If defense wins championships the Dallas Stars have to feel good about their chances to advance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars allowed the second-fewest goals during the regular season and hope to have former Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop back between the pipes when they open their first-round series against the Calgary Flames inside the Edmonton hub on Tuesday. Now if the Stars can only produce more offensively they would be a serious contender to win the Cup. Calgary won two of three regular season meetings, including a shootout victory, outscoring the Stars 9-6. The Flames advanced by knocking off Winnipeg in four games in the qualifying round and opened as a slight series underdog.
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Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars Series Schedule
Game 1: Flames vs. Stars, Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 5:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Flames vs. Stars, Thursday, August 13, 2020, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Stars vs. Flames, Friday, August 14, 2020, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Stars vs. Flames, Sunday, August 16, 2020, 2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 5: Flames vs. Stars, Tuesday, August 18, 2020 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Stars vs. Flames, Thursday, August 20, 2020 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Flames vs. Stars, Saturday, August 22, 2020 (If Necessary)
Series Price at BookMaker.eu
Calgary Flames +103
Dallas Stars -123
Some folks might overlook the Flames after they trounced Winnipeg in the qualifiers. Why? Well, the Jets were without two of their best players in Patrick Laine and Mark Scheifele. Credit Matthew Tkachuk for taking out the latter. For a team that finished 20th in scoring during the regular season, the Flames totaled 16 goals against the Jets.
They’ve been trending up since a mid-season coaching change going 24-15-3 after Geoff Ward replaced Bill Peters in November. Calgary was the second-highest scoring team in the league from the beginning of February to the shutdown and no team scored more than Calgary in the qualifying round.
A positive sign for the Flames was the balanced scoring in the Winnipeg series. Eleven different players scored a goal with Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm pocketing a pair each. Another good sign was playoff veteran Milan Lucic producing a goal and three assists bolstering the third line and second power play unit.
Veteran Cam Talbot, who started only 22 regular season games, got the nod in goal against the Jets and was solid playing every minute with a .945 save percentage and 1.51 goals against average.
The Stars’ game plan is pretty simple. They squeeze opponents and wait for the opportune time on offense. They had the second-best defensive team during the regular season allowing 2.52 goals per game, but they scored just 2.58 goals. Their games aren’t pretty, but the style has been successful.
Increasing the likelihood of advancing is the potential return of Bishop. He stopped 92 percent of shots faced during the regular season winning 21 games. Backup Anton Khudobin actually had better regular season numbers with a .930 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average. Khudobin started twice in round-robin play stopping 57 of 62 shots.
The Stars will have to pick up their play after going 1-2-0 while being outscored 10-4 during the round-robin. Along with Bishop they’ll likely have leading scorer Tyler Seguin back in the lineup. He missed the final round-robin game deemed unfit to play. Seguin went scoreless in the first two hub games. He led the team with 50 points during the regular season.
Player to Watch
You have to score to win games and the Stars need their top players to produce. Joe Pavelski has 49 career postseason goals and notched the game-tying marker late in regulation of a shootout win over St. Louis. He had a down year offensively in his first campaign in Big D. The biggest X-factor, though, is Seguin. He missed the final round-game game and was scoreless in the previous two. He’s obviously a guy the team counts on after posting 33 assists and 50 points during the regular year. There are some talented offensive players on the roster, but the rule is defense-first. Having Seguin more involved offensively gives the Stars a greater chance of claiming the series.
Flames vs. Stars Free Picks
Oddsmakers are expecting a close series and they are right. This will be a grinder perfect for the no-spectator format. It is playoff hockey, which makes it intense, though. Without its top weapons Winnipeg had to play a similar style to that of Dallas, and the Flames won the series rather easily. Taking down the Stars won’t be as easy but I believe there is enough depth and defense to prevail.
Flames vs. Stars Series Pick: Flames in 7 Games
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