The Calgary Flames finished second in the NHL with 107 points, which was well behind the 128 of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames seemed to have figured out the goalie situation with splitting time between David Rittich and Mike Smith. They’ve been lead on the back end by Mark Giordano, who should be a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the League’s best defenseman. The big three of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm did struggle down the stretch, and that needs to be fixed for the postseason.
The Colorado Avalanche had a bit of an inconsistent season and clinched a playoff berth the last week of the season. Amazingly, they have a chance at picking first in the NHL Entry Draft, if the Ottawa Senators should win the Lottery. The Avalanche seem to have straightened out the goaltending situation with Philpp Grubauer taking over the number one spot from Semyon Varlamov. They relied a lot on the offense of Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, who combined for 261 points on the seaon.
The Regular Season Series Rundown
The Calgary Flames managed to take all three games from the Avalanche in the regular season, but the games were close. The three games were all played in the first half of the season when the Avalanche were struggling in every facet of the game. This is a different Avalanche team and they had to battle and straighten things out just to make the playoffs.
The first game of the season series was played on Oct.13 in Colorado and the Flames managed to pull out the 3-2 win in overtime. The second game was played on Nov. 1 in Calgary with the Flames pulling out the 6-5 win in regulation. The final game of the season series between these two teams was played on Jan. 9 in Calgary, where the Flames earned the 5-3 win in regulation.
Specials Teams Recap
The Flames special teams play in the regular season has been mediocre, at best. The Flames finished 19th on the power play at 19.3% on the power play. The team had 53 power play goals and allowed seven short-handed goals on the season. The penalty kill finished 21st in the League at 79.7%. The Flames allowed 50 power play goals against, but made up for some of that by scoring 18 short-handed goals of their own.
The Colorado Avalanche finished the season with the seventh best power play in the League at 22%. The Avs scored 63 power play goals and only gave up five short-handed goals. They’ll need to watch out for the short-handed goals from the Flames. The penalty kill was not as good as the power play having finished at 78.7%, which left them sitting at 25th in the NHL. They allowed 58 power play goals while scoring nine short-handed goals of their own.
The key players for the Flames will be the goaltenders. The goalie duo of Rittich and Smith split the season in net and it seemed to work especially for Smith, who put up some okay numbers except that .898 save percentage needs to be higher. The goalies will need to make sure that they make saves and don’t lose focus should they allow a soft goal. The Avalanche will get their chances and that is where the defense needs to help the goalies out with some blocked shots, boxing out and clearing the puck when there is a rebound.
The power play for the Avalanche will be a key component in the series. The Avalanche need to find a way to take advantage of their power play opportunities especially with the Flames penalty kill not being great. If they can manage to get some puck and player movement then that should help to find the open man on the ice for the goal. It would also make it harder for the Flames to defend against the power play.
Mark Giordano has led the Flames on the back end all season long and should be a Norris Trophy Finalist come NHL Award season. Giordano plays against the opposition’s top line every night and logs a ton of minutes, whether it is at even strength or on special teams. The defenseman has played a good all around game for the team this year and needs to be recognized for it. Giordano plays big minutes and yet has still managed to chip in on the offensive side of the puck in a big way this year.
The key to this series will be for the Avalanche to get some depth scoring especially since Mikko Rantanen could possibly miss the first game of the series with an injury. The top line of Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen combined for 261 points on the season. The depth scorers are going to need to contribute in this series to make it harder to defend against the team.
The Flames Advance If…
They can get good goaltending and the first line produces to its ability. Rittich and Smith have been better this year, but the players in front of them need to avoid turnovers and play smart hockey. They will need to make the routine save and the timely save. Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm combined for 259 points and need to get back to producing for this team. The production has fallen off for the big three, but they need to find a way to get their mojo back.
The Avalanche Advance If…
They can get decent goaltending and manage to put some pucks in the net, while playing decent defense. Grubauer has taken over the starter’s net with his play of late for the Avalanche and the team will need him to be solid to have a shot at winning this series. This could turn into a high scoring series, and in that case, the Avalanche will need to find a way to put some pucks in the net.
Flames-Avalanche Series Prediction
The Avalanche pull off the upset in this round even though the numbers say otherwise. The Avalanche has the talent to play a high-scoring game or can buckle down and play defense. Grubauer or Semyon Varlamov will make the timely saves and help the team advance to the second round of the playoffs.