With only ten games to go now before the Stanley Cup Playoffs and with the Flames sitting comfortably in a playoff spot, it’s time to start an early analysis of how they might stack up against potential playoff opponents.
For this article, I chose to use the four most likely matchups for the Flames in the first round. Those teams were the Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars. I omitted San Jose from this piece because at this point we know the teams won’t be facing each other in the first round, but may circle back later in April.
Part 1 of this will focus on the team’s offense, specifically the top six and depth scoring up front. Part 2 will focus on defense and goaltending, and Part 3 will focus on special teams, coaching, and playoff experience.
All lineups are as of March 16, but lines aren’t totally accurate.
Top Six Forwards
- Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
- Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Combined Stats - GP: 409, Goals: 157, Assists: 232, Points: 389, Points per Game = 5.70*
* = This calculation is 409 GP / 6 forwards = 68.16, and then 389 Pts/68.16 = 5.70
Players in Top 50 of Forward Scoring: 4
- Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
- Max Pacioretty - Paul Statsny - Mark Stone
Combined Stats - GP: 372, Goals: 114, Assists: 159, Points: 273, Points per Game = 4.40
Top 50 Scorers: 1
- Michael Grabner - Alex Galchenyuk - Vinnie Hinistroza
- Richard Panik - Derek Stepan - Clayton Keller
Combined Stats - GP: 357, Goals: 79, Assists: 115, Points: 194, Points per Game = 3.26
Top 50 Scorers: 0
- Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Kevin Fiala
- Jason Zucker - Luke Kunin - Ryan Donato
Combined Stats - GP: 370, Goals: 92, Assists: 121, Points: 213, Points per Game = 3.45
Top 50 Scorers: 0
- Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Alex Radulov
- Jamie Benn - Jason Dickenson - Mats Zuccarello
Combined Stats - GP: 348, Goals: 101, Assists: 139, Points: 240, Points per Game = 4.14
Top 50 Scorers: 1
Top Six Rankings
In a playoff matchup you’d have to favor the Flames stacked top six over almost any other Top six in the league. Prior to play on Sunday, Calgary had four forwards in the top 25 of league scoring. Their top six combines for an average of 5.7 points per game, and has been pretty consistent for most of the year.
The Knights and Stars were pretty close but I gave the edge to the Knights because that 2nd line looks absolutely deadly. Minnesota has a few names but has struggled to score for most of the season, and are missing their captain Mikko Koivu. Arizona comes in last as they have the third least goals in the NHL.
Bottom Six/Depth Forwards
- Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - James Neal
- Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Garnet Hathaway
- Austin Czarnik
Combined Stats - GP: 408, Goals: 54, Assists: 71, Points: 125, Points per Game = 2.14
- Tomas Nosek - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch
- Ryan Carpenter - Pierre Eduoard Bellemare - Ryan Reaves
- Brandon Pirri, William Carrier
Combined Stats - GP: 460, Goals: 80, Assists: 91, Points: 171, Points per Game = 2.97
- Brad Richardson - Nick Cousins - Lawson Crouse
- Josh Archibald - Christian Fischer - Adrian Kempe
- Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland
Combined Stats - GP: 423, Goals: 72, Assists: 65, Points: 137, Points per Game = 2.59
- Jordan Greenway - Marcus Foligno - Eric Fehr
- Joel Eriksson Ek - JT. Brown - Victor Rask
- Pontus Aberg
Combined Stats - GP: 399, Goals: 47, Assists: 61, Points: 108, Points per Game: 1.89
- Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Nick Ritchie
- Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Blake Comeau
- Tyler Pitlick, Val Nichuskin
Combined Stats - GP: 484, Goals: 47, Assists: 80, Points: 127, Points per Game: 2.10
Depth Forward Rankings
When it comes to playoff hockey, depth is the name of the game. Whether that be a result of the top forwards being locked down in close games or because of injury, the championship calibre teams always have a plethora of depth.
Overall I feel like Vegas has the clear edge here. Arizona’s bottom six essentially does not drop off from their top six with very uniform production across the board. Calgary has their big guns but there have been questions for most of the year if their depth can get it done.
Dallas and Minnesota both need more out of their bottom guys to make a run.
Final Forward Rankings
I ultimately think that the Flames top six gives them a big enough edge to account for the depth of Vegas. That top six has been producing at a rate few other NHL teams can match.
Obviously Vegas comes off as the most frightening first round opponent because they can roll four solid lines all night long. Calgary will have their hands full with them.
The Stars can roll their big guns in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin all night long and really can’t be stopped. Throw in a few key names like Alex Radulov and Jason Spezza, and they have a formidable attack.
The Coyotes may not have a strong top six, but they have very good depth and their team is finally starting to recover from all their injuries over the course of the season. With roughly ten games to go in the season, the Coyotes could be an under-the-radar team to watch as they continue generating chemistry and winning games.
The Wild come in last partially due to injuries and partially due to the way Bruce Boudreau teams play hockey. This team struggled with goal-scoring for most of the year, but if Ryan Donato keeps playing this well, they can’t be taken lightly with the rest of the talent in their core.