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Flames Face Uphill Battle in Robust Western Convention Playoffs

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The Calgary Flames are the brand new gamers within the Western Convention playoffs, a area stacked with Stanley Cup-contending groups such because the San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights.

It doesn’t look like secure to depend any of the eight groups out.

Predators basic supervisor David Poile is aware of the NHL in addition to anybody on the planet, with three-plus a long time of expertise main groups. And he wouldn’t wager a greenback on this post-season .

“I can’t see betting on anyone in these playoffs,” Poile stated. “I believe it’s going to be that shut and there might be all types of upsets.”

The Pacific Division champion Flames definitely hope that’s not the case.

Calgary Flames are hoping to make an enormous splash within the playoffs. (AP Picture/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Calgary earned prime seeding within the West with 107 factors after not making the playoffs final yr and incomes a bid simply twice in a nine-year stretch.

The Flames’ whole trailed simply the 117 that they had after they received the Stanley Cup in 1989.

It is going to be powerful for the present crew to duplicate that deep run.

Can the Flames Attain the Third Spherical?

Calgary is anticipated to get previous Colorado, the second wild-card crew within the West, however the winner of the San Jose-Vegas sequence could also be favoured to beat the Flames within the convention semifinals.

San Jose and Vegas have essentially the most intriguing sequence within the convention’s opening spherical and maybe in all the league. The proficient groups met within the second spherical final yr with the enlargement Golden Knights transferring on earlier than dropping to Washington within the Stanley Cup Closing.

On the opposite half of the bracket, the Central Division champion Nashville Predators face the wild-card Dallas Stars with the winner advancing to face Winnipeg or St. Louis.

(AP Picture/Mark Zaleski)(THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)Right here’s a better have a look at every of the first-round sequence within the Western Convention:

Flames vs. Avalanche (Recreation 1 at Calgary on Thursday)

Calgary has one of many NHL’s prime scorers, diminutive dynamo Johnny Gaudreau, and the most effective defencemen, Norris Trophy candidate Mark Giordano . Invoice Peters, in his first yr as an NHL coach, made all the correct strikes behind the bench to assist the Flames win a division title for the primary time since 2006. The coach of the yr candidate may have some powerful selections to make in web as a result of he doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender . David Rittich, a 26-year-old in his first full season, began 42 video games, and 37-year-old Mike Smith started the opposite 40 video games on the ice.

The Avalanche are led offensively by Nathan MacKinnon, who had 99 factors this season as did Gaudreau, and Mikko Rantanen, who had a career-high 87 factors. Tyson Barrie ranked among the many highest-scoring NHL defencemen this season with 59 factors. Semyon Varlamov, a 30-year-old goalie, has not helped a crew advance within the playoffs since he did it a decade in the past with Washington.

Sharks vs. Golden Knights (Recreation 1 at San Jose on Wednesday)

Buckle up.

The Sharks went all in final summer time within the hopes of profitable their first Stanley Cup, buying and selling for Erik Karlsson regardless that he’s taking part in on the final yr of his contract. The 2-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman has performed just one recreation (April 6) since February, however vows to be prepared for the playoffs. San Jose’s Brent Burns had a career-high 83 factors, main all defencemen to place him in line to probably win his second Norris Trophy. Joe Pavelski had a team-high 38 targets, making him one among 4 gamers on the potent crew to attain 30 or extra.

Like San Jose, the Golden Knights made main strikes to attempt to win all of it after coming simply brief final yr in opposition to the Capitals. They acquired Mark Stone on the commerce deadline from Ottawa after including Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty within the low season so as to add much more offence to their explosive crew. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury misplaced his final two video games, giving up 4 targets every time, and struggled at occasions this season, however the three-time Stanley Cup champion clearly is aware of the right way to win this time of yr.

Predators vs. Stars (Recreation 1 at Nashville on Wednesday)

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne offers Nashville an awesome probability to win any recreation, or sequence. The Predators even have loads of assist up entrance, with gamers reminiscent of centre Ryan Johansen scoring a team-high 64 factors, and a deep blue line that features Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and P.Ok. Subban.

The Stars are again within the playoffs with coach Jim Montgomery after lacking out the earlier two years with Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff behind the bench. They’ve a trio of top-flight scorers — Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn — and Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop in web.

Jets vs. Blues (Recreation 1 at Winnipeg on Wednesday)

Winnipeg moved on within the post-season final yr for the primary time since transferring from Atlanta in 2011 earlier than being eradicated by Vegas within the convention finals. The Jets have drafted and developed so properly they’ve the most effective rosters within the league, led by energy forwards Blake Wheeler, who had 91 factors for the second straight yr, and Mark Scheifele, who had a career-high 84 factors this season. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck was not as sharp this season as he was final yr and that is likely to be a priority in opposition to a sizzling crew.

The Blues, who received eight of their final 10 video games, are the primary crew in two-plus a long time to rally for a spot within the playoffs after being final within the league after no less than 20 video games had been performed. The franchise fired coach Mike Yeo early within the season with a 7-9-Three file and gave Craig Berube one other probability to steer a crew after he received 75 video games in two years with the Philadelphia Flyers, and he made essentially the most of it. Berube’s gamers appeared to reply, with 28-year-old centre Ryan O’Reilly having a career-high 76 factors.

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AP Sports activities Author Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

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Extra AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Larry Lage, The Related Press

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