NHL Playoff Preview: Avalanche vs Flames

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The Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche are set to face off in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flames who are the winners of the Pacific division with a 50-25-7 record will host the Avalanche who managed to grab the second wildcard spot with a 38-30-14 record.

Season series

The two teams faced each other three times this season. Calgary won all three with one being in overtime. The Flames won by scores of 3-2, 6-5, and 5-3 outscoring Colorado 14-10 in the season series.

How the Flames Got Here

Coming into the season the Flames were not the team pegged to win the Pacific Division. They surprised the league by finishing second in the NHL in scoring with 3.52 GF/G. By no surprise, Johnny Gaudreau was the team’s leading scorer— tallying 99 points. There were four other players for the Flames responsible for the offensive burst. Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mark Giordano all registered more than 70 points.

Calgary was a team that was rumored to be in the market for another top-notch scorer at the trade deadline. Flames fans were not happy when the only move the team made was acquiring defensemen Oscar Fantenberg from the L.A Kings for a conditional 2020 4th round pick. Fantenberg was not a flashy addition but he has helped on the back end and has contributed to the Flames being 9th in GA/GP with 2.72.

The Flames are a team that does not have a number one goaltender. David Rittich and Mike Smith have both appeared in at least 40 games for the Flames. Rittich’s numbers are a tad bit better than Smith’s but Smith is still putting together a decent year. The Flames have run the duo evenly throughout the season and expect them to do the same in the playoffs. Unless one of them gets hot both will see time in the series against Colorado.

How the Avalanche Got Here

The Colorado Avalanche have had quite the up and down year. They started out hot winning seven of their first 11 games and were 15-11 by the end of November. December started a long stretch where the Avs saw themselves slowly fall out of the playoff race. In a 30 game stretch, the Avs went 7-17-6. They ended their season going 16-7-3 to secure the second wildcard spot.

The Avs had what was arguably the best scoring line in the NHL with Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon. All three ended the year with over 30 goals. The Avs finished the regular season 10th in offense with 3.15 GF/GP. They struggled to find consistent secondary scoring which led to a move at the trade deadline to acquire Derick Brassard for a 2020 3rd round pick. Brassard had four goals in 20 games with the Avs.

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In the net, the Avalanche have Semyon Varlamov who has played in the majority of their games and is responsible for 20 of the team’s wins. Colorado sits right in the middle of the league in goals allowed with 2.98 GA/GP. On the other hand, they could choose to use Philipp Grubauer who has numbers a slight bit better than Varlamov.

Injuries of note

COL- Mikko Rantanen (Upper Body) – Status for game 1 unknown

CGY- Sam Bennett (Upper Body) – Availability for game 1 unclear

CGY- Sean Monahan (Illness) – Currently a game-time decision but is expected to play

Series Schedule

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
April 11 Game 1 at Calgary 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA)
April 13 Game 2 at Calgary 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA)
April 15 Game 3 at Colorado 10 p.m. ET (CNBC, CBC, TVA)
April 17 Game 4 at Colorado 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA)
*April 19 Game 5 at Calgary TBD
*April 21 Game 6 at Colorado TBD
*April 23 Game 7 at Calgary TBD

Prediction

The Flames have been playing great hockey all season in comparison to the Avalanche who have been an up and down team. The Flames also have the better depth overall. Colorado is going to need to find some scoring outside of their top 3 in order to compete in this series. If not then Calgary will have a decent rest period until the 2nd round.

Calgary in 5.

Cover photo credit: Milehighhockey.com

Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars and the NHL for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.

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