they went 2-0-1 against the Stars. In three games, the Flames scored 11 goals and totaled 110 shots. They were the better team and in their most recent meeting on April 21, they defeated the Stars 4-2. The Flames won 61% of home games this season, and that could prove to be a difference-maker in this series. The Saddledome is a tough place to play for opponents, and after two years with no fans and no success, the Flames fan base is going to be explosive. The Flames averaged the sixth-most goals per game and allowed the third-fewest goals per game. They were consistently dominant all yea. I’m not overthinking this one, my pick is the Calgary Flames -125 to win this series by -1.5 games.

It’s tough to find any reason that doesn’t point to the Flames winning this series. They’re the better team on paper and are better in every category. Coaching staff, goaltending, goal-scoring, defending, skillsets, game-breakers, everything points to a Flames victory. The Flames are currently +850 to win it all, which are the third-best odds. Calgary has all their key players having career years, and to fold after an incredible regular season would be shocking. This is a team that can go deep, and it’s unlikely the Dallas Stars get in their way of that.

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