Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Who would be the optimal opponent for Round 1 in the Playoffs?

The Calgary Flames are fresh off a 6–1… wait nope sorry… a 6–5 win against the Dallas Stars. In what was a very weird game, the Flames managed to look both completely dominant and extremely vulnerable. At the end of the day, a win is a win, and the Flames have started to give themselves a small cushion in their wildcard spot, and they are also slowly closing in on the Seattle Kraken in the third spot in the Pacific Division.

The Flames seem to be, albeit very slowly, finding their stride and are looking a bit more comfortable on the ice which is great news for Flames fans. It’s never a good idea to think too far ahead, but, assuming the Flames make the playoffs, which opponent would give the Flames the best chance to move to Round 2? We asked, you answered

The Win Column - Sunday Census Featured Image - Graphical design showing a Calgary Flames branded laptop with poll results.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @wincolumnCGY. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

Strong competition

We identified four teams who have the highest chances of playing Calgary in the playoffs based off Micah Blake McCurdy’s model. At first glance, all four teams listed are strong opponents that have the ability to give the Flames some trouble.

Vegas Golden Knights

Only around 7–8% of voters picked Vegas, and rightfully so. The Golden Knights are a very scary team who have strength at all positions. With the forward group being led by Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, a defence led by Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo, and Logan Thompson in net looking as good as ever, Vegas seems like they are one of the favourites in the West.

The one thing about the Golden Knights, however, is their injuries. The team can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to staying healthy, and that may help the Flames if they do end up matching up in the playoffs. However, I would never bet against Vegas.

Seattle Kraken

One of the more surprising teams this season has been the Seattle Kraken. After finishing last season with only 60 points, Seattle looks like a team that is destined to make the playoffs—even with Martin Jones as their starting goaltender. Seattle is ranked below Calgary at 14th with an expected goals percentage of 51.63%. Despite that, Seattle is miles ahead of Calgary with a 38-goal differential.

If they were to meet in the playoffs, one thing Calgary may have over the Seattle Kraken is playoff experience. Seattle would be making the playoffs for the first time, and nerves are bound to get in the way. Can Calgary take advantage of that? This could be very tight serious, however 41% of voters believe Seattle would be the best opponent for Calgary.

Los Angeles

A team that has a great roster and great prospect pool, the Kings look like they have the best of both worlds. Their recent big acquisition of Kevin Fiala seems to be paying dividends as he is producing at a point-per-game pace. Drew Doughty is back to playing elite hockey. The big question mark for the Kings seems to be their goaltending. After waiving Cal Peterson, their goaltending tandem has been Jonathan Quick and Pheonix Copley.

Copley seems to have stolen the net and is performing well, but it is to be seen whether he can continue his play come the playoffs. 44.2% of voters believe the Kings would be the most optimal opponent for the Flames, and the team’s goal differential may be a big reason for that.

Dallas Stars

Is anyone looking for a rematch of the 2022 Round 1 series? Or are we still trying to get our heart rate down after that 6–1 collapse from yesterday? The Dallas Stars scare me. Whether it is from Jake Oettinger deciding to become Dominik Hasek in his prime last year, or Jason Robertson deciding to become one of the best players on the planet, the Stars are a team that scares me and I would not want to face them.

Not only have players like Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski continued to play well from last year, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are having huge bounce-back seasons for the team, making their depth much stronger. Additionally, Miro Heiskanen has continued to prove why he is one of the best young defenceman in the game, as he is on pace to put up 66 points this season.

Lastly, we all know how good Oettinger can be. It seems like Flames fans are still recovering from the drama of last year’s playoff series as only 7% of voters believe Dallas would be the team that would help Calgary advance. Although, this matchup could be the most entertaining, as there is bound to be some Bad Blood stemming from last year.

One step at time

As much as we would like the Flames to have the most optimal matchup in the playoffs, the Flames should first be focussing on making the playoffs. For a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations at the beginning of the season, the Flames must continue to find their game, and start to separate themselves from the pack. It seems like they are on track, let’s hope it continues come playoff time.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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