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How do the Flames stack up against the Avalanche?

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

Forwards

The Flames

Johnny Gaudreau
GS: 1.272
CF: 54.5%
OZS: 60.6%
Sean Monahan
GS: 1.093
CF: 53.7%
OZS: 60.8%
Elias Lindholm
GS: 1.027
CF: 55.5%
OZS: 58.8%
Matthew Tkachuk
GS: 1.083
CF: 57.0%
OZS: 57.8%
Mikael Backlund
GS: 0.804
CF: 55.3%
OZS: 57.8%
Michael Frolik
GS: 0.717
CF: 56.3%
OZS: 55.7%
Sam Bennett
GS: 0.476
CF: 53.5%
OZS: 60.1%
Mark Jankowski
GS: 0.435
CF: 51.5%
OZS: 58.3%
James Neal
GS: 0.394
CF: 50.6%
OZS: 59.4%
Andrew Mangiapane
GS: 0.456
CF: 54.9%
OZS: 58.3%
Derek Ryan
GS: 0.548
CF: 54.6%
OZS: 47.7%
Garnet Hathaway
GS: 0.298
CF: 49.5%
OZS: 56.9%
Ex: Austin Czarnik
GS: 0.440
CF: 54.9%
OZS: 54.4%
Ex: Dillon Dube
GS: 0.169
CF: 46.3%
OZS: 61.8%
Ex: Alan Quine
GS: 0.258
CF: 47.8%
OZS: 51.4%

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.

The Avalanche

Gabriel Landeskog
GS: 1.111
CF: 52.2%
OZS: 67.6%
Nathan MacKinnon
GS: 1.350
CF: 53.0%
OZS: 68.1%
Alex Kerfoot
GS: 0.502
CF: 51.0%
OZS: 59.5%
Mikko Rantanen
GS: 1.174
CF: 53.8%
OZS: 68.8%
Carl Soderberg
GS: 0.616
CF: 49.1%
OZS: 44.0%
Colin Wilson
GS: 0.376
CF: 47.7%
OZS: 55.2%
Derick Brassard
GS: 0.101
CF: 45.2%
OZS: 51.3%
J.T. Compher
GS: 0.430
CF: 46.5%
OZS: 52.4%
Tyson Jost
GS: 0.373
CF: 48.0%
OZS: 62.0%
Gabriel Bourque
GS: 0.088
CF: 42.2%
OZS: 59.5%
Matt Calvert
GS: 0.373
CF: 50.7%
OZS: 45.0%
Matt Nieto
GS: 0.385
CF: 51.5%
OZS: 47.1%
Ex: Sven Andrighetto
GS: 0.336
CF: 49.4%
OZS: 63.8%

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.

Defense

The Flames

Mark Giordano
GS: 1.173
CF: 57.3%
OZS: 48.7%
TJ Brodie
GS: 0.659
CF: 55.8%
OZS: 51.1%
Noah Hanifin
GS: 0.526
CF: 53.0%
OZS: 54.2%
Travis Hamonic
GS: 0.602
CF: 54.3%
OZS: 55.1%
Oscar Fantenberg
GS: 0.353
CF: 56.6%
OZS: 63.8%
Rasmus Andersson
GS: 0.367
CF: 50.8%
OZS: 57.9%
Ex: Juuso Valimaki
GS: 0.213
CF: 49.6%
OZS: 66.3%
Ex: Michael Stone
GS: 0.329
CF: 51.7%
OZS: 55.8%
Ex: Oliver Kylington
GS: 0.198
CF: 48.4%
OZS: 60.9%
Ex: Dalton Prout
GS: 0.180
CF: 50.6%
OZS: 61.3%

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.

The Avalanche

Tyson Barrie
GS: 0.860
CF: 52.6%
OZS: 64.3%
Nikita Zadorov
GS: 0.281
CF: 49.7%
OZS: 50.0%
Samuel Girard
GS: 0.390
CF: 48.9%
OZS: 60.9%
Erik Johnson
GS: 0.357
CF: 48.5%
OZS: 55.8%
Ian Cole
GS: 0.283
CF: 50.8%
OZS: 44.4%
Patrik Nemeth
GS: 0.164
CF: 48.0%
OZS: 25.8%
Ex: Ryan Graves
GS: 0.315
CF: 49.8%
OZS: 61.9%
Ex: Mark Barberio
GS: -0.102
CF: 41.0%
OZS: 55.6%

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.

Goalies

The Flames

Mike Smith
GS: 0.339
5v5 SV%: 0.906
David Rittich
GS: 0.670
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.

The Avalanche

Philipp Grubauer
GS: 0.850
5v5 SV%: 0.928
Semyon Varlamov
GS: 0.694
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.



  • Skylardog

    The things to watch are how Colorado attempts to isolate MacKinnon’s line against our “weaker” lines, whether Grubauer is the one that collapsed during the playoffs last season or the one that ended this season on a roll, and how Smith comes out of the gate.

    While the stats say that Monahan was 0-3 in terms of goals when playing against MacKinnon, it was really just a save issue. Backs line and Mony’s line played fairly close, but Monahan’s is the only one that out generated the Mac line in terms of HDCF. Fact is, Mac will get chances, we just need stops. I would look for the Mac line to be out against the Janko line every chance they get. This is simply about speed, and they can expose that line with theirs. They will need to keep their heads up though with Benny roaming around.

    That brings us to Grubauer. If he gets rolling this could get bad real fast. We need to get to him early and get in his head that he is repeating his performance from last season in the playoffs. We need to get to Varly. You don’t put up a 0.955 5v5 and a crazy 0.952 save percentage in his last 13 or so without being on an absolute roll. If he puts up these kind of numbers, we are not making it out of this round. If that happens, we will need 43 shots per game to get 2 goals, and I know our group can hold Colorado to 1. That’s the thing. You don’t get 3v3 in the playoffs in OT.

    As for our goalies, if Grubauer is on like he has been, ANY weak goal will be fatal in that game. We simply can’t have a weak one squeak in, it will be hard enough to keep the great shots out. That also means no give aways while playing the puck.

    Chase Grubauer from the net by game 3 and we win. If he plays all of Colorado’s minutes, we will be looking at rough series that may be over early or a coin toss in a game 7.

    We have the horses to chase him.

    • withachance

      I’m personally not worried TOO much about their goalies – the Flames have the forward corps to play the game in their end, and Grubauer had very similar stats last year going into the playoffs and we all know how that turned out.

      As long as we get league average goaltending from Smith and Rittich the Flames should progress. Just having Ryan creates a huge mismatch advantage, both home and away

    • The Fall

      Any Flames scoring issues look to be more team related than goalie. teams that stop the Flames attack simply clog up the neutral zone or clog up the home plate area. Avs don’t don’t play that game; their forwards aren’t structured like that and are always looking to break out. Grubby is going to have to be real sharp, because the Flames are going to get a lot of chances, a lot of zone time and generate a lot of turnovers.

  • FLT

    Grubauer’s SV% is 0.948 with a GAA of 1.69 since the all star break. He can’t keep that up forever, but likely can for at least a round or two. He could be the biggest factor in the series.

  • Flaming Duck

    Last TV I bought was for the 2004 Flames cup run, just bought a new one yesterday, a nice 65” to eatch the Flames win the cup! Cannot wait until Thursday, GFG!!

    • His Dudeness

      Why? Who were our 2 best players this year? JG and Gio I think we would all agree. Who has the highest game scores? Don’t worry I’ll tell you. It was JG and Gio. Seems to me the stat tells us something….

      • The Fall

        exactly, it tells us exactly what all other stats tell us, and also still skews the results based on arbitrary assignments. I have a real issue with these guys trying to invent so stat or metric that really doesn’t really provide any actual added insight. Gamescore is still extremely biased, and introduces noise which makes it all counter productive. It either tells us exactly what the scoresheet already tells us, or it tells us that Dalton Prout had a good game against the Sharks because he scored a goal: One of which isn’t useful and the other isn’t true.

        Player Game Score = (0.75 * G) + (0.7 * A1) + (0.55 * A2) + (0.075 * SOG) + (0.05 * BLK) + (0.15 * PD) – (0.15 * PT) + (0.01 * FOW) – (0.01 * FOL) + (0.05 * CF) – (0.05 * CA) + (0.15 * GF) – (0.15* GA)

        • Derzie

          I disagree with your conclusion.
          Game score is a way to quickly combine stats based on weightings. The stats themselves are measurements, not conclusions. The Game Score is a way for the everyman to get a 1-number feel for how the player plays relative to what’s expected of them at the position. It’s nothing more than that. If you want to dig deeper, change the weightings (e.g. zero weight what you consider ‘noise’) or combine the stats you like and call it the ‘Fall Score’. Sky’s the limit on combos. Just like any stat interpretation, it has value, flaws. Interpreting what it means is more art than science.
          If the Game Score matches the eye test most of the time, it’s a good indicator to use to save a dive into spreadsheet hell. If it doesn’t, use something else.

  • calgaryfan

    The Flames fed Mike Smith teams that did not make the playoffs (2 are in) since the beginning of March his record is 4 wins in 9 in games. Rittich also played 9 games and won 5 while playing mostly playoff teams. (3 teams are out). Why would the Flames start Smith?

    • Albertabeef

      Rittich struggled against Ottawa and let in 4 vs NJ. Smitty’s puck handling could be the major advantage over playing Rittich. Rittich also sucks vs breakaways which we will see many vs Colorado.

      • Albertabeef

        On top of that Smith in March played 8 games and was 4-4 in the process. His GAA in march 2.04gaa and a .908 save%. Dave played 7 games in march with a 4-3 record and had a 2.90gaa and a .902save%. Please tell me which one has been better lately? Don’t even get me started on February stats too with Dave’s 3.02gaa and his .884save%.

    • The Fall

      I hate to simply ignore the numbers, but Smith looks like he really wants this. His intensity is way up. He looked great against SJS; every GA in that game was off Prout.

      Most every game in the last two weeks (except the SJS game) looked like a walk-through.

      • Joel Ottos Jock

        This isnt house league someone. He BP would lose the team and confidence of the players and especially the goalies if he did that. Make a decesion and live with it.

        • someone

          This isn’t house league?! Thanks for clearing that up Joel.
          Did BP lose the confidence of the team during the NHL regular season? (I’m pretty sure that isn’t “house league”, right? Maybe you can help me out with that though)
          I think he SHOULD play Riitich. But like I said, I THINK we will see both.

    • Rockmorton65

      Let Rittich have his “first ever playoff game jitters on the bench”. Smith’s been here before & can walk him through. I think we see BSD at some point.

    • Spider you muda&@#ker

      Im not to worried about Grubauer people are making him out to be Patrick Roy or something. Sure he had a good couple months but a 7 game series is a different animal. Flames have too much offensive fire power and the Avalanche defense is pretty average. Im thinking there is going to be some goals scored in this series by both teams. I like the decision to go with Smitty I think he has alot to prove and his puck handling abilities will be big for the transition game. Flames in 6!

    • Puck Head

      I’m not surprised to find you here. Out of morbid curiosity I went over to ON tonight and didn’t have the stomach to make it through the comments section of the first blog. Good gawd. Maybe it’s time the NHL took over control of your organization. What an embarrassment for all Canadians.

  • slapshot444

    I’m pretty certain the Flames will get past the Avs without much ado. Are we tough enough to get past the Sharks after seeing game one ( Sharks /Knights), that was so smash em hockey it has me worried, the saving grace is that penalties were being called for the obvious stuff. Are we tough enough???