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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
It’s down to two.
At the start of the day on Friday, the Calgary Flames only knew that they could wind up playing any of the top-four seeds in the Western Conference when the first round of the playoffs kicks off.
With qualification-series-clinching wins from the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, though, the list of possible opponents for the Flames was cut in two. The Calgary crew can’t finish any worse than the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and that means they’ll be facing off against either the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues or the Dallas Stars.
Those two teams are actually set to square off Sunday, so the Flames likely won’t know who they’re matched-up with until then. But here’s a look at where both potential opponents are at:
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Regular season record: 42-19-10 (1 st in Central Division)
Goal differential: +32 (2 nd in Western Conference)
Flames’ record in their last seven head-to-head games: 2 wins, 5 losses (1 in overtime, 1 in a shootout)
How they’ve looked in qualifying: The Blues are 0-2 in the qualifying round, but both games were close — including a 2-1 loss at the buzzer to the Avalanche. Giving up three third-period goals to the Golden Knights in a loss on Thursday night was concerning, though.
What’s the story? The Blues happen to be the reigning Stanley Cup champions, so they’re definitely not a team that anybody should be hoping to see in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blues also won all three of their head-to-head matchups with the Flames this season, although it’s worth noting that one of those games ended in a shootout and another went to overtime. With the exception of a 5-0 Blues victory on Nov. 21 that prompted a closed-door, players-only meeting for the Calgarians, it’s not as if the Flames got dominated when they took the ice with the Blues this season.
Regular season record: 37-24-8 (3 rd in Central Division)
Goal differential: +3 (8 th in Western Conference)
Flames’ record in their last seven head-to-head games: 2 wins, 5 losses (1 in overtime)
How they’ve looked in qualifying: The Stars haven’t looked great since they arrived in Edmonton for the restart. They lost a close one against the Golden Knights in their opener but were thoroughly outplayed by the Avalanche in a 4-0 loss on Wednesday night. The best they can hope for is the three-seed with a win over the Blues on Sunday.
What’s the story? The truth is, if the Flames could choose which of their four potential opponents they could play in the first round, it would probably be the ice-cold Stars.
The Dallas crew was on a six-game losing skid when COVID-19 shut down NHL operations and have lost both their games since returning to play. The Stars are capable of finding another gear and beating anybody, but it hasn’t happened for a while now.
The Flames have also won two of their three matchups against Tyler Seguin & Co. this season, including a convincing 5-1 victory on Dec. 22.
It’s worth noting, though, that the Stars’ top offensive weapons have tended to feast on the Flames in the past. Jamie Benn has picked up 33 points in 34 career games against the Calgary crew, while Joe Pavelski has 50 points in 55 games and Seguin has 22 points in 23 games. This isn’t an “easy” matchup by any stretch of the imagination.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020