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Dillon Dube leads the list of potential playoff X-factors

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Steinberg
10 months ago
As the Flames move closer to clinching a playoff spot, and likely the Pacific Division, the conversation is going to turn. Calgary’s narrative will soon be focused on how the team can achieve more post-season success with this core than they have in recent years. For the Flames to go on a deep run, they’ll clearly need players like Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk to be at their best in the playoffs.
But Calgary will also need a few “under the radar” players to elevate as well. Here are three solid candidates to do just that come May.

Dillon Dube

When you think of Dube’s absolute best run with the Flames to date, you think of the 2020 bubble playoffs against Winnipeg and Dallas. He had four goals and five points in ten games and was an equal part of Calgary’s best line along with Sam Bennett and Milan Lucic. Well, the Dube we’re seeing right now looks a lot like the player from two summers ago.
In his 13 games since being healthy scratched for three games in early March, Dube has been one of the team’s most dynamic offensive players. In fact, his five-on-five rates below (courtesy Natural Stat Trick) have helped Dube get back onto Calgary’s number two power play unit in recent games.
G/60A/60P/60S/60CF/60HDCF/60
1.21 (5th)1.62 (3rd)2.83 (3rd)11.32 (1st)18.19 (1st)4.85 (3rd)
It bodes well for the Flames if Dube can continue being around the puck like he has been the last month. Furthermore, as head coach Darryl Sutter pointed out on Wednesday, Dube has a reputation for being at his best when the lights are brightest. Whether it be the bubble, his WHL time in Kelowna, or with Canada at the World Juniors, Sutter isn’t wrong.

Nikita Zadorov

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Zadorov has slowly grown on a lot of Flames fans as the season has gone along. He skates well, he’s big, and can be a devastating player to play against when he asserts himself physically. On Calgary’s third pairing with Erik Gudbranson, Zadorov has found a role with his new team and has done a nice job settling into it. But the playoffs should be when we see Zadorov’s impact at its highest.
This will be Zadorov’s fourth time in the postseason and he’s been fairly effective in his three prior trips, all with Colorado. Zadorov’s last two playoff appearances, specifically, have been very strong.
SeasonGPCF%HDCF%OZS%
2018-191248.154.945.3
2019-201552.160.832.4
Zadorov’s blend of skating and size seems to become more impactful in the playoffs, when games become even more physical and penalties are called less frequently. If Zadorov, and his pairing with Gudbranson, can be effective like with the Avalanche, he can be a real difference maker for Calgary.

Adam Ruzicka

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Ruzicka isn’t even in the NHL right now, which is the right call. He’s playing high leverage minutes with AHL Stockton and doing a good job of it, which is better for his development than playing in a fourth line role with the Flames. That said, if Calgary runs into injury trouble, or if the Heat go out earlier than expected in the AHL playoffs, Ruzicka becomes a viable option.
Still just 22, Ruzicka has been described as “having all the tools” by Sutter while still needing to refine his game away from the puck. We’ve seen progress in that regard and having Ruzicka’s size, skill, and offensive upside in the playoffs could be a nice weapon to have. Again, for the time being, he’s better suited in Stockton, but having Ruzicka in reserve is a nice potential card to play at some point down the road.

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