Calgary provides value tonight as the more talented and motivated team
Dallas has somehow found the ideal game plan to neutralize a more talented Calgary Flames throughout the opening three games of this playoff series.
On Saturday night, Dallas earned a crucial 4-2 victory in Game 3. The Stars now claim a surprising 2-1 series lead.
The star of all Stars, Jake Oettinger was in top form in goal once again, stopping 39 of 41 the shots he faced. On offence, Joe Pavelski came up clutch with two huge goals.
Will the Flames rebound in Game 4? They better wake up fast or Dallas will be just one game away from pulling off what most would consider to be a shocking first-round upset.
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Calgary has immediately fallen into a familiar script with the top-unit proving far less productive so far this postseason than in the regular season, and lead the charge of concerns for a team that can’t generate much offensively.
However to say that the Flames could have found more offense over the past two games given the game-play would be quite reasonable, and that’s coming from someone who has loved to watch this team suffer historically.
Oettinger has clearly been dialed in and the Stars have done a good job of allowing him the opportunity to be set for shots with little to no movement. However, it has still been very clear to the eye that Calgary is due to put more pucks in the net.
As is tradition with this Flames team, Johnny Gaudreau has quickly became a huge point of criticism and coach Darryl Sutter quickly doubled down on that concern, saying it’s his job to put away the breakaway winner which occurred at 3-2 late in Game 3.
But the fact is that trio still has 2/3 of the Flames goals in the series and Dallas is an extremely top-heavy club. That line is mainly drawing the Heiskanen/Suter pairing. Gaudreau had a strong Game 3 and it’s frustrating to see the randomness of hockey leaving the guy with a wealth of criticism after a lot of strong touches in that game.
Calgary’s depth pieces aren’t drawing a lot of criticism as well, seeing as they are getting matched up against a Dallas team that posted well-below-average results outside of Heiskanen’s pair and the Hintz-Robertson-Pavelski line.
Expectations are that we are going to see guys like Mangiapane, Jarnkrok, Toffoli and the likes start to show better at some point in this series with easier matchups. Someone is going to break through Monday.
Jacob Markstrom will start in goal for the Flames and has followed up his strong regular season with a +0.9 goals saved above expected rating and a .942 save percentage throughout three playoff games.
Dallas has managed to do exactly what it did all season long to start this series, turning the opening three contests into coin-flip style affairs and winning 2/3 single goal victories (excluding two late empty netters).
The trio of Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson has been brilliant while generating 4/6 Stars goals in the series. Miro Heiskanen has played 78:00 minutes in the series and the Stars have not given up a goal in that time.
They have essentially skated even in the depth minutes, which is a huge win with what we saw from the Stars in the regular season, when they often got crushed outside of the powerplay and the top-lines minutes.
This feels like a series where everything has gone right for Dallas and that the randomness of hockey has simply hidden what has been very average play.
Dallas found that luck a lot this season, sneaking in the playoffs with a -8 goal differential and running extremely well in single-goal games and past regulation.
The Stars have accomplished their goal so far in this series, forcing a powerhouse Flames team to get into a complete dog-fight. However, similar to the regular season, Dallas has controlled somewhat less of the play, even in ideal efforts from the team.
Expectations are that Calgary can find a way to expose some of the bottom minutes from Dallas and make life tougher in Game 4.
Jake Oettinger has been the star of the series and will surely get the start in Game 4. Oettinger has managed a .969 save percentage with a +3.7 goals saved above expected rating.
Flames vs. Stars Prediction
Calgary’s playoff history — alongside the fact that the Flames entered the playoffs with so much hype — may have us exaggerating how poorly they have actually played in this series.
What we are likely due to see in Game 4 is Calgary breaking through with a bigger offensive night and finding a crucial win.
Even though Dallas has done a lot of things well on the back-end, Calgary still should have produced more offense, given the game-play and the chances they have created so far in this series.
Calgary should bounce-back with an even stronger effort in Game 4 and could be due for a big offensive night when they do. We see Calgary winning this game inside of regulation and advise betting them on the moneyline.
Note: Much of the text and data for this article was taken from The Action Network.