After finishing off the Winnipeg Jets in their qualifier series on Thursday, the Flames had to wait until Sunday afternoon’s round-robin game between the Stars and the St. Louis Blues to know who they’d be matched up with.
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Flames get Stars in first round
The Stars were on an eight-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s affair, but tied the game 1-1 with less than a minute to go in the third period and then won the game in the shootout.
That means the Flames and Stars will be squaring off, while the Blues will be taking on the Vancouver Canucks.
Flames get Stars in first round
The Flames (36-27-7) are the lower seed but should have no expectation of being taken lightly by the Stars (37-24-8).
“I think they’ve got some offensive talent over there and a couple d-men,” said Stars veteran Joe Pavelski. “They came from a series where they had to battle. Winnipeg was a defensive team and the other thing is what happened last year. I think that was a bit of a wakeup call for them and they’re going to come in and work hard.”
When Pavelski says “last year” he’s referring to the Flames’ first-round elimination by the Colorado Avalanche. The Flames had entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference but had no answer for the Avs.
If that created a narrative that the Flames weren’t dangerous in the playoffs, that’s not something the Stars seems to be buying into.
“They play fast, they play good hockey, they move the puck well,” said Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin, who started Sunday in place of Ben Bishop, who is out day-to-day. “It’s the playoffs, there’s never going to be easy games and at the same time they’ve been in the playoffs for the last couple years and they know how to play and what to do.
“They have young guys and at the same time they have veteran guys who have been in the playoffs and they even have guys who have won the (Stanley Cup), so they know how to play and what to expect.”
The Stars were without both Bishop and star centre Tyler Seguin on Sunday, both of whom were simply listed as “unfit to play.” Head coach Rick Bowness only said both were day-to-day when he was asked about their availability for Game 1 against the Flames.
For Calgary fans looking for some reasons to feel optimistic, its’ worth noting that the Flames did find some success earlier in the season against the Stars. In three head-to-head games, the Flames won twice, including a 5-1 victory in their final meeting.
That was way back on Dec. 22 of last year. A lot has changed since then.
“Whatever happened before we got to after the pause is irrelevant,” said Bowness, who took over as the Stars’ head coach when Jim Montgomery was fired in December. “We’ve watched them play the last couple games and they’re playing very, very well right now. They’re getting the goaltending, they’re getting the timely goals. They played Winnipeg, a team that was beat-up, obviously, with some key injuries, but they’re a very confident team right now and they’ve got some dangerous players and they’ve got some elite defencemen back there that play big minutes. We know we have a very, very tough opponent going into this.”
The Flames’ media availability on Sunday happened before the Stars-Blues game concluded, so they were unable to comment at-length about their opponent. Throughout the weekend, Flames players stressed respect for both of the teams they could potentially have been pit against in the first round.
The Flames know all too well how dangerous the Stars can be, after all. The Stars may have been riding an eight-game losing streak heading into Sunday — six losses prior to COVID-19 forcing the NHL to shut down in March, and their first two round-robin games — but their roster is stacked with players who have done damage against the Flames in the past.
Jamie Benn has 33 points in 34 career games against the Calgary crew, while Seguin has 22 points in 23 games and both Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry have feasted on the Flames in past playoffs while they were with the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.