first_imgDefenseThe Avalanche allowed 21 more goals than the Flames over the course of the season, for a difference of 0.25 goals per game. That doesn’t seem like a lot at a superficial level, but when combined with Calgary’s 0.38 goals-per-game edge in scoring, it puts Colorado at an immediate disadvantage.Every team needs an offensively gifted blueliner, and in Giordano, the Flames have an elite offensive defenseman having a career year. The Norris Trophy candidate’s 74 regular-season points would be good enough for fourth in Avalanche scoring, while his plus-39 differential is nearly double the best Colorado skater this season.The Flames added Oscar Fantenberg at the deadline to help shore things up on the blueline, and the Swede has slotted in nicely in 15 games. Averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time since joining the Flames, Fantenberg is a piece of an unheralded defense corps that was fourth-best in the West this season.Edge: Flames, by a decent margin.GoaltendingNeither team had an obvious No. 1 goalie this season, which makes this match-up a rarity. The playoffs are the time when coaches will choose to ride one goaltender for the duration of the team’s run, and both the Avalanche and Flames will have some big decisions to make in that regard.Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer was red-hot during the team’s push for the playoffs and backstopped the game that sealed the Avs’ postseason berth; however, the German was poor for the Capitals in the first round last year and lost his starting spot as Washington went on to claim the Stanley Cup. Semyon Varlamov played more in the regular season, but Grubauer’s late-season play probably gets him the nod.SAVE. BY. GRUBAUER. 🔥— NHL Deutsch (@NHLde) April 5, 2019As for the Flames, coach Bill Peters used Mike Smith and David Rittich nearly equally this season. Traditional thinking would give the edge to 37-year-old Smith simply based on the fact that he has postseason experience, but Rittich had better numbers in the regular season, so only Peters knows for sure.Truth is, neither team has a proven playoff goalie. This series could go a long way to change that.Edge: EvenSpecial teamsThe Avalanche were seventh in the NHL with a 22 percent success rate on the power play (Flames were 18th at 19.3 percent), and only a single percentage point separates the teams on the penalty kill (Calgary’s 79.7 percent bests Colorado’s 78.7 percent).If Colorado can hold firm against a Flames’ power play that should be better than its numbers showed, this could be an area the Avs could find success.Edge: Avalanche (Getty Images) It’ll be a matchup of David vs. Goliath proportions, but that’s why they play the games. The Avalanche will be out to show that they’re not simply happy making it to the dance, while the Flames will have to deal with all the pressure of being a No. 1 seed.SN STAFF PREDICTIONS:Eastern Conference | Western Conference | Stanley Cup Calgary Flames (-180) vs. Colorado Avalanche (+160): Schedule, breakdown, predictionDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 11Game 1 at Calgary10 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA)April 13Game 2 at Calgary10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA)April 15Game 3 at Colorado10 p.m. ET (CNBC, CBC, TVA)April 17Game 4 at Colorado10 p.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA)*April 19Game 5 at CalgaryTBD*April 21Game 6 at ColoradoTBD*April 23Game 7 at CalgaryTBD(*if necessary)Season seriesThe Flames took all three games from the Avs in the season series, although the first two meetings were as close as they could get. Calgary got scoring from several different players in the three victories, with defenseman and captain Mark Giordano (one goal, five assists) leading the way for the Flames. For Colorado, Gabriel Landeskog (one goal, three assists) was the biggest threat against Calgary.DATEROADHOMERESULTOct. 13FlamesAvalancheCGY, 3-2 (OT)Nov. 11AvalancheFlamesCGY, 6-5Jan. 9AvalancheFlamesCGY, 5-3OffenseLed by a career year from 25-year-old Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames were tied atop the Western Conference scoring charts (with San Jose) after playing an exciting, uptempo style of hockey.Gaudreau finished the season with 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) to pace an impressive Calgary attack that included three 30-goal scorers and another pair with 20-plus on the season.The Flames have no lack of firepower, and they’ll be eager to show it against an Avalanche team that gave up 14 goals in their three-game season series.9⃣9⃣ points for Johnny with an assist on Janko’s goal!#EDMvsCGY | #Flames— z – Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) April 7, 2019As for Colorado, the three-headed monster of Nathan MacKinnon (41 goals, 58 assists), Mikko Rantanen (31 goals, 56 assists) and Landeskog (34 goals, 41 assists) will be expected to provide the bulk of the scoring. The Avalanche captain, Landeskog returned from injury at the end of March and immediately picked up where he left off, recording six points over the final five games of the regular season to lead the Avalanche to a 3-1-1 record.Edge: Flames. The top three from each team pretty much cancel each other out, but Calgary’s depth of scoring options is a big advantage. The Calgary Flames proved themselves the cream of the Western Conference crop during the regular season, amassing 107 points en route to the top seed — and they did it in style, finishing second in league scoring with 289 goals.Given how the Flames cruised through the campaign, expectations on the Red Mile are understandably high heading into the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. However, standing in Calgary’s way in the opening round is the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs left it late to punch their ticket to the postseason, becoming the final team in the West to clinch a playoff spot. (Getty Images) Key players to watchMark Giordano (CGY): As mentioned above, Giordano’s regular season numbers in 2018-19 were far and away the best of his career. The 35-year-old defenseman has been a force to be reckoned with offensively, and if he’s able to bring that over into the playoffs he could prove to be the difference between a pair of teams that each boast top-level scoring talent.MORE: Flames defenceman Mark Giordano ignoring Father TimeGabriel Landeskog (COL): The Avalanche captain averaged 1.02 points per game over the course of the season, and his return from injury was exactly the boost his team needed to clinch a berth in the playoffs. The 26-year-old set new career highs for points (75), goals (34) and assists (41) despite only playing 73 regular-season games, and if he maintains that form in the postseason he could be a catalyst for an overmatched Avalanche team. Flames vs. Avalanche playoff historyThis is the first postseason meeting between the two teams.Last five playoff appearancesCalgary FlamesYEARFINISH2017Lost in first round to ANA in four games2015Lost in second round to ANA in five games 2009Lost in conference quarterfinal to CHI in six games2008Lost in conference quarterfinal to SJ in seven games2007Lost in conference quarterfinal to DET in six gamesColorado Avalanche YEARFINISH2018Lost in first round to NSH in six games2014Lost in first round to MIN in seven games2010Lost in conference quarterfinal to SJ in six games2008Lost in conference semifinal to DET in four games2006Lost in conference semifinal to ANA in four gamesFlames vs. Avalanche predictionIf Calgary could’ve chosen their own opponent for the opening round, it probably would’ve been Colorado. The Flames grabbed wins in all three regular-season meetings, and boast a much deeper squad than the Avalanche.However, the burden of being the favorite could weigh heavy on a Flames team that hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2015. Regardless, the talent disparity should be enough to see Calgary through.Prediction: Flames win in five.last_img

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