The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins August 11. Before the NHL postseason resumes play, PHT will preview each of the eight opening round matchups, including Stars vs. Flames.
1. Will there be much offense?
Looking at this matchup on paper and it looks like it has the potential to be a defensive slugfest. Both teams finished the regular season among the bottom-10 in the league in goals, while the Stars barely generated anything during the Round-Robin phase.
Add in the fact that Cam Talbot has been great so far for Calgary in the playoffs and offense could be very limited in this series.
2. The Flames could use a breakout postseason from Johnny Gaudreau
Even though he had a bit of a down year (by his standards; he was still very productive overall) Gaudreau is one of the league’s best and most productive offensive players.
The only knock on him coming into this season is that his postseason performances have not always matched the regular season totals.
Before this season he had gone nine consecutive playoff games without a goal, a stretch that also saw him record just three assists. Sometimes these things get overblown. Even the very best players are prone to get extended periods without scoring a goal. No one is “consistent” with their production while there are always peaks and valleys that players go through. When those valleys happen in the playoffs, they tend to stand out. Still, if the Flames are going to do anything in the playoffs they are going to need Gaudreau to play a central role in the offense. He got off to a good start in the Qualifying with a pair of goals and an assist in the four games.
3. The Matthew Tkachuk factor
Tkachuk is the absolute last player you want to see in the playoffs.
He is a legit first-line talent and can beat you on the scoreboard on any given shift. He is a 30-goal, 70-point player and is still probably just hitting his peak as an offensive contributor.
That is scary enough.
But then you add in the fact that when you have to play against him every game for as many as seven consecutive games and his shenanigans are going to quickly start annoying everybody. He is going to get under your skin. It is a given. It is what he does and the way he plays. The question is how much the Stars let that impact them.
4. Who is going to step up offensively for the Stars?
This has been the big question for the Stars for two years now.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season only three teams (Anaheim, Los Angeles and Detroit — three of the league’s worst teams) have scored fewer goals than the Stars.
When it comes to 5-on-5 play, only Detroit has scored goals at a lower rate per 60 minutes than the Stars over that stretch.
They simply do not generate offense. They have their share of potential impact players (Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov) but they have not really been able to find much offense around them. And even Radulov had a bit of a down year this season. They attempted to address their scoring depth over the offseason with the free agency additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, but neither signing has really worked out as hoped or expected.
The cliche in hockey is always going to be about defense and goaltending winning championships, but you still need some offense as well. In their past 12 games dating back to the regular season — and including the three Round-Robin games — they have managed just 20 total goals, scored more than two goals just three times, won only three of those games, and been shut out three different times. The Stars are not just a bad offensive team that has struggled to score goals at times. They have consistently been one of the absolute worst offensive teams in the league — right there with the top lottery teams — for two consecutive years now. It is a problem.
5. Prediction: Flames in 7
As good as the Stars are in goal and on the blue line, I still think their offense is going to hold the back when it matters most. As long as Cam Talbot gives the Flames more steady play in net they do enough to scratch out a win in a series that could go the distance.
No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Calgary at Dallas, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 13: Calgary at Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 14: Dallas at Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD