The Colorado Avalanche opened their 2019 playoff run on the wrong foot in a 4-0 loss in game one against Mike Smith and the Calgary Flames. Philipp Grubauer only stopped 28 of 31 shots in the loss, while the offense went dry, taking only 26 shots and going zero for four on the power play.
Calgary came out flying and it was clear that Colorado would need to withstand the early game energy the Flames got from the home crowd. The Avs looked they were a little out of sync to start the game and didn’t control the puck much in their offensive zone but despite some possible early game jitters the Avalanche were able to keep the Flames off the board and the fans in their seats.
Erik Johnson was sent to the box for the first penalty of the series for basically being taller than Matthew Tkachuk. The two did some stick shoving after a play was called dead and Johnson’s cross check went to the face of the shorter Tkachuk. The Avs provided a solid penalty kill and never gave Calgary any good scoring chance or an early lead.
Colorado would be awarded their first power play when Samuel Girard drew a cross checking penalty against Mikael Backlund and while the Avs would come up empty on the man advantage they carried the momentum from that power play over and really seemed to start taking more control of the pace of the period. They were beating Calgary to pucks, getting solid chances and had the Flames oh their heels more.
The period would end with neither team moving the scoring needle in a very evenly matched 20 minutes.
Colorado would go on an early power play, their third of the game, and for the last :30 seconds of the power play would test Calgary goalie Mike Smith multiple times who needed to make highlight reel saves to keep the Avs off the board.
The Avs were a much more confident team in the second and continued to control the pace of play and developed some excellent scoring chances but could not find a way to get one through Smith.
As great as Mike Smith was, Colorado brought a save machine of their own in Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer made some wonderful saves on a Calgary power play and shut down the Flames man advantage, but it was a 5-on-5 backhanded goal by Andrew Mangiapane that would open the series scoring and give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
That goal really woke up Calgary and their crowd who had been pretty lethargic once the first period high wore down. The sea of red (branded “C” of Red by Calgary) started to become a factor again, and when the Avs went a man down it didn’t take long for Calgary to score again and rile up the home crowd again. This time a tip in by Matthew Tkachuk on the power play to give the Flames two goals a little over four minutes apart. Colorado would challenge the goal claiming goalie interference, but the goal would be upheld.
Colorado needed a goal early and Mikko Rantanen had a great opportunity firing a wrist shot high on Smith’s glove side, but Smith again denied the Avs. The Avs were awarded an early opportunity in the 3rd with a power play after a hooking call, and Nathan MacKinnon was so close to lighting the lamp but rang the goalpost instead and Colorado would get nothing out of the power play for the 4th time.
The Avalanche could do nothing but throw their hands up in wonderment on how they could get anything past Smith, as was evident when Nathan MacKinnon collected the puck, turned on the jets and fired an absolute laser that Smith nabbed with his glove like the reflexes of a cat.
Nonetheless, Colorado kept the pressure on trying to find any way possible to solve Mike Smith’s mastery in goal but it would not come on this day.
The final nail in the coffin came when Nikita Zadorov was hit with a penalty with just over three minutes remaining in the game. The Calgary goal during the power play followed by an empty netter were not even necessary as the Flames would ride to a 4-0 victory and take the series opener.
- For 55 out of 60 minutes the Avalanche were every bit as good as the Flames and while some will look at the final score and think ‘blowout’, those who watched saw what a goalie on his game can do to tip the scales in his teams favor.
- Sure the Avs had their chances, and as the series goes on you would think more of those opportunities will prove successful. But having four power plays come up empty on enemy ice leaves much to be desired.
- Early in the season Colorado was dreadful on face-offs. They improved dramatically as the season went on but reverted back to their old ways at least for today. Calgary won 65% of the face-offs and that needs to get turned around immediately in Game 2.
- To make the sting a little worse, Cale Makar and UMass were taken to overtime by Denver in the Frozen Four and won, delaying the prospects arrival a few more days.
Game Two stays in Calgary on Saturday at 8:30 pm MT.