Eleven years to the day that the Avalanche eliminated the Minnesota Wild to move into the 2nd round of the 2008 playoffs the Avs finished off Calgary with a flourish to make their return to the final 8. A pair of players not yet 23 years of age, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, combined on a goal late in the 1st period that ended up being the series-winner, which puts the league on notice that this type of play isn’t even a finished product yet.
No changes to the lineup and why would you. Coach Bednar kept hinting that there were some game-time decisions but my thought is that he was just being coy. Sam Girard was on the trip and took morning skate in the non-contact jersey. Joe Cannata was called up to be the EBUG.
Scratch: Graves, Barberio, Cannata, Girard (UBI), Brassard (sick)
Injured: Kamenev (shoulder)
The first period started with the Flames throwing everything they had at the Avs but not being able to even get shots at the net. Halfway through Captain Gabe was finally rewarded for all his work this series with a tip on a Tyson Barrie shot. Calgary pushed back even harder and got some odd-man rush chances and a penalty shot, no dice. Maker set up Mikko for a second goal as the Avs dove headfirst into the rest of the period with a 10-0 run. A defensive miscue with 5 seconds left gave the Flames a goal and some hope at intermission but it didn’t feel scary. They made their play with a series of strong shifts to open P2 and drew a power play but that was about it. After the kill Colin Wilson scored his first of two goals in the 2nd and that was it for the fight. The game devolved into violence for a while with the Avs picking up PPGs from Wilson and Mikko then the 3rd period was pure mop-up time. Clinch!
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +41/-40 which was highly score-effected. Shots in all situations favored the Avs 32-29. Expected goals were suppressed as they have been all series with the Avs gaining 2.16 and giving 1.36 away. Shot pace at 5v5 was slow at 107 per hour but the first two periods were in line with the series which in general hung around the 120 mark.
Power play showed up again with 2 goals in 5 chances and finished the series at 5-for-25, a big upgrade from last year when they only managed 2-for-20 vs the Preds. The PK had a clean sheet for the evening at 3-3 and finished the series 17-22. With 3 blowouts it’s tough to say how much of a factor special teams really were but they were a net even on paper.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Landy, Mikko, Kerf, Wilson and Carl. In all situations it was Landy (18:06), Mack, Willie, Mikko, Calvert and Compher (16:08). Sven was low man overall at 9:19 and Jost was #12 at 5v5 with 7:21. Stat of the night goes to Gabriel Bourque getting 59 seconds of power play time.
The defensive regime went Barrie, Z, Cole, Makar, EJ and Nemeth. Overall it was Barrie (20), EJ (20), Cole (20), Makar (19+), Big Z (19+) and Nemeth (18). Spread between low and high was 2:07 so the staff really just rolled 3 pairs all night.
– It’s been fun to view the mainstream media get comfortable with what the Avs are actually all about. Everyone is familiar with Mack but the narrative during this series was basically “I knew he was good, but not this good”. They marveled at Mikko’s size and skill like we have for years. Makar entering mid-series was a revelation. Late in the game Ray Ferraro ran down the list of talent already in the NHL plus what’s on the way in Bowers, Kaut, this year’s draft, etc, you could see the lightbulb switch on and the realization that this isn’t even the finished product came. Noted Avs hater Keith Jones came to similar conclusions in the post-game. The Avs are young and good and will get even younger and better.
Since we appear to have some time before the next game I’m going to save a lot of the series analysis for a separate article. Some guys that were on it last night:
– Colin Wilson was a monster. Two goals and an assist despite being dead last in CF% at +7/-13. Willie has always been inconsistent but I’ll take a couple of very strong games here and there over consistent average play. When he’s on he can be a big factor.
– Mikko kept elevating his play over the series and like Wilson also ended up with 2 goals and an assist last night. Besides throwing down offensively he was active in breakouts and neutral zone play, which he doesn’t get enough credit for. The scary part is that I don’t think he’s anywhere near 100% yet.
– Mack had a light night with less than 18 minutes TOI and only 4 shot attempts/2 shots on goal. Picked up 3 assists and threw 6’2 210# Garnet Hathaway down like a child though.
– Everyone was glad to see Gabe Landeskog finally get a goal in the series. He’s created lots of good chances throughout the 5 games and it’s great for the psyche to finish one off.
– Big Z didn’t have a point nor did he need to. His physical play once again kept the Flames grit-o-rama in check and complemented partner Tyson Barrie’s skill while handling top pair duties. His size on the ice is matched by his personality off of it.
– On paper this was Grubi’s easiest game of the 5 by volume but not by difficulty. Calgary finally found a way to create their hallmark rush chances but he allowed nothing, including a penalty shot stop that could have drastically changed the game. Besides the joy from moving on there has to be some personal redemption from being sacked after 2 games last year in DC.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) BAM!
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) low amounts of both outside of P1, didn’t matter
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) well done!
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) I guess there was one in garbage time
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) matched the slowest evening of the series at 29 shots faced
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) I think overall this was a well-officiated series considering the difficulty in managing the speed and Calgary’s frustration. The Avs got pretty lucky on the interference no-goal, if that was called good on the ice I’m not sure it gets overturned.
I don’t know! We wait for SJS/VGK to finish up and go from there.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals