For the second time in two years, Avs fans will be busting out the white pom poms for a first-round playoff matchup. This year they face the Calgary Flames and game numero uno will be tonight at the Saddledome. Calgary ended the season atop the Western Conference and are sure to inject a ton of offense into this seven-game series. A deep and talented squad like Calgary is never an easy out so buckle up.
The Avalanche are coming into the playoffs playing as well as they have all year winning seven of their last ten games. Couple that with the return of star winger Mikko Rantanen, and you have an Avs squad that is poised to “make some noise” in the post-season.
Colorado will come into game one with confidence knowing that the top line of Landeskog, MacKinnon, Rantanen will be back in action for the first time since early March. Let us not forget just how dominant the top line was to start this 2018-2019 campaign.
The Avalanche were able to grind their way to the postseason with some grizzly play from veteran Colin Wilson and an opportunistic Alexander Kerfoot among others. Something that’s lost on most “experts” who still circulate the idea that the Avs are a “one-line team.”
This playoff matchup will be the second playoff series in Erik Johnson’s career after missing the postseason last April due to injury. Expect The Condor to soar in Calgary.
Keep an eye on Matt Calvert. He was made for the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if he’s the most hated man in Calgary by the weekend.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto - Derick Brassard - J.T. Compher
Matt Calvert - Tyson Jost - Sven Andrighetto
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Ian Cole - Patrik Nemeth
The Flames will be looking to demand a little respect in game-one. Calgary has primarily been discredited for inconsistency in net despite ending the year with 107 points and a goal differential of +62.
Calgary is an offensive powerhouse led by twenty-five-year-old Johnny Gaudreau who finished the season just shy of one hundred points. Gaudreau will be making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Mathew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - James Neal
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Garnet Hathaway
Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oscar Fantenberg - Rasmus Andersson
If you are looking for Calgary’s weakness, look no further than it’s goaltending. Both Mike Smith and David Rittich have allowed 2.5+ goals a game. We are likely to see both netminders play in this series, but expect Mike Smith to get the nod for tonight’s affair in Calgary. Statistically he has been one of the worst goalies in the league this season, so he might be on a short leash.
In net for the Avalanche will be the surging Philipp Grubauer. Just last year Grubby lead the Capitals into the postseason. For the Caps Grubs hit the skids and Holtby took over and never looked back. Let’s hope that he relishes the moment as an Av and takes advantage of this opportunity. With a solid series, Grubby can solidify himself as the future of goaltending for Colorado.
Semyon Varlamov will be anxiously waiting for a chance to prove himself yet again. Playoff Varly is something we haven’t seen since 2014.