The Colorado Avalanche are leading the first round series against the Calgary Flames. This is not a surprise based on what we have expected from this series. However, it´s still far away from being over. The most important thing so far for the Avalanche has been their persistence. The Colorado Avalanche playoff resiliency pays off for them so far to lead the Flames.
In the first game, it was the Flames shutting out the Avalanche at Scotiabank Saddledome. The scoreboard in that Game 1 showed a 4-0 win for Calgary. But it wasn’t all that clear for the home team, as the Avs were getting their chances. They just couldn’t solve Mike Smith, who was a surprise starter in the playoffs by the Flames. In Game 1, he has shown why he deserved that chance. But Colorado has shown its resiliency and patience to overcome a 1-0 series deficit.
Colorado Avalanche Resiliency The Key
As we highlighted in our preview of this series, goaltending duel is going to be very important. But one would guess that Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer was going to be the hotter goalie. Although Mike Smith didn’t have better stats than his current playoff backup, David Rittich, Flames Head coach Bill Peters decided to give Smith his vote of confidence. In Game 1, Smith stole the show. With the game tied at the start of the second period, the Avs had the power play and created a ton of A+ chances. Smith was standing on his head.
Then the Flames came back and scored twice on Grubauer. In the third period, the Avalanche made an attempt to strike back, but Smith was there again. The 37-year-old veteran netminder played one of his best games in his career to finish the night with a 26-save shutout. The Avs were frustrated, but the message was clear – convert some of our chances and we are not a worse team.
In Game 2, they got the things going with a shorthanded goal by Matt Nieto. The Flames tied it up and went up in the third. The Avalanche have felt like they deserved more and forced overtime with J.T. Compher tying the game with less than three minutes to go in the third. In overtime, it was Grubauer making seven stops before Nathan MacKinnon busted in with a lot of speed and scored a game-winner. Started with resiliency and secondary scoring, finished with a snipe by an elite goalscorer. The Colorado Avalanche Playoff Series was tied. Game 3 was just the evidence of how relieved the Avs were leaving Calgary with the series notched at one apiece.
Calgary Flames Couldn’t Hold Home-Ice
Let´s focus on the home-ice advantage for Calgary. The Flames won Game 1 without allowing a goal against. In Game 2, the Avs came knocking on the door again, but they had them under the control. It was just a speedy break by Matt Nieto which made the difference and forced Mike Smith to surrender for the first time in the series. The Flames fans weren´t happy about T.J. Brodie and his play on defending Nieto too.
But the Flames bounced back on their very next power-play opportunity. It was Rasmus Andersson with his first career playoff goal. The Flames scored three goals on their man-advantage in their first two home games. Deadlocked at one in the third period, with something over seven minutes to go it was Sean Monahan forcing one through behind Grubauer for his first point of the series.
That time, the Flames got a late third-period lead and a realistic chance to go up 2-0 against Colorado. They would give up just one goal in the process. Despite their almost perfect play combined with Mike Smith´s brilliance, the Avs tied the game late and won in the overtime. It probably wouldn’t be deserved for Calgary to go up 2-0, but they had the chances and you cannot miss any of your chances in the playoffs.
Home Return Was Much Welcomed For Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche patiently waited for their chance to strike. Last season in the playoffs versus the Nashville Predators, they played very tight games on the road, but couldn’t win either Game 1 or Game 2 at Bridgestone Arena. This time around, they got that one important road win from the first two games in Calgary.
That was definitely a huge confidence booster for the Avs. In Game 3, Colorado got the power-play chance, which couldn’t deliver anything on the road. But finally, they scored on it and made it 1-0, it was Nathan MacKinnon. Talking about the struggles on the power play, the Avs converted on their very next opportunity as well and made it 2-0. Nathan MacKinnon with his third consecutive goal for the Avalanche.
Then it was Cale Makar scoring his first NHL goal to make it 3-0. The magic of Mike Smith from the majority of the first two roadies was busted. In the second period, it was Matt Nieto with yet another shorthanded tally and then it was Mikko Rantanen with his first career playoff goal. Rantanen has been an important factor for the Avs so far. Young Finnish forward is certainly not at his 100%, but he had two assists in Game 2 and added a goal and an assist in Game 3.
Cale Makar Brings Hope in His NHL Debut
It wouldn’t go down with just a one sentence mentioning Cale Makar and his NHL debut for sure. He is going to be an important part of the Colorado Avalanche´s future with no doubt. In his first NHL game, he had 14:34 of the time on the ice, while scoring his first NHL goal. It wasn’t such an impressive debut for young Makar overall as he had the CF% at 47,83, but that’s not a surprise.
Hey NHL, meet Cale Makar.
— x- Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) 16. apríla 2019
Makar made his way to the lineup because of an injury to Samuel Girard. Girard was injured after a shoulder-to-shoulder hit with Sam Bennett. Bennett, who had struggled during the regular season and had an injury shortly before the playoffs. He has been the best Calgary forward with three assists in the first two games and a goal in Game 3. With Girard out, the Colorado Avalanche signed Cale Makar on Sunday after he won Hobey Baker Award on Friday.
Head coach Jared Bednar wanted to make sure that Makar is ready to go in because this is playoff hockey. Even though his overall even strength play wasn’t the best, it was a shiny debut for him as he scored an eventual game-winner and got the crowd going crazy. After all, it will be interesting to see when and whether Samuel Girard comes back to the lineup. He is day-to-day for now.
Can Colorado Avalanche Pull Out Upset Versus Calgary Flames?
In our series preview, I picked Colorado to go through in six games. The guys in purple and blue have not let me down so far, but one would expect the Flames to come back harder for Game 4. Game 3 was just miserable for the Flames as they got eaten up by the road playoff atmosphere and lost 6-2. Although they won the Western Conference with 107 points, the playoff experience is just not there.
The Flames have such a talented group that they can definitely turn this around in a hurry. In Game 3 on Monday, they have been outshot by 56 to 29 by the Avalanche. They have to use a short memory and refocus on Game 4. The most important thing is to show their character and get the series back to Calgary tied at two.
However, the Colorado Avalanche playoff resiliency showed up and they are hungry for more. The Avs know there is a home-ice advantage for them now. Game 4 is going to be a huge battle. If the Pepsi Center is going to be buzzing again and the home team is going to respond on that, it’s going to be tough for the Flames. But we are just the halfway through this marvellous series and anything can happen.