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At the outset, the Flames were supposed to have the better defence and forward depth with speed and a #1 line equal to Colorado. Thus, considered, a good first round opponent.
It appeared the Flames lone question mark was whether the goaltending would be up to the challenge. Three games into the series, goaltender Mike Smith answered the goalie question with three solid performances emerging as easily the Flames best player. Despite Smith’s netminding, the pre-series favorites are down 2-1 in games.
…And the questions surround all other aspects of the Flames play.
Why has the team with the deepest defence been outshot 121-98?
Why has the team with better overall forward depth been badly out-performed by three Colorado forwards?
Why has that Avalanche #1 line so badly out-shone the Flames top unit?
Why in the head-to-head battle of 99-point players has Nathan MacKinnon been so vastly out-shining Johnny Gaudreau?
It brings a big question from Flames fans. What’s happened to the team that was so outstanding during the regular-season when they had the NHL’s second-best record, which was 17 points better than the Avs?
It would be unwise to write off the Flames after three games. I’ve been around the game long enough to know things can change quickly and momentum can be fleeting. Some over-confidence may be why the Flames are in this predicament. They won last Thursday’s series opener 4-0 in the Scotiabank Saddledome. It was a game much closer than the score indicated. Smith was the first star with his 26-save performance, and the contest was up-for-grabs until the Flames scored twice in a 14-second span with three minutes left.
Smith was even better in the second game backstopping the Flames to a 2-1 lead before the Avs tied the game with 2:39 remaining, forcing overtime.
Flames’ Michael Frolik just past the 8-minute mark of OT had a great chance to win it but was robbed by Philip Grubauer on a point-blank shot. Five seconds later, MacKinnon with great speed into the Calgary zone took a perfect pass and made a perfect wrist shot to gain Colorado 3-2 win. The series moved to the Mile-High City – Denver – for the third game on Monday.
The teams were miles apart as the Avalanche romped to a 6-2 win. Again, Smith was the Flames best performer being bombarded with 56 shots, stopping g 50 of them. The Avs top line of MacKinnon, Gabrial Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen thus far has been far superior to the Flames top trio – Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm.
During the regular season, the Flames were the only NHL team having five players with more than 70 points. Through the three games, those five skaters have combined for 7 points. The trio on the Avs #1 line has combined for 10 points. Gaudreau’s 99-point season hasn’t manifested into a great post-season to this point. He has no goals and just one point in the first three encounters. Colorado’s 99-point star MacKinnon has 3 goals and 4 points. Clearly more dominant.
Former NHL goalie Kelly Hrudy, a color commentator on well over half the Flame regular-season games and Hockey Night in Canada playoff panelist commented on Tuesday’s telecast, “I’ve never seen the Flames play this poorly all season.” Back on October 25, the Flames may have been worse losing 9-1 at home to Pittsburgh. They then won four of their next 5 games. Duplicating that now would take away all the questions.
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