The Flames made some good adjustments from game 3 and for the first half fans were uneasy about where this match was headed. The Avs gained control of the game but Calgary still had control of the score until JT Compher then Mikko Rantanen solved Mike Smith. Even though overtime isn’t 3v3 in the playoffs the Avs still don’t have that dialed in yet, other than scoring winning goals that is. The Flames put together a strong early run and without an incredible save by Grubi would have tied the series. Mikko became a hero twice over by launching a rocket one-timer by Smith and now the Avs can clinch with one more victory. Unbelievable game, let’s have some more.
Sam Girard skated in a non-contact jersey yesterday but isn’t quite there. Derick Brassard has the sick. AJ Greer and Pavel Francouz were called up from the Eagles in case of need. In the end the same lineup as game 3 took the ice. As far as who was in doubt, we still don’t know. There seems to be some flu going around aside from Brassard plus various nagging injuries.
Scratch: Greer, Francouz, Graves, Barberio, Brassard (illness), Girard (UBI)
Injured: Kamenev (Shoulder)
In game 3 the Avs were totally dominant at their blueline and constantly turned back Calgary’s attempts to enter the zone with numbers. This created boatloads of rush chances the other way and was the #1 aspect Bill Peters had to change to give his club a chances. It worked well for a little over half the game. Whatever Jared Bednar said to the Avs during a TV timeout midway through the 2nd flicked the switch back on. He should bottle that. For the next 25 minutes Colorado went on a massive 39-13 run. The only downside was that they ended up still down 2-1 but with a power play and a little over 3 minutes to make some magic. 31 seconds in the magic was made and that momentum gave them several chances to win it in regulation. Overtime started somewhat alarmingly with a great shift by Calgary but the Avs resiliency prevailed. Normally an Ian Cole penalty in OT would be a very bad thing but that’s just we needed. Philipp Grubauer made the save of the year then an odd-man rush the other way ended up with Mikko winning the game.
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +73/-50 and shots in all situations favored the Avs 52-37. In the series so far Colorado is +226/-179 at 5v5 and shots on goal in all situations are 173-135. The scary part is that the Avs have 12 goals on 14.8 xGF while the Flames have 10 on only 8.9 so there’s plenty of capacity to improve with better shooting luck. Shot pace at 5v5 was a brisk 123 per hour.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Mikko, Landy then a gap down to Kerf, Wilson and Compher. Overall it was Mack (28:49), Mikko, Landy, Wilson, Kerfoot and Compher (17:19). Bourque was low man at 5:36 and didn’t hit 5 minutes total at 5v5. He and Sven took their last 5v5 shifts with around 12 minutes remaining in the 3rd.
The defensive regime went Barrie, then a gap down to Z, EJ, Cole and Makar all clustered together then another gap to Nemeth. In all situations it was Barrie (30), EJ (23+), Cole (22), Big Z (21), Makar (20) and Nemeth (18+).
– Mack was still wonderful but this was Mikko’s night to shine. They both had 11 shot attempts and 7 SOG but Mikko’s 2 goals stole the show. Captain Gabe is totally snakebit but playing so well it doesn’t matter. I still don’t like using all 3 on a line together regularly, I think it diminishes MacKinnon’s effectiveness to some degree, but it produced the desired result last night.
– Cale Makar’s debut in game 3 was fantastic, I wanted to see if he could back it up sans debut adrenaline. He didn’t match the goal of course but more importantly his TOI went up. He’s earned the trust of the staff already and played 33 shifts total with 5 coming in overtime. He also got some starts in the defensive zone which is probably a better indicator of the confidence that Pratt and Bednar have in him. His workload was 10 minutes with Nemeth, 5 minutes with Barrie and 3 and a half with EJ last night. Depending on how far the Avs can go in the post-season it’s not unrealistic to expect him to continue moving up the depth chart. Very high ceiling here.
– Other than age 5 years overnight I’m not sure what Tyson Jost has to do to get more ice time. He’s been very solid at both ends of the ice and a great shift by the 4th line was what shook the team out of it’s funk. He still leads the team in shot share (68%) and expected goal share (81%). His workload last night was mostly with Bourque and Sven, a few shifts in Carl’s place with Kerf and Willie and a couple with Nieto and Calvert in Compher’s place. In all these situations he had positive shot share and nothing bad happened when he was out there.
– Looking at the series as a whole right now the Flames might be out of options. They Avs have been playing their game and overwhelming them at it. Calgary’s strengths in shot generation and developing chances off the rush have been neutralized and turned back against them. They have 3 goals in 4 games at 5v5, without their power play they might have been eliminated already. After getting destroyed in game 3 I thought they made some good adjustments last night but they only lasted for a little over half the game. This series has been determined by the Avs top offensive players vs Mike Smith for all practical purposes. For as surprisingly strong as Smith has been that’s not the matchup they want at all. The mainstream thinking before we got started was that this was going to be exactly the opposite, the Flames top offensive players vs Philipp Grubauer being the determiner. I think Grubi’s done a good job but other than last night’s save in OT it’s been a side story.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) Yessir!
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) this series is all about quantity for both teams
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) came through in the clutch but still…
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) the Flames had a nice one
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) clutch but not Grubi’s best game at all
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) This series has been a nightmare for the officials. I can’t imagine moving from one of the other matchups and then encountering the constant warp-speed play we’ve had in every game so far. Add to that Calgary’s truculence in the first 3 games and there’s almost too much for 4 humans to regulate in real time. The teams are averaging a shot attempt every 28 seconds and have taken 48 minor penalties. That’s a lot to deal with and they’ve done a good job for the most part.
A trip back to Calgary for game 5 and the potential clincher Friday night.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals