The Colorado Avalanche were sitting pretty heading into their Friday night match-up with the Calgary Flames as they were up in the series 3-1. They knew they would get everything the Flames had in an effort to extend the series and send it back to Colorado. The way the Avs have been playing, people gave them a chance to finish off the Flames in Calgary. Not many expected them to do it by a 5-1 thumping.
Colorado could do no wrong a series-clinching performance. They did everything a step faster than the Flames, and Calgary had no answer for the offensive firepower the Avs brought throughout the series. Coupled with another great goalie performance by Philipp Grubauer, Colorado continued the hot play they finished the season with to take home a first round victory.
In a game of this magnitude, both teams wanted to set the tone early. The first goal is always of great importance but in this setting both teams knew what getting that first goal would mean.
After taking over 100 shots against Flames goaltender Mike Smith in games three and four, Colorado continued their assault early in game 5 — and it continued to pay off when Tyson Barrie fired a wrist shot from inside the blue line that made its way through some traffic. It was tipped by Gabriel Landeskog and past Smith, winning out on the race to the first goal as the Avs took an early 1-0 lead.
As great as Johnny Gaudreau is, he was basically a non-factor in the series. He got a chance to remedy that when a penalty was called during a breakaway and he was granted a penalty shot — but Philipp Grubauer turned aside the attempt.
In typical hockey fashion, a lost opportunity for one team turns into a golden one for the other. Colorado’s next possession following a second missed opportunity for Gaudreau would end with Mikko Rantanen collecting a rebound from a Cale Makar shot, bouncing it off Smith himself for Colorado’s second score of the game.
Calgary seemed lost for most of the period. They were outplayed, out-shot, out-coached. Despite being dominated for all of the period they were able to go into the first intermission still in the game. With a mere five seconds left in the period, TJ Brodie found himself in front of Grubauer and the puck coming his way. A quick top shelf wrister and Calgary got a much needed goal.
This series has been a very physical one, yet through most of the first period both teams have toned down the extracurricular activity post whistle. There have been a lot of penalties throughout this series but the first period would finish with not a single penalty. Both teams were fully aware of what a dumb penalty would do.
Calgary continued the moment from the late first period goal into the second and did a much better job controlling the puck and putting the pressure on the Avs to defend. The games first penalty would occur from a Landeskog hooking penalty and you could feel the tide shifting towards the Flames. Calgary would do everything but score on the power play and with some sloppy penalty kill by the Avs its a minor miracle the Flames didn’t find the net.
Colorado, however, would find the net shortly after the Calgary penalty expired to get back to a two goal lead on a nifty tic-tac goal between Mikko Rantanen and Colin Wilson
Gaudreau’s struggles continued when he finally found a goal but it was immediately waived off for goalie interference. The play would be challenged by the Flames and upheld as no goal.
Colorado would continue its dominant play with a patient power play that would end with Wilson scoring his second of the period by putting home a Nathan MacKinnon centering pass.
That subdued nature in terms of players locking up after a play slowly burned away as the second period went on and the Avs continued to score. A penalty free first was followed up by multiple penalties and Colorado reaped the rewards.
Colorado was clearly in the driver’s seat entering the third and just needed to not make any stupid mistakes or play timid. Starting the period from a carried over power play probably helped a little get the Avs going into the final frame as they knew they would control the puck. Adding another goal on that power play by Mikko Rantanen was icing on the cake
Following the Rantanen goal, the life was sucked out of everything wearing red. To their credit the Calgary faithful remained but the proverbial pin could be heard throughout the arena. The Flames themselves finished the remainder of the game just going through the motions and despite the overall hard fought nature of the series didn’t attempt to take any cheapshots on any Avs players (save for a dangerous cross check by TJ Brodie that sent Colin Wilson’s head into the crossbar).
The Avs needed to weather a Flames team that had much more pep in them than at any other point in the series. Their season was on the line, and they played like it.
On the flip side, though, Colorado played like a team wanting to advance in the playoffs and end this series ASAP. It was exciting to see both of these dynamics play out on the ice as neither team was sitting back on their heels and both were in attack mode.
Colorado dominated this series. Even the one game the Avs lost, they were competitive and only lost control of the game over a five minute period. Despite losing every match-up with the Flames during the regular season, Colorado needed to turn on the short-term memory heading into the post season and not have that stat intimidate them. It didn’t. The Avalanche were the better team throughout this series and are deserving of moving on.
In a battle between the two teams top tier players, it wasn’t even close. The trio of MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen far exceeded the play of Grudreau, Monahan and Lindholm.
With the Calgary loss both #1 seeds have been eliminated from the playoffs having won a single game between them.
For those who are riding the Cale Makar train, he continued to play well. He still will make a rookie mistake or two, which can be forgiven in a 5-1 win, but there is nothing like learning in the playoffs. Cale initially had an assist which was taken away but was given back to him after the goal was reviewed.
Now the Avs get some much needed rest and await their next opponent in either the San Jose Sharks or the Vegas Golden Knights.