Despite being heavy favourites heading into the playoffs, the Calgary Flames find themselves out of the race for the Cup after a 4-1 series defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. Succinctly, the Flames were beat by the better team. That’s hard to digest, especially when looking at on-paper comparisons, but on the ice, that’s exactly what happened.
As the old saying goes, anything can happen in the playoffs, and the Avalanche hitting their stride at the exact time the Flames were discombobulated is one of those things. It happens. It’s true that hoping for career-best performances from the Flames again next season would be foolish and that not having a deep run this season was a missed opportunity. However, the Flames’ window to contend is just opening, and they’ll have many more opportunities to make postseason splashes.

Game score comparisons

The Avalanche strung together four really good games, and got mostly positive contributions from all of their players. After a 4-0 defeat in Game 1, they responded in such a way that the Flames were simply not able to counter for the rest of the series. The Flames were largely outplayed in all aspects.
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One way to look at on-ice performances would be by using game score. As such, I plotted each player’s game score to get a better sense of team performances. Data provided by hockeystatcards.com (@cepvi0). Player positions are split for added context.

Forwards

After the Flames’ Game 1 dominance, the Avalanche took over from there. Led by Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado’s forwards created more pressure and had better overall games. Over the five games, an Avalanche forward posted a game score greater than two nine times. The Flames forwards did that exactly zero times (Matthew Tkachuk was close with 1.97 in Game 1).
Typically with game score, big offensive performances will merit those large scores, and Colorado consistently got said performances out of MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Gabriel Landeskog was a standout player in Game 2 as well. In the series closer, Rantanen played the best game of any player in the series, and Colin Wilson had a breakout game to help the Avalanche get into the second round.
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Conversely, the Flames’ forwards struggled after Game 1. No single player had a particularly good performance, and a group of Flames ended up with game scores below zero in every game they lost. Their best players just weren’t able to muster any offence to put the Avalanche on high alert.

Defencemen

The Flames’ defensive corps were alright, all things considered. However, there seemed to be an exploitable pairing, and the Avalanche always took full advantage of that. No defenceman on the Flames roster had great playoff outings, but they were fine. It would have been nice to see Mark Giordano continue his impressive scoring, but the wells were dry when it came to the playoffs.
The two worst game scores from a defenceman were actually from Noah Hanifin in Games 4 and 5. He started alright, but as the series went on, he was often seen on the wrong end of the ice.
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The better defence corps obviously belonged to the Avalanche, who were led by Tyson Barrie. By game score, he was the best defenceman on the ice in Games 2 through 5. Cale Makar also had a good impact since joining the team.

Goaltending

Many were worried about the Flames’ goaltending heading into the postseason. A lot of cautious optimism was in the air when Mike Smith posted a shutout to open the playoffs. However, he was one of the Flames’ best players for four straight games. He had the best game score in Games 1 and 4, and really gave the Flames a chance to win every game. It wasn’t until Game 5 that he really crumbled.
On the other end of the ice, Philipp Grubauer was not going to be outdone. He was often one of the Avalanche’s best players as well. He made saves when they mattered the most and won four straight starts. He even had three games with game scores of two or more.
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The better team won

That’s as simple as it gets. In four of five games, the Avalanche were the better team. As team efforts go, the Avalanche really dug deep as the underdogs and easily stunned the Flames in convincing fashion.
The Flames put together one really fun campaign, far exceeding early season expectations. It would have been nice to see them go deeper; getting buried by the Avalanche was not an ideal way to lose in the playoffs, but it happens. The better team won, and the Flames were on the wrong side of it.
Onto the next season.
Related: See how the Flames fared versus the Avalanche by score and venue adjusted fancy stats here.

Below are game scores for each player for every game.
Calgary
Player
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5
Andrew Mangiapane
1.16
-0.08
-0.32
-0.17
0.07
Austin Czarnik
NA
NA
NA
NA
-0.38
Derek Ryan
0.03
-0.29
-0.06
0.86
-0.48
Elias Lindholm
1.14
0.28
-0.2
0.56
0.38
Garnet Hathaway
0.29
0.13
-0.05
-0.16
-0.36
James Neal
0.39
0.23
-0.04
-0.31
NA
Johnny Gaudreau
0.69
0.89
0.38
-0.05
0.38
Juuso Valimaki
NA
NA
NA
1.5
0.07
Mark Giordano
1
-0.44
0.11
0.6
0.64
Mark Jankowski
0.06
0.18
-0.24
-0.41
-0.2
Matthew Tkachuk
1.97
-0.31
-0.47
1.08
-0.12
Michael Frolik
0.17
-0.47
-0.38
0.3
-0.53
Mikael Backlund
1.09
-0.37
0.39
-0.13
0.45
Mike Smith
2.6
1.35
0.5
2.65
-1.05
Noah Hanifin
0.24
0.25
-0.1
-0.93
-1.05
Oscar Fantenberg
0.21
0.08
-0.12
NA
NA
Rasmus Andersson
0.98
0.53
0.71
1.21
-0.16
Sam Bennett
1.02
1.43
0.34
-0.56
0.66
Sean Monahan
0.58
1.02
0.8
0.42
0
TJ Brodie
-0.21
-0.49
0.88
-0.41
0.86
Travis Hamonic
0.46
0.17
-0.27
-0.7
-0.68
Colorado
Player
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5
Alexander Kerfoot
0.1
0.86
1.27
0.3
0.44
Cale Makar
NA
NA
1.15
0.9
1.52
Carl Soderberg
0.05
0.09
0.25
1.59
0.12
Colin Wilson
0.29
0.02
1.19
0.56
2.54
Derick Brassard
0.16
-0.02
NA
NA
NA
Erik Johnson
-0.04
0.18
1.97
-0.23
0.49
Gabriel Bourque
0.07
-0.04
0.56
0.12
0.22
Gabriel Landeskog
0.09
2.38
1.77
1.78
1.12
Ian Cole
-0.03
0.89
1.87
0.23
0.12
J.T. Compher
0.02
1
1.07
1
0.22
Matt Calvert
0.08
-0.18
0.46
1.47
0.08
Matt Nieto
-0.08
0.89
1.41
0.94
0.59
Mikko Rantanen
-0.25
2.1
2.16
2.05
2.97
Nathan MacKinnon
0.13
2.35
2.79
1.37
2.14
Nikita Zadorov
-0.55
0.52
1.14
0.07
0.45
Patrik Nemeth
-0.42
0.32
0.19
0.87
0.94
Philipp Grubauer
0.55
2
1.2
2
2.05
Samuel Girard
0.54
0.66
NA
NA
NA
Sven Andrighetto
NA
NA
0.08
0.01
0.4
Tyson Barrie
0.2
1.62
1.84
1.74
2.3
Tyson Jost
0.09
0.23
1.03
0.25
0.77