With all but one qualifying series decided, the NHL’s first round playoff matchups are starting to take shape. Teams are re-seeded each round of this year’s playoffs in the reimagined postseason as a result of the current global pandemic. In a fact that might seem crazy, two 12-seeds from the qualifying round beat the 5-seeded teams (Montreal Canadiens over Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks over Edmonton Oilers), completely changing the chemistry of the playoffs as most NHL fans would have contemplated when the league was paused in early March.
The winner of today’s Tampa Bay Lightning/Philadelphia Flyers round robin game will see the Montreal Canadiens in the first round as the lowest seed to qualify for the playoffs. The loser of Lightning/Flyers will see the winner of the Toronto Maple Leafs/Columbus Blue Jackets game five tomorrow night as their first round opponent. The winner of tomorrow’s Washington Capitals/Boston Bruins round robin game will faceoff against the New York Islanders while the loser will see the Carolina Hurricanes.
The winner of today’s Colorado Avalanche/Vegas Golden Knights round robin game will see the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round as the lowest seed to qualify for the playoffs. The loser of Avalanche/Golden Knights will get the Arizona Coyotes in the opening round.
If the Dallas Stars beat the St. Louis Blues tomorrow, they will see the Calgary Flames in the first round. Lose, and the opponent will be the Vancouver Canucks.
Examining the Stars’ Potential Opponents
Dallas last saw the Flames in December the day before the Christmas break when they received a 5-1 drubbing at home. They beat the Flames 3-1 in Calgary in November and lost in a shootout at home in early October 3-2, in the midst of the team’s terrible start to kickoff the 2019-2020 season. Overall, the Stars were 1-1-1 in their season series versus the Flames.
The team’s regular season against the Canucks included a 4-2 win in Vancouver in November on the second half of a back-to-back after that win over Calgary, followed up about 10 days later with a 6-1 smackdown of the Canucks on home ice. Those were the only two meetings between the teams this season.
After a slow start in the team’s first round robin game against the Vegas Golden Knights, I asked interim head coach about yet another slow start to a game, an issue that has plagued the team from the moment the puck dropped this season. He responded and told me that you can’t consider what happened in the regular season.
If that’s the case, not much really tells us which of these two teams would be a better first round opponent for the Stars. Regardless of which team the Stars draw, they’ll need to be better prepared and play miles ahead of what they’ve shown in the round robin if they hope to not be a one-and-done this year.
Sunday’s round robin matchup featuring the Stars and the Blues will air on NBC at 2 PM CDT.