Thanks to a convincing victory in Game Five on Friday, the Colorado Avalanche have eliminated the Calgary Flames from the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s another improbable outcome for a first round series, but the better team won.
Colorado’s speed and skill proved ultimately too much for the Flames, who couldn’t come through when it mattered most and won just a single game.
Calgary did win the opener in the series by a final score of 4-0, but it was all downhill from there. The Avalanche took control and overwhelmed the competition, with Nathan MacKinnon and Colorado’s top line taking flight.
Calgary scored 11 goals in the series to Colorado’s 14 and kept it close for just long enough to make it interesting on paper, but two blowout games – one in Game Three and one in the deciding Game Five – shut this series down.
Calgary joins the Tampa Bay Lightning in unlikely territory, with both top seeds eliminated and the playoff field wide open.
In the end, it came down to the Flames’ inability to solve the Avalanche and the Avalanche’s ability to solve the Flames.
Johnny Gaudreau was contained for large chunks of the series and, ahead of Game Five, was just held to an assist and a dozen shots. Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm were likewise contained. James Neal was a healthy scratch for Game Five.
The Lightning faced a similar situation against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with their stars – Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov – held out of the running. And Sidney Crosby was contained by the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh’s series, which also ended in an early first round exit.
For Colorado, the top unit was the top unit.
Prior to Game Five, the duo of MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had a combined six goals and five helpers. In Game Five’s 5-1 decision, they added more to a pile of points and will end the series with a combined eight goals and nine assists. That’s dominance and doesn’t even factor in Gabriel Landeskog, the third cog in the wheel.
When depth was required for Colorado, they came through. Colin Wilson had two goals in Game Five and Landeskog found his first.
Special teams was also a factor. The Avalanche had two power play goals in Game Five.
Despite Calgary playing a more physical game, leading in faceoffs and takeaways, and getting solid goaltending from Mike Smith, the Avalanche had answers for every single corner of the game and made their opportunities count. They struck when needed, played a speed game and contained the top players. Their goalie, Philipp Grubauer, was not as busy as his counterpart but played his part.
Colorado will play San Jose or Vegas in the second round.
(Photo credit: NHL)