Game Takes: Avalanche 5 Flames 1

April 19th, 2019 | Posted in Game Takes | By: D'Arcy McGrath

Well hands up, who had Colorado in five?

I know I certainly didn’t.

The Flames were the picture of consistency and cohesion from October 26th through to the end of the regular season. They were quick to respond after big losses, they strung many multiple win streaks together while minimizing their losing streaks and galloping to a 50 win season.

They were every bit full marks on a 1st place finish in the conference.

Then the playoffs start and after game one they can’t move the puck, they can’t defend, they lose composure, and they lose their discipline. It was a collapse.

Tonight the Avalanche scored two in the first, two in the second and another in the third to coast to a 5-1 victory on “Good” Friday in Calgary.

That’s if folks, season over.

Line Up Changes

The shake up for game four remains in tact, that is Juuso Valimaki in for Oscar Fantenberg. Valimaki was great in his playoff debut, honestly showing as much or more poise than most of his veteran teammates. Sure he got favourable matchups and zone starts but you can’t hide the kid had polish.

Mike Smith back in goal, as he should be, the man has been the Flame’s best player.

Up front though some change, to say the least.

James Neal out of the lineup is quite the surprise, not in being the target as he’s been anything but productive this season, and certainly not doing a lot in this series. But it takes some guts to scratch the big free agent signing, and you have to give Bill Peters some credit.

Additional moves include Sam Bennett to the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan, Elias Lindholm to the second line with Tkachuk and Backlund, and Austin Czarnik comes in to play with Mark Jankowski and Michael Frolik. The fourth line remains unchanged.

Johnny Had a Night

Too invisible for the series as a whole along with his first line mates, but you have to give it to Johnny Gaudreau tonight for driving play and making things happen.

Two breakaways, one called for a penalty shot, none resulting in a goal. Then a second period goal that was overrule for goalie obstruction and a boat load of frustration.

He was making a difference however, the way we’ve seen it happen many a night over the last five years. With a bounce or two tonight he might have had the Flames up in the game and cruising instead of finding a way to get behind and then suffering a frustrating evening.

The Game

Oddly the Flames probably played their second best (at worst third best) game of the series in this one, despite the final score.

But the game changed on two key moments …

The Goal Review – I’m with Kelly Hrudey on this one, I think the officials made the right call. Sam Bennett drove the net and pushed Erik Johnson back into Phillip Grubrauer and interfered with his ability to get set on the post. I think that was a good call.

But before that I think we may have seen the biggest game changer and that was TJ Brodie and Rasmus Andersson getting stuck in their own zone after a Calgary powerplay. They played 50 some seconds up the ice, the forwards get to change but the defense pairing can’t get off the ice. Three or four failed clearing attempts but then they get out with Derek Ryan carrying the puck only to see Ryan turn it over. The lead legged Andersson gets a whack at it, but it’s a quick three on two down low with two murdered defenseman and Colin Wilson makes them pay.

That felt like the game.

Sam Bennett

If these playoffs told me anything, it’s that they need to give Sam Bennett a consistent look in the top six next year, let him work it out.

The player had good underlying numbers all year, but just couldn’t produce.

In these five games he was point a game, and an impact in games one, two, three and five as it turned out. He showed up on more shifts than most and acted like a pretty damn good compliment to Calgary’s skill players. I think they need to get him off the third line and give him someone to play with for a good three months next year and see where he lands.

The skill set is there, the will is there … let him settle in.

The Jersey Toss

Whoever you are, you’re an asshole.

Calgary and Edmonton hockey have shared some pretty nasty hockey history in the last thirty years, but pride and class has at least somewhat been on the Calgary side for the most part as Edmonton has driven themselves into the ground with soap opera story after soap opera story.

The jersey toss became an Edmonton thing.

One idiot doing the same thing in Calgary pretty much takes away that bragging right.



I’m going to save my “what the hell happened?” thoughts for a couple of days.

Freshness is key. You need to decompress and think and analyse, avoiding the knee jerk finger pointing and over reactions.

Brad Treliving will have to look hard at the differential between a team that can’t win when the games get tough and a young group that needs to learn to win.

The answer is tough to ascertain, but I’m happy a methodical man is in charge of that call.

Counting Stats

Team Stats:
Shots – Flames 37 Avalanche 52
Face Offs – Avalanche 51%
Special Teams – Flames 1/3 Avalanche 1/4

Player Stats:
Points – Five players with a point.
Plus/Minus – Ryan, Tkachuk, Valimaki, Andersson and Frolik at +1.
Shots – Rasmus Andersson with 7

Fancy Stats

Much closer game tonight compared to games two through four from a shot metric standpoint.

The five on five shot attempts finished 40-41 from a Calgary perspective for 49% Flames on a period split of 38%/59% and 62%. Scoring chances were 28-23 Colorado (55%), and high danger chances finished 11-10 Avalanche (52%).

In all situations the Flames had 53% of the shot attempts, 51% of the scoring chances and 61% of the high danger chances.

Individually, the top pairing and the modified second line were excellent tonight as Mark Giordano led the way with 73%, followed by Brodie, Backlund, Tkachuk and Lindholm from 65% to 59%. Juuso Valimaki, Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson were also above the 50% mark. At the bottom of the pile was the second defense pairing again as Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic struggled to under 30% nights once again.

The third line got just cratered on the night as Mark Jankowski led the way with an expected goals for split of just 8%. 8%! That is simply terrible. Thirty or forty percent means you’ve had a bad night, but 8% means you’ve mailed it in.

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