CALGARY -- The Calgary Flames' core will remain intact and has a chance to win in the future despite losing to the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the Western Conference First Round.
The Flames, who had their best regular season (50-25-7) since 1988-89, when they won their only Stanley Cup, lost four in a row after winning Game 1 against the Avalanche.
"I think it's really easy at times like we're at today to throw rocks," Flames general manager Brad Treliving said as Calgary held its exit meetings at Scotiabank Saddledome. "Our team underachieved, I think from top to bottom, at the most critical time of the year. We've got to figure out why. I don't think lining the core group up on the plank and shooting them is the right answer.
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"I think we've got some really, really good players here."
Calgary's top line of Johnny Gaudreau (one assist), Sean Monahan (one goal, one assist) and Elias Lindholm (one goal, one assist) combined for five points against Colorado after getting 259 points (97 goals, 162 assists) during the regular season.
"That line went off earlier in the year and it was sort of like a video game at some point," Treliving said. "You knew that wasn't going to continue. You need your best players to be your best players. You need people to support them, too. So we can sit here and say our top guys didn't perform to the level that they and us had hoped, and they'd probably be the first ones to tell you that. We needed support for them, too.
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"You can't just expect one or two guys to get it. So I'm not going to hang this on one or two guys. We accomplished what we accomplished in the regular season as a group. We accomplished what we accomplished in the playoffs as a group."
Despite losing in the first round, it was still a step forward for Calgary, which failed to qualify for the playoffs last season and was swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round in 2017.
"This is a different year than the last couple," Monahan said. "It's a bad feeling, obviously. You look back and look at the step we made in the regular season, we didn't carry that on to the postseason. It was frustrating. You have to look at the bright side of it. There are a lot of great players in the dressing room who want to go there and want to get past where we were this year."
The Flames finished the regular season with the second-best record in the NHL, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (62-16-4), who were eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Video: Avalanche defeat Flames in five games
It was the first time that the top two teams entering the playoffs have been eliminated in the opening round since the NHL expansion of 1967-68.
"I think we've got some guys that are experiencing some things for the first time in their career," Treliving said. "I think people have gone through expectations for the first time, and there's really a difference of when you're expected to do something versus living under no expectations.
"Does our team need to change? I'll probably better answer that in the next little bit. We won't bring back the same team. Do we believe in the core group here? I do. I do believe in this group. But we've got to take a long, hard look at what's taken place here and determine why.
"Right now, I don't have a why for you. We will get to that in time."