2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs preview: Stars vs. Flames

When looking at the Stanley Cup Playoff bracket, many matchups instantly jump off the page or computer screen. Vegas vs Chicago should bring fireworks. Columbus battling with Tampa Bay should bring intrigue when looking at their infamous matchup in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Dallas against Calgary, however, might bring underrated interest in regard to on-ice philosophies to winning. 

Calgary, despite transitioning under a new coaching regime led by interim head coach Geoff Ward, has attempted to show more balance on offense, defense and goaltending, even with growing pains. Specifically, Calgary’s goals scored per game (GF/GP) during the regular season of 2.91 ranked 20th in the entire NHL. While below average, Calgary’s Power Play Percentage (PP%) of 21.2% ranked 12th. On the defensive side, Calgary allowed 32.4 shots per game, which ranked 24th. Their goaltending, despite allowing more goals than Calgary scored during the regular season (214 goals allowed compared to 204 goals scored) allowed 3.06 goals per game (GA/GP), which ranked 17th. To top it all off, Calgary’s 82.1 Penalty Kill Percentage (PK%) ranked eighth. 

Dallas, meanwhile, will also be led by an interim manager (Rick Bowness). Dallas’s philosophy, however, leans more toward one area of the roster than others. For Dallas, this particular area comes in goaltending. Led by the duo of Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop (who both possessed a GAA of 2.50 or less), Dallas allowed 174 goals during the season, which ranked better than everyone else in the NHL aside from the Boston Bruins (167 goals allowed). Their 2.53 GA/GP also ranked second in the entire NHL (again, behind Boston). The elite goaltending was able to mask their issues on offense, as the team scored the third least amount of goals in the NHL (178). Among all Stanley Cup playoff teams, Dallas’s 178 goals scored rank last. Additionally, their 2.58 GF/GP ranks second to last among Stanley Cup playoff teams (the Columbus Blue Jackets averaged 2.57 goals per game). Dallas’s 21.1 PP% and 79.7 PK% ranked 13th and 17th, respectively.

On one hand, you have a Calgary team that, despite being slightly below average in most categories, is relatively balanced. On the other, you have the Stars who are elite in one category but mediocre and sub-par in every other category. Despite this, however, Dallas has gone 8-1-1 against Calgary in their past 10 games dating back to 2017. However, Calgary won two out of their three matchups against Dallas during the 2019-20 regular season. 

While Dallas definitely brings the more consistent goaltending, their offense when compared to Calgary does not match up in a favorable manner. When combined with the parity the Stanley Cup Playoffs bring to the table, potential strengths can become lethal weaknesses over the duration of a seven-game series. Calgary could potentially catch Dallas off guard and score early and often to the point where Dallas cannot keep up. 

When looking at the grand picture, this looks to be a series that should bring many intriguing matchups based on track record, offense, defense and goaltending. When the dust settles, however, Calgary will be able to utilize their more explosive forwards in a quicker way than Dallas can keep up with. While this will likely not be a seven-game series, it will also not be a brief four or five-game series, either. As with other matchups like this, it will instead fall right in the middle. Fans will enjoy it. 

Prediction: Calgary in 6

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