The Calgary Flames were eliminated from the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs on Friday night with a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Scotiabank Saddledome. They lost their first round series in five games.
The home side had energy early, but didn’t seem to harness it terribly well. They had a lot of zone time, but Colorado registered the first five shots on goal. The first Flames shot on Philipp Grubauer wasn’t until 7:26 into the game.
Midway through the first period, the Avalanche hit the scoresheet first. Matthew Tkachuk had a good look but couldn’t get a shot off and play went the other way. Tyson Barrie’s wrister from the point was deflected by Gabriel Landeskog in the slot and beat Mike Smith just inside the glove-side post to give the visitors a 1-0 edge.
Johnny Gaudreau drew a penalty shot after Cale Makar hooked him on a breakaway, but Grubauer waited out his deke and Gaudreau went wide without registering a shot. Gaudreau got a second breakaway, but went wide to the other side of Grubauer. The play went the other way and the Avalanche scored an odd one: the initial shot went off Smith, off Travis Hamonic’s face and bounced over to Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen banked it in off Smith’s back to give the Avs a 2-0 lead.
But the Flames got a late goal off a few nice individual efforts and some odd bounces. Gaudreau dumped the puck in at an angle, firing it into the corner. It took a weird bounce, surprising the Avalanche, and Sam Bennett found a pinching TJ Brodie, who beat Grubauer with a high wrister to make it a 2-1 Avalanche lead.
Finally! A goal. The heavens have opened up. pic.twitter.com/vdVaHuR0oB
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 20, 2019
Shots were 15-9 Avalanche and scoring chances 17-11 Avalanche in the first period.
The Flames got an early second period power play off some nice hustle, but couldn’t score. TJ Brodie and Rasmus Andersson were caught out at the end of the power play and the Avalanche threw Landeskog, Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon out for a shift. That gave the Avalanche a ton of zone time as the tired Flames couldn’t clear. Rantanen picked Derek Ryan’s pocket at the blueline and a nice pass late, Colin Wilson buried an uncontested shot from the slot to make it 3-1 Colorado. (Andersson and Brodie were on the ice for 2:16 when Wilson scored.)
The Flames almost got one back, but it was waved off by referee Chris Rooney. Gaudreau banked puck in off a prone Grubauer, but he was prone because Bennett and Erik Johnson battling at the edge of his crease knocked him down. The Flames challenged, but call stood.
— Sportsnet 960 (@Sportsnet960) April 20, 2019
A little later, Tkachuk was called for interference behind the play and on the ensuing Colorado man advantage, Wilson scored his second goal of the period deflecting a MacKinnon slap-pass from the slot up and over Smith to give the visitors a 4-1 cushion.
Shots were 14-10 Flames and scoring chances 9-7 in the second period.
The period began with a 1:37 Avalanche power play after Sam Bennett took a late minor. Rantanen buried a shot from the face-off dot over Smith’s shoulder to make it 5-1 Avalanche.
From there, both teams seemed content to coast to the finish. Shots were 7-6 Avalanche and scoring chances 4-3 Avalanche in the final period.
Why the Flames Lost
This game was the entire series in a nutshell:
- The Flames had zone time, but couldn’t translate that into scoring chances. (And when they did, they couldn’t consistently hit the net and make the goalie make a save.)
- The Flames coughed up the puck frequently in their own end in their transition attempts, as the Avalanche used their speed on the forecheck to pressure the puck carrier quite often.
- The Avalanche played a patient, composed road game and waited for the Flames to make mistakes. When they did, they pounced.
And to be perfectly honest, Colorado’s key players were collectively better than the Flames’ key players.
Let’s go with Gaudreau, who was buzzing around and trying his damnedest to get something going for the home side.
The Turning Point
The Flames were the better team in the opening five minutes of the second period. They pressured. They generated chances. They drew a penalty. Then their power play didn’t do a whole lot with said power play, and Colorado scored immediately after that power play to spot themselves a 3-1 lead.
It was just a matter of clock management for the Avalanche from that point.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Natural Stat Trick)
This and That
History was made by the Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning this year, and not good history:
If #Flames are eliminated by Colorado, it would mark the first time in NHL history that the regular season champions from each respective conference would each be eliminated in Round 1
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 18, 2019
For the curious, the NHL’s explanation of the disallowed Gaudreau goal:
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referees, the Situation Room confirmed that the actions of Calgary’s Sam Bennett caused Colorado’s Erik Johnson to contact netminder Philipp Grubauer before the puck crossed the goal line. The decision was made in according to Rule 69.1 which states, in part, that “If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.”
Therefore, the original call is upheld – no goal Calgary Flames.
The Flames are eliminated from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Exit interviews and locker clean-out is likely going to happen on Monday.
Next up? The NHL Awards and NHL Draft in June.