Stars vs. Flames: 5 things to know about their First Round series

Flames Stars
1 Comment

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.

Along with their lack of offense, the Stars boast one of the league’s best goaltending duos and have two top-tier defenders in Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg.

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.

Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz have become nice secondary players, but are they going to be enough to give the Stars enough offense to make a deep run in the playoffs?

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

• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.


Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.


The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”


Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”


Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”


The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

Harry How/Getty Images

CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.