We knew the Avs weren’t going to sweep the conference champs so putting a positive spin on last night, they got one of their losses out of the way early. There were good stretches and bad stretches and the 4-0 score doesn’t reflect how even this game really was.
The only lineup change from the last regular season game was Mikko Rantanen returning after missing the final 8 games. This shuffled the lines a bit which continued throughout the game and had a somewhat less than positive effect. Joe Cannata was called up from the Eagles to handle emergency/practice duties. No surprise but Grubi got the start.
Scratch: Andrighetto, Graves, Barberio
Inactive: Kamenev (shoulder), Cannata
After a couple scratchy shifts on both sides, the Flames turned up the pressure and drew a really dumb call on EJ for buying into Matthew Tkachuk’s schtick. Undeterred, the Avs went about their business and inflicted a solid 11-2 run plus 3 straight power plays. Unfortunately the Avs power play is based on luck rather than skill so they got nothing out of that stretch. If you ask me, this is where they lost the game. Soon after, the Avs energy waned and Calgary took over for the rest of the 2nd, going on a 16-6 run and scoring a 5v5 goal that would be the game-winner followed by a PPG. Colorado had a couple good shifts to open the 3rd but another lackluster power play killed all momentum and the Flames took control with a big shift then back and forth until garbage time. A soft call on Z handed Calgary another PPG then they added an empty-netter a handful of seconds later. Onward and upward.
Tale of the tape was +43/-46 at 5v5 and the Flames had a 32-26 advantage in shots in all situations. The shot metrics are all pretty close with Calgary having a marginal advantage across the board. Shot pace at 5v5 was a fairly average 120 per hour.
The power play was hideous and ineffective, most of the first minute was taken up with messing around everywhere but in the Flames zone. Once they finally got set up decent chances ensued, sometimes, often by the 2nd unit but throwing away half of every PP by not being able to enter the zone took it’s toll. Final tally was 0-4. The Flames honestly looked no better but the Avs poor PK from the middle of the season made a reappearance and gave up 2 goals in 5 chances.
Top 6 forwards were Landy, Mack then a big gap down to Mikko, Wilson, Carl and Kerfoot. In all situations it was Mack and Landy tied at 25:04, then Mikko and a big gap down to Kerfoot, Wilson and Carl at 15:30. Gabe Bourque was low man at 5:24 and played a little over 3 minutes 5v5. Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert got very light usage at 8 and 10 minutes respectively.
The defensive regime went Big Z, Barrie, Sam, EJ, Cole and Nemeth. Overall it was Barrie (24+), Z (20), Sam (19), EJ (18), Cole (16+) and Nemo (13+).
– Mikko looked really rusty early on and fell down like 4 or 5 times in the 1st period. He gradually got better but saying he was at 60% would be generous. He had one shot attempt all night and ended up with 38% Corsi share, worst of the forwards. Looking on the bright side, this was just shaking off the inactivity so hopefully he goes up from here.
– The Avs defensemen are highly susceptible to an aggressive forecheck and Calgary used that to their advantage last night. The good news is that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and some adjustments later in the game along with score effects evened it out. My position is that this series revolves around the Avs ability to control play at their own blueline. It wasn’t great by any means in game 1 but I do see reasons for optimism here.
– We all love the idea of Landy, Mack and Mikko on the ice together, scoring goals and dominating play. In practice it doesn’t work out quite like that and makes the rest of the lineup much weaker. I thought the 3rd period was the Avs worst and going top-heavy was a big reason why. Coach Bednar has to resist temptation and keep the lineup as balanced as possible or this series will be over quick.
– I thought the Avs really missed Sven Andrighetto last night. Sure, it’s silly to focus in on the plight of bottom 6ers but his personality and skillset on the ice seems like a great counter to Calgary. The issue is who to sit in his place and that’s understandably a tough call. Bourque only played 3 minutes at even strength, which seems like a waste, but he and Nieto were the PK forwards who didn’t get scored on either. Is that worth it? Who knows. Derick Brassard has ranged from unnoticeable at best to flat out terrible since being acquired. Because he’s a leadership vet he’s got a free spot in the lineup and TOI regardless of how he plays, which is good for him since he was flat out terrible again last night. I’d take Sven instead.
– Grubi did well at 5v5 last night, the Flames had 1.31 expected goals for and he only let in 1. The penalty kill was the issue with the Flames getting 2 goals on 0.6 xGF. It should be noted that the Flames were on a 1-for-40 PP streak coming into the playoffs as well. The Avs cleaned up the PK down the stretch but it fizzled last night, some of that was personnel and some was goaltending. I think Grubi could have been a little better there but it’s not a concern at this point.
– The bottom line is that Colorado has to find the back of the net somehow. Mike Smith looked great and that’s very troubling since he’s not. He’s big and unless you make him move side to side he’s going to make a lot of saves, or all of them. The Avs run a fairly unsophisticated purely “north” offense both 5v5 and on the PP that banks on shooting from the perimeter and crashing the net. The second option is seam passes but if those don’t open up, and this time of year most solid teams shut that down, then you’re going to struggle. The third option is passing into the slot and for similar reasons that’s tough. Paradoxically they are both slow and impatient. I think if they up the tempo a bit (more than a bit really) the seam passes and chances from the slot are going to be there. Find them.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) yeah no
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) average quantity, quality lacking as usual
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) time to punch up that resume Ray
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) turtles are for winners
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Grubi was just ok but it didn’t matter
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) The game was managed fine, probably a little tighter than most playoff games but not to the point of affecting the outcome. Three goal reviews sucked but that’s got nothing to do with them.
Game 2 even later on Saturday night.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals