Beginning its second consecutive postseason appearance, the Colorado Avalanche faces the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday at Scotiabank Saddledome. It is the 15th postseason that the Avalanche has been a part of since moving to Denver and the first time the two teams have met in the postseason.
Colorado earned its Stanley Cup Playoff berth in its penultimate clash of the regular-season against the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday, winning 3-2 in overtime. Calgary is the top seed in the Western Conference, having finished the year with a 50-25-7 record, and was the first team in the conference to clinch a playoff berth this season.
The Avalanche is 25-21 in 46 all-time playoff series and has outscored its opponents 761-747 in that span.
2018-19 Regular-Season Series
With two of the three matchups decided by one goal, the Avs went 0-2-1 against the Flames during the regular season.
Gabriel Landeskog led the team in scoring against Calgary, notching one goal and three assists versus the Western Conference rivals. He was followed by Mikko Rantanen's three points (one goal, two assists). Mark Giordano was this year's leading scorer against Colorado, accumulating one goal and six assists over the three outings.
Netminder David Rittich started twice in net for Calgary, stopping 56-of-61 total shots he faced to generate a .918 save percentage through the two contests. Goaltender Mike Smith also guarded the net for the Flames, stopping 21-of-26 shots and producing an .818 save percentage. Semyon Varlamov appeared in goal for the Avalanche in all three matchups and finished with 80 saves.
What To Watch
The Avalanche (286) and the Flames (275) drew the most and second-most power plays in the NHL, respectively. The Avs own a 22.0-percent success rate with the man advantage, ranked seventh in the league. Colorado was even more successful on the power play while on the road, scoring 23.3 percent of the time, landing sixth in the league for that statistic. In comparison, Calgary converted 19.3 percent of the time with the man advantage, standing 18th overall. The Flames have a 23.6-percent success rate on the power play on home ice, the seventh highest in the NHL.
Both Colorado and Calgary relied on two goaltenders this season, splitting their netminders' starts in net. For the Avalanche, Varlamov generated a 20-19-9 record, along with a 2.87 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and two shutouts through 49 starts. He shared time in the twine throughout the season with Philipp Grubauer, who was one of the hottest goalies in the league at the end of the year by going 7-0-2 in his final nine appearances. Grubauer owns a 2.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage through 37 games (33 starts) this year. He generated an 18-9-5 mark for the overall season, which includes three shutouts.
For the Flames, Mike Smith and David Rittich saw nearly equal time between the pipes. Rittich played 45 times in the crease this campaign and produced a 27-9-5 mark, a 2.61 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. Smith started in six of the Flames final nine contests, and he posted a 23-16-2 record with a 2.73 goals-against average and .898 save percentage through 42 clashes.
Entering Thursday, neither teams' head coach had confirmed a starting goaltender for Game 1.
Players To Watch
Colorado: Center Derick Brassard
With 90 games under his belt, Brassard leads the Avalanche in playoff experience. The forward has racked up 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists) through seven postseason appearances. He was acquired by the Avalanche from the Florida Panthers on Feb. 25 at the NHL Trade
Deadline and has notched four goals through 20 outings in a Colorado sweater. In total this season, Brassard has notched 23 points (14 goals, nine assists)
Calgary: Left Wing Johnny Gaudreau
Gaudreau led the Flames in scoring this year, accumulating 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) through 82 games. He finished the campaign with a six-game point streak (one goal, six assists) and became the 15th highest-scoring player in Calgary history with a total of 394 career points (133 goals, 254 assists). The forward registered four points (one goal, three assists) in three contests against Colorado this year and has notched 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 career playoff outings.
Following an eight-game absence at the end of the season due to an upper-body injury, right wing Mikko Rantanen is expected to return to the lineup for Game 1 on Thursday. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said Rantanen is likely to play on a line with center Carl Soderberg.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series between the Avalanche and Flames is slated for 8 p.m. MT. The game can be watched locally on Altitude and will be televised nationally in the United States on NBCSN and in Canada on CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports. The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio FM 92.5 in the Denver area or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.
Additionally, fans are invited to a watch party at Sports Column in downtown Denver.