Avs, Flames are the ever-unpredictable NHL West’s top seeds

May 1, 2022, 4:30 AM | Updated: 4:38 pm
Nashville Predators' Colton Sissons (10) and Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk (19) battle in the thi...

Nashville Predators' Colton Sissons (10) and Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk (19) battle in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In assessing the status of his Pacific Division champion Calgary Flames, coach Darryl Sutter may have at the same time aptly captured the unpredictable state of the entire Western Conference once the playoffs open on Monday.

“We’re good. We’ve been consistent all year,” Sutter said. “The key is being healthy and know what we’re up against. There’s a big storm coming here this week.”

Sutter’s point was for the Flames to not take for granted their first-round opponent, the Dallas Stars, who made the jump from ninth to seventh during a frantic final week in becoming the NHL’s final team to clinch a playoff berth.

As storm warnings go, the playoffs have traditionally stirred up havoc for the top seeds in the West, in which only one division champ — Vegas in its first season of existence, 2018 — reached the Stanley Cup Final since the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks won the title in 2013. The Blues finished fifth in the West when they won the Cup in 2019, the 2014 Cup-wining Los Angeles Kings were sixth, while Nashville was eighth when losing the championship to Pittsburgh in 2017.

This year’s field doesn’t include Vegas for the first time in franchise history, while Calgary and Colorado are the top two seeds, but with a recent history of early round playoff collapses. The Kings return to the playoff for the first time in four years.

And brace yourselves for Central Division rivals Minnesota and St. Louis meeting in a first-round matchup which has the makings of being a bruiser.

In Denver, the Central-Division champion Avalanche are seeking to put past frustrations behind a year after the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team was knocked out in the second round by Vegas. Colorado, which hasn’t advanced past the second round since losing the Western Conference final to Detroit in 2002, will open against eighth-seeded Nashville.

“It’s not something that I’m thinking about anymore. It’s a new group this year. We have new opportunities and a new challenge,” defenseman Cale Makar said. “Obviously we know what’s happened these past few years and we’re driven to overcome the challenges that have hindered us in the past.”

The Flames’ playoff history is just as checkered. They’ve won just two of 10 playoff series since losing the Cup Final to Tampa Bay in 2004.

And it’s no different for Edmonton, where the second-seeded Oilers advanced to the playoffs for just the fourth time since Connor McDavid’s arrival in 2015, and coming off a four-game first-round dud against Winnipeg a year ago. Edmonton opens against the Kings.

“I think we’ve grown as a team and learned from that and found ways to get around that a little bit better this year,” center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said of how high-scoring Oilers managed just eight goals against Winnipeg. “Obviously, this is going to be a tough series, a tight-checking series, but we’ve got to find a way to get that extra one or just push a little harder.”



The Avalanche finished 22 points ahead of the Predators in the standings, and could have an even more distinct edge if Nashville starter Juuse Sarros is unable to return after missing the final two regular season games with an undisclosed injury.

The Avalanche stumbled down the stretch in going 1-5-1, following a 9-0 win streak. Nashville dropped from seventh to eighth in the standings by blowing a 4-0 lead in a 5-4 loss to Arizona in its season finale.

“I’m proud of this team of how we fought, of how we battled down the stretch,” Predators defenseman said Roman Josi said, following the loss. “This loss is disappointing, but we’ve got to turn the page, get some rest and get excited for the playoffs.”

The matchup pits two of the NHL’s top-scoring defensemen in Josi, who led all blueliners with 96 points, and Makar, who finished second with 86.


Home-ice advantage could prove the difference in a series that was essentially set a month ago.

The Wild set a franchise record with 53 wins and 113 points, while finishing third in the NHL with a 31-8-2 home record. The Blues, who closed their season on a 14-2-2 run, won 23 road games ranked tied for ninth in the NHL.

St. Louis has had the edge over Minnesota by going 12-1-1 in its last 14 meetings, including a 6-4 win at Target Field in this year’s Winter Classic. Seven of those wins, however, were decided by one goal, including five in overtime.

“You get overtime, it can kind of go either way,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. “Yeah we got some things to go over, and we’ll be more than ready.”

The Blues’ feature a lineup that includes an NHL-leading nine 20-goal-scorers. The Wild addressed their goaltending at the trade deadline by acquiring playoff veteran Marc-Andre Fleury to accompany Max Talbot. Fleury has a 9-2 record since joining Minnesota, while Talbot is 13-0-3 in his past 17 appearances.



The teams meet in the playoff for second time in three years.

The Stars opened their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 — which they lost to Tampa Bay — by defeating the Flames in six games of a first-round series played in the Edmonton COVID-19 bubble. This time, the Flames will have the support of their fans and home-ice advantage.

“I only played a game and a half that series, so personally, I try and forget about it,” said Matthew Tkachuk, who finished second on the Flames with a career-best 104 points this season.

While Dallas reached the postseason for a fifth-straight year, Calgary is making just its fifth appearance since 2010.

“Going into this series, they’ve done it, we haven’t, so that puts them at a big advantage,” Tkachuk said of the Stars being playoff tested. “We’ve got to prove it.”

The Stars are a veteran-laden team led by Joe Pavelski, who became just the 16th player 37 years or older to top 80 points. He finished with 81 points, including 27 goals.


Kings coach Todd McLellan faces his former team in the playoffs for the first time since being fired by Edmonton during the 2018-19. season And the Oilers are now coached by McLellan’s former assistant, Jay Woodcroft, who took over after Dave Tippett was fired in February.

The Oilers have surged by going 26-9-3 under Woodcroft to finish with 49 wins, their most since winning 50 in 1986-87.

Oilers forward Derek Ryan credits Woodcroft for his ability to enact problem-solving solutions.

“I think we were searching for that earlier in the year where things weren’t going our way and it just felt like we were being told to work harder and be better,” Ryan said. “We were just searching for more answers and I think Woody has done a good job of bringing those answers in.”

The Kings’ lineup features three healthy remaining members from their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams, including forward Dustin Brown, who announced he will retire after this season.


AP Sports Writers Pat Graham, Dave Campbell, Teresa M. Walker and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bump & Stacy Show


Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert works against a San Diego Padres batter during the ...
Associated Press

Gilbert wins 10th, surging Mariners sweep sliding Padres

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Logan Gilbert earned his 10th win to tie for the major league lead, Sam Haggerty hit his first home run in over two months and the Seattle Mariners beat the San Diego Padres 6-2 on Tuesday. The Mariners, who have won 12 of their last 15 games, swept the two-game set […]
17 hours ago
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur returns from between her legs to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in a wom...
Associated Press

Ons Jabeur makes more history for Arab women at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — To the many “firsts” filling Ons Jabeur’s résumé, add a new one: First Arab woman to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament. The third-seeded Tunisian improved on last year’s quarterfinal run at Wimbledon by doing one better on Tuesday at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. She beat Marie Bouzkova […]
17 hours ago
Pato O'Ward leads the field at the drop of the green flag during an IndyCar auto race at Mid-Ohio S...
Associated Press

Michael Andretti calls Mid-Ohio team actions unacceptable

Michael Andretti acknowledged Tuesday that the meltdown of his IndyCar team at Mid-Ohio was unacceptable and said his four drivers will be expected to work together as teammates the remainder of the season. Andretti led an emergency meeting after Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where a fracture in the Andretti Autosport lineup was […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Canada's Connor Bedard (16) scores on Russia goalie Yegor Guskov (29) during the third perio...
Associated Press

NHL Draft: Teams weigh risks of selecting Russian prospects

The war in Ukraine has added an increasing level of uncertainty for NHL teams interested in drafting Russia-born prospects because of questions regarding their availability to play in North America. While no team has openly stated it would avoid selecting Russians altogether in the two-day draft in Montreal that opens Thursday, there is the potential […]
17 hours ago
Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper, center, reacts towards San Diego Padres pitcher Blake Snell af...
Associated Press

Phils’ Harper vows to play this year, but no date for return

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper has three pins in his left thumb, a cast on his left hand and an unyielding belief that he will return from injury this season to try and lead the Phillies to their first playoff appearance in 11 years. “I’ll be back,” Harper said. With those three words, Harper injected […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Fans watch at the start of an NFL football game inside AT&T Stadium between the New York Gia...
Associated Press

Cowboys criticized over deal with gun-themed coffee company

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys sparked criticism on social media Tuesday after announcing a marketing agreement with a gun-themed coffee company with blends that include “AK-47 Espresso,” “Silencer Smooth” and “Murdered Out.” The partnership with the Black Rifle Coffee Co. was revealed on Twitter the day after more than a half-dozen people died […]
17 hours ago
Avs, Flames are the ever-unpredictable NHL West’s top seeds