Both clubs congregated at the Scotiabank Saddledome prior to Game 5 between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche. Here are the main takeaways from both clubs’ morning skates.
The Flames make a big line-up change
The big news after morning skate was the insertion of Austin Czarnik into the lineup, bumping James Neal (and his $5.75 million cap hit) to the sidelines. Flames head coach Bill Peters explained the move when speaking to the media.
When [Czarnik]’s come into the lineup he’s given us an element of skill in the offensive zone. We want to hang onto pucks and spend some time in there.
He noted that they considered some other options, but the key was there were players who play special teams roles that they couldn’t replace if they moved them out.
A spectator for the previous four playoff dates, Czarnik has a perspective on what the Flames need to do in order to extend the series.
“A lot of their offense comes from their top line, that’s where a lot of their momentum comes from,” said Czarnik. “I think if we can stop them, we’ll have a good shot here tonight. We’re a team that can thrive on transition and little things like that, so I think if we can have good transition, get pucks in, not try to be too fancy, get shots on net, we can have success.”
The all-rookie pairing
The Flames are keeping rookie Juuso Valimaki in the lineup, where he’s paired with fellow rookie Rasmus Andersson. Andersson had a lot of praise for his defensive teammate and didn’t have a ton of advice for the young Finn prior to his playoff debut.
“He’s really composed and he’s handling the pressure really well,” said Andersson. “I just tried to tell him before the game ‘just enjoy it.’ It’s fun. It’s the best time of the year. Just really enjoy it. It doesn’t happen everyday and I thought he did. He was doing really well and I thought we played a strong game together.”
Not a lot of teams used an all-rookie pairing in the regular season, let alone the playoffs. But the key to their success, said Andersson, was their ability to stick to what makes them effective.
“We’re both pretty good with handling pressure and just stick with it really and play our game,” said Andersson. “I tried to tell him they put us in for a reason, and it’s to make plays, and we’ve just got to keep doing that. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first period or overtime, we’ve just got to keep making plays and I think that’s where he was really good. We didn’t really panic a lot, we tried to keep the puck with each other and move it up to our forwards.”
The Flames know what the score is in the series. They also know they can’t win all three games they need to advance at once.
“It’s one game at a time,” said Giordano. “We get tonight, and we move on from there. But we have to focus on really trying to get back to our game. Moving pucks, jumping into the play as D-men, generating that quick pace. Once we get back to that, we’ll be fine.”
There’s not a lot that really needed to be said to motivate the Flames for this one.
“Guys are well-aware of everything and the circumstances that are in front of us,” said Peters. “I liked our energy on Wednesday in Colorado. I liked lots of our game. I thought the thing we didn’t do was when they got momentum in the third we didn’t find a way to put an end to it.”
The Flames will need to find a way to control momentum in this game, or else it’ll be a long night (and a short playoff round).
Keep an eye on Makar
Colorado rookie blueliner Cale Makar is playing his first professional game in his hometown rink – his parents actually still have season tickets. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar noted that playing on the road won’t impact how they’re using him.
“Not based on what I saw from him in the two games in Denver,” said Bednar. “I just think that we’ll let him play. He looks like he’s a real confident player. He’s real good on the defensive side of things and is contributing on the offensive side, as well. I don’t think we have to alter anything there at all. He looks like an NHL player who’s been around for awhile.”