Flames vs. Stars playoff preview: 3 Things to Know

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The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday, May 2. Here’s a preview of the First Round series between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars.

CALGARY FLAMES v. DALLAS STARS schedule

Game 1: May 3, 10 p.m. ET – Stars at Flames (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 2: May 5, 10 p.m. ET – Stars at Flames (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, TBS)
Game 3: May 7, 9:30 p.m. ET – Flames at Stars (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 9, 9:30 p.m. ET – Flames at Stars (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 11, TBD – Stars at Flames (TBD)
*Game 6: May 13, TBD – Flames at Stars (TBD)
*Game 7 May 15, TBD – Stars at Flames (TBD)

1. Don’t let Sutter fool you, these Flames can score

When you hear “Flames – Stars First Round series,” you might ponder a battle between two stingy defensive teams. A real battle of attrition. The hockey answer to “three yards and a cloud of dust.”

Considering how playoff hockey is played (and how penalties often dry up), it’s possible that the Flames and Stars will live up to those expectations.

Frankly, that would probably be ideal for the Stars, not the Flames.

While the Flames dominated the puck (including playing sound defense) at 5-on-5 like Darryl Sutter demands, they also scored at a high rate this season. Overall, the Flames averaged 3.55 goals per game, fifth-most in the NHL. They scored at a slightly higher rate than the Lightning and Oilers (both tied for sixth with 3.48 goals per game).

Rather than being one-dimensional, the Flames were basically good-to-great at everything this season.

Flames vs. Stars playoff preview: 3 Things to Know Evolving Team RAPM
The 2021-22 Flames have been elite. (Via Evolving Hockey)

Meanwhile, the Stars’ Team RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey paints the picture of a team that narrowly made the playoffs.

Stars Team RAPM Evolving Hockey
Aside from a strong PK structure, Stars mostly look middle-of-the-road. (Via Evolving Hockey)

Since trading for Tyler Toffoli in February, the Flames have averaged 3.81 goals per game, also good for fifth.

Overall, the Flames are likely to be more comfortable in a high-scoring game than the Stars.

2. The Stars are one of the few teams with a top trio that has a chance against the Flames’ first line

With a resounding 113-point season, Johnny Gaudreau understandably jumped back into the Hart Trophy conversation. That said, Matthew Tkachuk deserves a mention alongside Gaudreau, as the pesky star wasn’t far behind him.

Between Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm, the Flames boasted a top line that pulled off a rare feat: they all scored at least 40 goals. (Lindholm and Tkachuk scored 42; Gaudreau reached 40.)

It’s reasonably safe to say that the Flames featured the best line in hockey, but the Stars could give Calgary headaches with their counterpoint. Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Joe Pavelski didn’t put up numbers quite in that range, yet their overall impact leaves them close behind Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk.

(With Pavelski at 81 points and all three at least 72, that Stars trio certainly weren’t slouches offensively, either.)

For a quick snapshot, consider the outstanding 5-on-5 RAPM chart comparison for gifted wingers Matthew Tkachuk and Jason Robertson:

Tkachuk Robertson RAPM comparison
Two wingers so good, it’s almost obscene. (via Evolving Hockey)

Don’t be shocked if the top lines for both the Flames and Stars rise in the collective hockey consciousness after this First Round series.

3. A potential chess match between two wizened coaching wizards

The delight of an NHL playoff series is that teams can drill down to the finest details in trying to exploit strengths and weaknesses.

As home-ice shifts, it will be interesting to see how Darryl Sutter and Rick Bowness chase matchups.

Will one of those coaches prefer keeping their first lines away from the other? Could such scenarios even push them to pull out the line blender? It will be interesting to see how much Bowness trusts 23-year-old goalie Jake Oettinger.

[3 Things to Know: Oilers vs. Kings]

If nothing else, the Flames – Stars coaching matchup won’t lack for experience.

  • Darryl Sutter, 63, has coached 1,397 regular-season games (11th-most in NHL history) over 19 seasons. He’s coached 170 playoff games, winning two Stanley Cups with the Kings, and also guided the Flames to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

  • Despite spending most of his journeyman coaching career as an assistant, Rick Bowness has been behind the bench for 639 regular-season and 42 playoff games as an NHL head coach. There are rumors that the 67-year-old may retire after this season.

In that event, Bowness more than earned a break.

Whatever tricks the Flames and/or Stars pull, you’d imagine Bowness and Sutter have seen them before.

Prediction: Flames in 6.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flames vs. Stars playoff preview: 3 Things to Know originally appeared on NBCSports.com