The Calgary Flames will face off against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. How do the Flames stack up against the Avalanche lineup-wise?
For the following positional breakdowns: GS = Average Game Score, CF = Corsi For, OZS = Offensive Zone Starts
|Ex: Austin Czarnik
|Ex: Dillon Dube
|Ex: Alan Quine
Calgary is fairly top-heavy, but there’s not a huge drop off between the first and second lines or the third and fourth lines. What makes the Flames a challenging team to play against is their ability to swap around pieces and change how they match up against lines; Austin Czarnik, Andrew Mangiapane and Derek Ryan have played up and down the rotation and been effective spare parts (as well as effective in their own roles). If the team opens at full health, Czarnik is likely a healthy scratch but he could be a really effective ace in the hole in terms of changing up how the Flames look.
In terms of health, Sean Monahan missed two games earlier in March due to an illness and more recently another two games due to also (presumably) an illness. Sam Bennett also missed nine of the last 11 games with an upper body injury. Both have been regular participants in practice and are expected to dress for Game 1.
|Ex: Sven Andrighetto
Colorado’s top line is legit, but they (a) haven’t been a complete trio for a month due to injuries to Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen and (b) are very reliant on offensive zone starts to generate their offense. Because that trio is getting so much high ground, it makes it challenging for the other trios to get much – compare how top-heavy the starts are for Colorado for how relatively balanced things are for the Flames. The Avalanche will only go as far as the top trio can carry them.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar expects Rantanen to play to open the playoffs. His return bumps Alex Kerfoot from the first line potentially down to his old spot on the fourth line, but Kerfoot’s strong substitute performance might see him end up a bit higher in the rotation. Bednar also intends to keep his top line together at home but split them up on the road to make matching more challenging, so the above projection is our best guess at how they deploy most of the time. (We’ve adjusted this to better reflect the expected Game 1 lines.)
EDGE: Flames. Calgary’s balanced attack could be a big challenge for the Avs, especially if the top two lines cancel each other out and it’s a contest of bottom six versus bottom six.
|Ex: Juuso Valimaki
|Ex: Michael Stone
|Ex: Oliver Kylington
|Ex: Dalton Prout
The Flames are carrying 10 blueliners and all of them have played a fairly regular role at some point in the season. Their approach has been to use a defined top four, though Rasmus Andersson can sub in on the top pairing depending on situational needs.
While Calgary does have some nice depth here, it’s worth noting that all of their four extra bodies are essentially third pairing substitutes. They’re all perfectly fine options, but they’re all arguably downgrades from Andersson and Oscar Fantenberg.
|Ex: Ryan Graves
|Ex: Mark Barberio
Colorado’s defensive depth mirrors their forward group. Tyson Barrie is legit, but like the top forward line he gets a lot of offensive zone high ground. The remainder of the defensive group barely have their heads above water possession-wise. They have some depth, but they’re either inexperienced (Graves) or a pretty distinct downgrade from their starting six.
EDGE: Flames. Calgary has a bit more versatility and depth than Colorado seems to.
5v5 SV%: 0.906
5v5 SV%: 0.929
The Flames will start Mike Smith in Game 1. He’s been fairly reliable lately, but on a season-long sample size he’s statistically the worst goaltending option available to either team in this series by a fairly significant margin. It’ll be interesting to see if his puck-handling gives the Flames an advantage, or if Colorado’s coaching staff finds a way to counter that aspect of his play.
5v5 SV%: 0.928
5v5 SV%: 0.919
For the second season in a row, Philipp Grubauer begins the playoffs having wrestled starting jobs away from the incumbent. A year ago Braden Holtby got his game back, and his crease, and ended up winning a Stanley Cup. Grubauer was excellent down the stretch for the Avalanche and is good enough to give them a chance to win on most nights, though his sample size (138 regular season games) isn’t quite as large as Smith’s (571 games) or Semyon Varlamov’s (448 games).
EDGE: Avalanche. If you’re nervous about Smith being the Flames’ go-to guy, the numbers suggest that you have good reason to be.