How the Flames couldn’t counter the Avalanche’s onslaught

Now that the ashes have settled, most fans will remember the 2018-19 Calgary Flames as the top seed in the West that bowed out in the first round, rather than the 50 win Pacific Division Champions.

The recency of the first round exit, losing in five games against the underdog team, will mask a lot of triumphs the Flames saw over the course of the 2018-19 season. Brad Treliving has put together an excellent roster, and has a great development system as well.

There will be a lot of exciting hockey played out of Calgary in the years to come, and longer playoff runs will certainly be enjoyed.

However, let’s see what it was about facing the Colorado Avalanche that the Flames just could not overcome.

In our About Last Night series, we always included a plethora of key stats during a game. One of which is 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted (SVA) stats. Seeing how a player fares in these metrics over a course of a season can give a good idea of their on-ice impact. Looking at the stats game-by-game can instead give a sense of which team dominated play.

So in breaking down the stats, I chose 5v5 SVA corsi for, scoring chances for, and high-danger corsi for. All of which shows which team had better possession, but also serves as a proxy for which team had more momentum swinging moments; an all too critical aspect of the playoffs.

Without further ado, let’s see how the Flames and the Avalanche fared. Each point represents a player’s adjusted stat percentage at the end of each game. Skaters are split into defencemen and forwards for more context.

Game 1: CGY 4 – 0 COL

In Calgary’s 4-0 win in Game 1 over Colorado, they were dominant. As a team, the Flames vastly outplayed the Avalanche, and they rightfully earned their first win to open the playoffs.

One of the biggest reasons Calgary won was that they prevented Colorado’s top players of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog from doing too much damage; the trio all posting negative CF%.

In generating scoring chances, the entire Flames roster chipped in and sustained good offensive pressure.

Game 2: CGY 2 – 3 COL (OT)

The Avalanche had an answer in Game 2. They had a fury of shot attempts, and peppered Mike Smith all game long. Smith kept the Flames in the game, and had it not been a late Colorado goal with an extra attacker, the Flames would have escaped.

The Flames spent much of the game in their own end and were unable to sustain offensive pressure whenever they had a chance to. Colorado deserved to win, and in winning with a late period comeback, they gave the Flames a taste of their own medicine.

Game 3: CGY 2 – 6 COL

With Colorado stealing home-ice advantage from the Flames, they headed back to Denver with confidence and it showed on ice. They once again slaughtered the Flames. Whatever the Flames managed to do in Game 1, the Avalanche perfectly countered in Game 3. They blew the game wide open and in a statement game, made it clear that they should be taken very seriously.

In all aspects, the Avalanche were better. They had more shots that were more likely to lead to goals, and they got the results they were looking for. The Flames had questions to answer, mainly where did their offence go after such a dominant Game 1 effort.

Game 4: CGY 2 – 3 COL (OT)

The Flames played a better game in Game 4, but at the end of the day, the Avalanche still outplayed the Flames. In a tight game in which the Flames were favoured to win after they managed a two-goal lead in the third period, Colorado managed to comeback with yet another late-game goal to force overtime and ultimately the win.

The third period pressure from the Avalanche when they were down was something the Flames just couldn’t counter. Perhaps the Flames deserved a better fate, but the Avalanche were much hungrier than the Flames were and Calgary couldn’t play shut down defence.

Game 5: CGY 1 – COL 5

In Calgary’s final game, they were led by Johnny Gaudreau with several chances, including a missed penalty shot and an overturned goal. Things just did not go right for the Flames.

Colorado took full advantage of a team playing with their playoffs on the line, and made the Flames pay for every mistake. They outworked the Flames, and ultimately got their ticket to Round 2.

Given the pressure of having to win three straight to advance, the Flames still couldn’t find an answer to the Avalanche. It cost them the series, and Calgary is no longer in the race for the Stanley Cup.

Onto the next season

All-in-all, the Avalanche outplayed the Flames in every game they won. The Flames opened the playoffs strong, but the Avalanche countered and they fully deserve to move on.

The Flames lost to a better team. In their five games in the postseason, the Flames will have a lot to learn. Winning playoff games is completely different from the regular season. Brad Treliving’s built this team to be great, and they really are.

After missing the playoffs last year, many thought that this season would be the first true season where Calgary’s window to win would open. Sure enough, they far surpassed expectations and gave themselves and the fans lots to look forward to.

To close out their season, Calgary was beat four times by a team that outplayed them. They’ll learn, and they’ll be back. Kudos to Colorado.

Related: See how the Flames fared versus the Avalanche by game score here.

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