In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Dallas Stars face an upstart Calgary Flames team that could pull off a huge upset.
The Dallas Stars are on upset alert, as they haven’t been playing good hockey in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nor were they playing well heading into the mid-March hiatus. The Stars have lost nine of their last 12 games including regular season, exhibition, and round-robin games. They’ll have to adjust to playoff hockey fast, as they’ll be squaring off against the Calgary Flames.
Calgary’s coming off a solid play-in round win over the Winnipeg Jets, during which they were able to capitalize on special teams against a weakened Jets team. They took down the likely Vezina Trophy winner (Connor Hellebuyck) in the process.
The Stars, however, present a unique challenge for the Flames. It’s safe to say the Jets defense wasn’t good this season. There’s no way around it. They were awful. Conversely, the Stars defense is a lot better. This series should prove to be a fascinating chess match between Flames head coach Geoff Ward and Stars head coach Rick Bowness.
Let’s review how each team got to this point.
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The Flames came into this season with high hopes despite being eliminated early in last year’s postseason. However, those great expectations quickly went away. Tensions within the organization grew early in the season. Eventually, the Flames were forced to part ways with then-head coach Bill Peters because of allegations of racism and abuse.
That turned out to be a good thing for the Flames, as Geoff Ward replaced him and was able to turn their season around. Granted, Ward got better goaltending, but it’s worth noting the Flames 5v5 offense finally started turning things around after he was promoted.
Much like the Flames, the Dallas Stars made an early coaching change. This one, however, wasn’t expected. Jim Montgomery was fired despite the Stars having a pretty good record (18-11-3) with him behind the bench. It turned out he was fired for personal reasons.
Bowness replaced him and it’s hard to argue he made the Stars better. If anything, he further stifled the Stars’ 5v5 offense, though he did help them be even better defensively. Dallas has been struggling for a while and unless they get back on track, they could be heading home from Edmonton far earlier than anyone expected.