The Calgary Flames are already playing the underdog card.
It’s not surprising, really, despite the fact they won the Pacific Division title with a 111 point season. It was the second best in franchise history, in case you’re curious.
But as head coach Darryl Sutter has often preached this year, the Calgary Flames have not had positive outcomes in the playoffs in decades. Until they do, they are defined by their past failures rather than their regular-season success.
“I’ve won lots of ’em,” Sutter said last week of the banners collected for division titles. He pointed to the Saddledome roof at the time. “It goes up there, and you get nothing for it.”
The Calgary Flames collection of worthless banners includes one from his previous run behind the bench at the Dome. The team won the division in 2005-06 after the lockout and was bounced in the first round at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.
Sans Sutter, the Flames won the Pacific again in 2018-19. In the playoffs, they were crushed by Colorado. The Avalanche beat them in five games.
Stars bested Flames in pandemic playoff bubble
Adding to the underdog mentality is the fact their first-round opponent, the Dallas Stars, took the Flames out in the pandemic playoff bubble in 2020. The six-game series ended in a resounding thud – a 7-3 win for the Stars.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing a team that’s had our number and that’s played very well against us,” Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk said of the stars on Saturday after a practice at WinSport.
“They’ve been a team that’s had tons of success and been on some good runs the past however many years. They have some players that are great players in this league. Just the way they’ve played this year, we’ve got a very big challenge ahead.”
The Stars went all the way to the Stanley Cup final that year. Ultimately, they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Current Calgary Flames winger Blake Coleman was a member of the Cup champs that season. The Texas product knows what the battle-tested Stars will offer as their opposition starting Tuesday night at the Saddledome.
‘Tough battle’ ahead for Flames
“They’re going to be a tough out,” Coleman said. “They’re a good team. They’ve got some guys that have had playoff experience. They’re a big, strong team.
“It’s going to be a tough battle for us.”
Tkachuk was only able to play the first game and a half of the 2020 series against the Stars before suffering a concussion. He’s happy to have another shot at them with the Flames returning to the playoffs ready to prove they can be successful in the post-season.
“We’re going to have to prove it to a team that’s been one of the best teams in the league at this time of the year,” Tkachuk said. “Most of their guys have done it. We haven’t. That puts them at a big advantage going into the series.”
There’s that underlying underdog theme again.
Us against the World.
It’s the Sutter calling card.