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Old Division Foes Meet For First Time In Playoffs

Colorado and Calgary were in the same division for 17 seasons

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames may now be in different divisions, but the two organizations know each other very well from their time as rivals in the old Northwest and Pacific Divisions.

From 1995 to 2013, the teams would play at least six times a year, with three of those seasons seeing eight matchups in a campaign.

The Avs and Flames met a total of 85 times during their 14 seasons in the Northwest and 16 times in their three campaigns in the Pacific (1995-1998), with Colorado holding a 49-43-1 record and tying eight times in those games.

The Northwest Division from 1998 to 2013 comprised of Colorado, Calgary, the Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks. The Avs have played playoff series against the Canucks, Oilers and Wild since moving to Denver in 1995-96, but they had never faced the Flames in the NHL's postseason.

Until now.

"They are a good team," said captain Gabriel Landeskog of Calgary. "I mean they are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, good faceoff team, they got a lot of guys that can score goals and make moves up front. And they got a Norris Trophy candidate on the backend, so they are a good team from top to bottom."

The Avalanche will be playing its first Canadian-based club in the playoffs since 2001 when the team defeated the Canucks in a four-game sweep in the Western Conference Quarterfinals during its trek to a second Stanley Cup championship.

"It's going to be a ton of fun," said Erik Johnson. "They love their hockey in Canada, and we're going to be the underdogs so it will be a fun barn to go into."

Colorado has four players still on its roster from the last time the teams were in the same division during the 2012-13 campaign (Johnson, Landeskog, Tyson Barrie and Semyon Varlamov), while the Flames have three (Mikael Backlund, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano).

Calgary is the top seed in the Western Conference for this year's playoffs after winning the Pacific Division by six points with a 50-25-7 record (107 points). It's the first time that the Flames surpassed the 100-point threshold and won the division since they were champions of the Northwest in 2005-06 (46-25-11, 103 points).

"Credit to them, they did a great job," Barrie said. "They won the conference; they are the first seed out of the West. We are not supposed to beat them, but I like our team in here, I like our chances, I like what we have been doing the last month or so. They are going to have to play really well to beat us."

The Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise is 5-4 all-time in playoff series against Canadian clubs, posting a 1-1 mark versus Edmonton, going 2-0 in matchups against Vancouver and registering a 2-3 record versus the Montreal Canadiens while the team was in Quebec City.

Colorado went 0-2-1 versus the Flames during the 2018-19 regular season, but the series was a lot closer than it might appear.

The Avs had multi-goal leads in the first two matchups of the year, and the team probably deserved a better fate in the final meeting. In that Jan. 9 contest at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Avalanche limited the Flames to six or less shots in each of the three periods, finishing with a 35-16 edge in category, but lost 5-3 after an empty-net tally in the final 10 seconds.

"We didn't play our best by any means, and that's good," said Nathan MacKinnon when reflecting on the Avs' season series versus the Flames. "My first year we beat Minnesota five times and lost to them (in the playoffs). So I think the playoffs is just a different season. It doesn't matter your seeding other than home ice I guess, but that's out of our control at this point. We're looking forward to being the underdogs, and hopefully stealing one on the road."

The Flames are in the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons, but the franchise hasn't gotten past the second round since it lost in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lighting.

The Avalanche is making consecutive postseason appearances for the first time since 2006 when the franchise reached the playoffs in 11 straight seasons. Colorado lost in six games to the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators last year, but it was the only Western Conference series to go beyond Game 5.

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