P2 Vegas Golden Knights vs. P3 Calgary Flames
The magic of the Golden Knights rolls back into the postseason after a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season for a match-up with the hungry Calgary Flames. Will the Knights dispatch another Western Conference opponent, or did the Flames improve enough to knock Vegas down a notch?
Why Vegas is in
There are several predictions that Vegas will be taking a step back this upcoming season with some regression from their breakout stars and the loss of James Neal and David Perron to free agency, but they took several steps to make sure they would replace their production by acquiring Max Pacioretty and signing Paul Stastny.
Vegas’s first line of Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith quickly turned into one of the most productive lines in the league last season and looks to be even better after a season of chemistry. If they can all live up to the expectations on them after career years, there’s no reason to think that Vegas’s offense will drop off in the slightest.
Marc Andre-Fleury is still turning back the clock at 33 years old and started fresh in Vegas last season, re-establishing himself as one of the top net minders in the league today. If he’s even 80 percent of what he was last year, Vegas is fine in goal. Malcom Subban as a backup is good enough to also make sure Fleury isn’t playing 70-plus games a season.
Why Calgary is in
Missing the playoffs last season was a failure for the Flames, and they made several moves this offseason to make sure that failure doesn’t get repeated again. The Flames are often seen as a fringe playoff team, but in a weak Pacific division, the Flames are going to surprise a lot of people and comfortably get into the playoffs.
The Flames replaced Michael Ferland with James Neal on the first line. That will put Neal as the deadly finishing touch to the already dynamic duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and could turn into one of the league’s most prolific scoring lines. Their other acquisition in Elias Lindholm could be the guy they stick next to Monahan and Gaudreau as well, and they haven’t had options like that for years. The depth after the first line is no slouch either, and they can run a solid three-line attack. Matthew Tkachuk should take another step in development this year, along with Mark Jankowski and some of the other youth on the team.
Even though they dealt Dougie Hamilton for some reason at the draft, the defense still looks really good for Clagary. Noah Hanifin could take a big step forward, and Marc Giordano will remain one of the steadiest defenders in the league.
Who will win
This would be a very entertaining series to watch, and it would come down to the wire with how evenly matched both teams are. If this Vegas team isn’t utter magic like they were last year, I think the Flames end up stealing this series from them. It’s narrow, but Calgary has them beat with depth on both ends, especially on defense. Gaudreau and Monahan are going to be monsters this season like usual, and with support the Flames are a dangerous playoff team.
It’s a series that I would see going the full seven games, and it could easily go the other way, but Calgary gets the goals at the right time and pulls off a slight first round upset.
Flames over Golden Knights in seven games