The Calgary Flames finished with a 50-25-7 record during the 2018-19 campaign, capturing their first regular-season conference title since 1989-90 and first division title since 2005-06. It was just the second season that the Flames have reached the 50-win total, joining the 1988-89 squad that went on the win the only Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Calgary faces the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and looks to advance to the second round for the first time since 2015.
The Flames are led offensively by one of the highest-scoring lines in the NHL in Johnny Gaudreau (36 goals, 63 assists), Sean Monahan (34 goals, 48 assists) and Elias Lindholm (27 goals, 51 assists). The trio each registered career-best totals in points during the regular season while helping Calgary to 3.52 goals per game, tied for second in the league.
Gaudreau's 99 points this year shared seventh place among all NHL skaters with Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon knows how difficult the Salem, New Jersey, native can be to defend.
"He's one of the best offensive players in the league, for sure," said MacKinnon. "It's going be really tough. I'm not sure who we're going to play against, the matchup and things like that, but whoever's on the ice has to be responsible and keep aware of him, stay above him. I think more of our D, because he's a winger and he's going to try to anticipate passes in their D-zone when we get pucks on net and just kind of take off. It's going to be tough because he's kind of like [Tampa Bay's Nikita] Kucherov in that sense, he gets a ton of breakaways, he's so smart. He's a great player."
Matthew Tkachuk shared second on the club with 34 markers this season while adding 43 helpers. He's another Flames skater who notched a career high in points during the year with 77.
James Neal paces Calgary in Stanley Cup Playoffs experience with 100 career appearances. The 31-year-old has registered 55 points (31 goals, 24 assists) in playoff games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights, helping the latter advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Neal joined Calgary this season, signing as a free agent.
Michael Frolik is the only Flames player to be a part of a Stanley Cup champion, helping the Chicago Blackhawks to the title in 2013.
Mark Giordano was Calgary's time-on-ice leader in the regular season, logging an average of 24:14 per game. His 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) were a career high and ranked second in the league among blueliners. The Toronto, Ontario, native is a leading candidate for the Norris Trophy this season, awarded to the most outstanding defenseman in the league.
Giordano is not the only Flames rear guard to put up points this season. T.J. Brodie (nine goals, 25 assists) and Noah Hanifin (five goals, 28 assists) each crossed the 30-point threshold this season and help give Calgary an active blue line. It was Brodie's sixth consecutive season reaching the milestone and Hanifin's second straight year crossing the 30-point plateau.
"Their D, they're always in the rush" said MacKinnon. "They have four on the rush every time. On the forecheck, we can't get behind them, we have to stay above those guys and frustrate them in that sense. I think Giordano has plus-70 points and all those guys are really offensive and can score goals. So we have to stay above them and make their life tough."
David Rittich and Mike Smith split the regular-season contests for Calgary this year and could both see action during the series against the Avalanche.
Rittich posted a 27-9-5 record with a .911 save percentage and 2.61 goals-against average in 42 starts during the 2018-19 campaign. The Jihlava, Czech Republic, native has a 3-1-0 career mark against Colorado with a .908 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average.
Smith recorded a 23-16-2 mark, .898 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average in 40 starts for the Flames this season. The 37-year-old owns an 11-1-4 record in 16 career appearances against the Avs and has 19 games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience under his belt. In those postseason contests, Smith is 10-8 with a .945 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average.