The playoffs have begun! To provide their insights on the upcoming Calgary Flames series with the Colorado Avalanche, we have assembled the latest edition of the FlamesNation Roundtable.
The Flames will beat the Avalanche if…
Ari: They can keep doing what they did over the first 79 games of the regular season. (We all know the last three meant nothing.) The Flames rarely dropped multiple games in a row, they were one of the NHL’s highest scoring teams, and their goaltending was just good enough to get them a win more often than not. If their goaltending can rise to the challenge, too – think early season David Rittich – then they might have the power to steamroll through other teams. It’s an “everything has to go right” scenario, but that’s kind of what they’ve been dealing with all year.
Ryan: If the Flames can keep their lines rolling and not let the Avalanche dictate the series’ pace or matchups, they’ll be in good shape. They’re deeper everywhere but in net, so they should be able to impose their will on the proceedings.
Mike: They get competent goaltending and everyone shows up to play? This should be a five, six game series at best. A lot of this just comes down to suppressing the one and a half lines the Avalanche can roll and goaltending on the Flames’ part.
Christian R: The Flames will beat the Avalanche if they get adequate goaltending and aren’t stomped on by Lady Luck. We all remember the 2017 playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks, and how a few bounces in the Flames’ way could’ve changed the complexion of the entire series. Heck, there’s an argument the Flames were a bounce in each game away from being the sweepers instead of the ones swept. NHL playoff history is littered with series steals by goaltenders, and nothing precludes the Flames from falling victim to Philipp Grubauer or Semyon Varlamov. Without a herculean effort from Avalanche goaltending, the Flames will simply need Smith or Rittich to not give the series away.
Bill: They stick to what they’ve been doing all year. The Flames are playing a team with weaknesses they can exploit (read: scoring depth). Limiting Colorado’s offence is more tangible than hoping for good goaltending. The Flames will have to score as well, and running into a hot goalie will be nightmarish, but they have to focus on limiting chances and keeping the Avalanche’s scoring threats at bay.
Karim: Nothing absolutely ridiculous happens. I honestly can’t see the Flames losing a seven-game series to the Avalanche, provided they remain relatively healthy and Smith/Rittich are even just average in net. With Backlund matching up against MacKinnon four of seven times (if it goes the distance), I like the Flames’ chances of moving on to round two.
The Flames will lose to the Avalanche if…
Ari: The scoring dries up and/or the goaltending implodes. The latter is probably more likely than the former, but you never quite know with the former – the Flames should be deep enough to be able to handle it (and/or any potential top line struggles), but all it takes is things to go wrong for a couple of games and suddenly they’re done. And if they do lose, it makes the offseason’s need to find a starting goalie all the more imperative – imagine wasting this roster because you kicked the can down the road too many times?
Ryan: If they let goaltending dictate the series. Philipp Grubauer was lights out to end the regular season and is streets ahead of Mike Smith right now. If the Flames fail to get to the net for tips or screens and fail to make Grubauer’s life difficult, it’ll be a long, painful series.
Mike: If goaltending and/or other things implode. Maybe the Flames will suddenly forget how to score again. Down the stretch health and dry spells have hit elements of their top six, with the bottom six taking up some of the workload. Let’s hope all ranks of the forward group are clicking and the goaltending doesn’t lay several eggs.
Christian R: The inverse answer to question one. The Flames lose to the Avalanche if their goaltending falls apart, or if Lady Luck returns for some sadism. If either Mike Smith or David Rittich fall apart, the Flames will have a tough time outscoring their struggles over the course of a seven-game series. In the same vein, if their shooting luck evaporates, or everything falls the Avalanche’s way, then too they will have a tough time overcoming it. The only caveat is this: the 2018-19 rendition of the Calgary Flames is immensely more talented than the 2016-17 version, and thus better suited to overcome bad luck. Even so, that’s the biggest ship sinker I can see.
Bill: They let in goals with defensive breakdowns. It’s one of those things that’s been a storyline throughout the season: they’ve lost games due to sloppy goals against, despite handily outplaying their opponent. Colorado is definitely a team that can capitalize on this, and the Flames can’t let the Avs run away with games.
Karim: There’s no doubt Calgary has the edge on forwards, defense, depth, home ice, etc., but the wild card here is goaltending. Grubauer has been excellent lately and the Flames didn’t face him in any of their meetings with Colorado during the season. I don’t think the Flames will lose, but if they do, it’ll be almost entirely because of Grubauer outplaying the Flames’ tandem in net.
What is your prediction for the series result?
Ari: I’m going to be optimistic in predicting a quick series victory for the Flames. I just think they have too much going for them.
Ryan: Flames in six.
Mike: Flames win in five or six games; thank u, next.
Christian R: At the end of the day, two-thirds of the Avs’ vaunted top line are fresh out of the infirmary (Rantanen, Landeskog) and the good money is on their health being questionable. The Flames have been playing good hockey coming into the playoffs, save two meaningless games to finish the year, and are the all around better team in every capacity. They should win handily, in five games. Have to allow for that one wonky loss.
Bill: Five games. Colorado might have goaltending over the Flames, but I think the Flames have the firing power to supplement the disparities.
Karim: I think the Avalanche can steal one or two games from the Flames, but I don’t see them putting up a huge fight. Neither Rantanen or Landeskog are fully healthy, and while the Flames are also battling injuries to Monahan and Bennett (we think), that doesn’t hurt the Flames as much as losing Rantanen and Landeskog does for the Avs. My prediction is that the Flames win this one handily, 4-1.