The Calgary Flames are headed to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, having advanced through the qualifying round. They’ll play either the Dallas Stars or the St. Louis Blues in the first round, whichever team wins their round robin match-up on Sunday afternoon.
But how do the Flames match up against these two clubs?
The Dallas Stars
The Flames went 2-1-0 against Dallas during the regular season.
Oct. 10, 2019: 3-2 shootout win in Dallas [Wrap-Up]
Well, they didn’t make it particularly easy on themselves. They took too many penalties and couldn’t get much going at five-on-five until the third period. The Stars’ forecheck and defensive structure gave them fits for two periods.
But the Flames managed to figure things out in the third period. They out-played Dallas when it mattered the most and they managed to eke out a road win.
November 13, 2019: 3-1 loss in Calgary [Wrap-Up]
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Flames took an undisciplined penalty early in a period, surrendered a power play goal, and then chased for the remainder of the game. They couldn’t do a ton at even strength to disrupt Dallas’ defensive coverage and, thus, weren’t really able to claw their way back into things.
December 22, 2019: 5-1 win in Dallas [Wrap-Up]
The Flames were perfectly okay at five on five. Without their special teams, maybe they could’ve grinded out a close win. But their best players were at their best with the extra man, and that gave them a ton of breathing room in what’s been a tough building for them to win in.
The Flames had their best performance against Dallas after the coaching change.
The Stars are 0-2 so far in the round robin, with losses to Colorado (4-0) and Vegas (5-3) thus far. Here’s how they lined up against Colorado last game:
Mattias Janmark – Joe Pavelski – Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn – Roope Hintz – Tyler Seguin
Denis Gurianov – Jason Dickinson – Corey Perry
Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Andrew Cogliano
Jamie Oleksiak – Miro Heiskanen
Esa Lindell – Stephen Johns
Thomas Harley* – Andrej Sekera
Extras: Ben Bishop*, Landon Bow, John Klingberg*, Joel Hanley, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Nick Caamano, Jason Robertson, Joel Kiviranta, Justin Dowling and Ty Dellandrea
*-Bishop was “unfit to play” against Colorado so Oettinger was backup, but normally Bishop starts. Klingberg is expected to play Sunday, so Harley should be the odd man out. Per Stars PR’s last update from Friday, Bishop and Fedun are not practicing.
The St. Louis Blues
The Flames went 0-1-2 against the reigning Stanley Cup champions during the regular season.
November 9, 2019: 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary [Wrap-Up]
Let’s get this out of the way: the Blues are a really good hockey team. They hit. They battle for loose pucks. They muck around in front of the net. They forecheck and backcheck. They don’t give their opponents a night off.
The Flames weren’t particularly awful in the first and second period, they were just a little bit worse than the Blues. But they kept plugging away, simplified their game in the third period and found a way to drag themselves kicking and screaming back into the game. They were right there with the Blues in OT, but just took an inopportune penalty and suffered for it.
November 21, 2019: 5-0 loss in St. Louis [Wrap-Up]
Tell me if this sounds familiar: the Flames played good early but weren’t rewarded. Some key players had key defensive lapses at key times and the game started getting away from them. So they broke from their system to press more offensively and the floodgates opened up.
January 28, 2020: 5-4 shootout loss in Calgary [Wrap-Up]
There were basically two games going on here.
- On special teams, the Flames out-scored the Blues 3-1 and were really sharp.
- At even strength, the Blues out-scored the Flames 3-1 and the home side was a bit leaky defensively.
They were in a situation where the coin-toss that is the shootout could determine their fate, but they managed to at least grab a point.
The Flames showed a lot of improvement in their performance against the Blues, again, after the coaching change.
The Blues are 0-2 so far in the round robin, with losses to Colorado (2-1) and Vegas (6-4) thus far. Here’s how they lined up against Vegas:
David Perron – Ryan O’Reilly – Zach Sanford
Sammy Blais – Tyler Bozak – Troy Brouwer
Alexander Steen – Oscar Sundqvist – Mackenzie MacEachern
Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Jordan Kyrou
Colton Parayko – Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn – Alex Pietrangelo
Marco Scandella – Robert Bortuzzo
Extras: Ville Huuso, Carl Gunnarsson, Jake Walman, Derrick Pouliot, Niko Mikkola, Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas, Klim Kostin, Ivan Barbashev, Austin Poganski and Jacob de la Rose
Tarasenko and Thomas are expected to play Sunday against Dallas.
If you had to choose…
On paper, the Flames line up better against Dallas than St. Louis. The Flames have managed to win two of three meetings, and the Stars are just a little bit weaker in terms of their lineup than the Blues.
That said, there would be something interesting in the Flames going up against the defending champs. The Flames played some of their most Flamesy hockey of the season against the Blues – November 21 was Peak Flames, in my opinion – and the redemptive arc of the team would suit such a series.
For what it’s worth, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford (who’s covered that team like a blanket for years) wrote a piece on the best and worst possible first round opponents for the Blues [paywalled]: Initially, he had the Flames as their second most favourable opponent. Now?
A few weeks ago, I counted down from No. 8 (difficult) to No. 1 (favorable) the best matchup for #stlblues in the 1st round. For fun, based on early events (play, injuries, etc), let's re-rank them:
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) August 6, 2020
The Flames couldn’t elevate their game against a damn good Colorado team last season. Nor could they do it against Anaheim in 2015 or 2017. For a core group with something to prove, a series with the Blues could be a great place to prove it.
That said, the Dallas match-up would be a more winnable series, especially for a Flames group that’s defended well and added some physicality to their approach to games lately.