After Game 2, the Colorado Avalanche have a tied the series at 1 against the Calgary Flames.
In the first, neither the Calgary Flames nor the Colorado Avalanche got a whole lot going offensively. However, both teams had things going for them in other aspects. For Calgary, they did a great job closing the gap on Colorado forwards, doing a solid job in the neutral zone, as well as keeping the puck hemmed in the offensive zone. They just couldn’t get pucks through, and often were passing around looking for space, and not finding it.
Colorado on the other hand, they were dominant in the physical aspect, most notably knocking around Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano. They were also defensively sound, not giving Calgary much room to work with. Due to Calgary’s good gap control, Colorado had a tough time breaking into the offensive zone. When they did however, they got shots through, mostly on the rush. However, you can’t rely on short bursts of offense to win you games. Especially when Mike Smith is playing as good as he has, the Avs are definitely not going to break through. One takeaway, Derick Brassard is hurting Colorado. He took two penalties in the first, both times due to him going after Mike Smith.
The Avalanche start this period off on the power play, and they took full advantage. Although they didn’t score on the man advantage, they generated a lot of scoring chances. Only one shot got on net, but they were moving the puck really well, but just whiffed on some huge opportunities. Following the power play, Calgary went back to what they were doing in the first. Sustaining offensive zone time. Philipp Grubauer was forced to make quite a few good saves.
Since the 17 minute mark of the second, the Flames held the Avs in their own end for almost a full two minutes. Then at the 14:30 mark, Colorado’s Gabriel Bourque took a hooking penalty, and Calgary’s power play got a chance to break the ice. On several occasions in the first half on the man advantage, Colorado got dangerous looks, including a one timer from Matt Calvert, who got absolutely robbed. But the second half of the Calgary power play, despite several dangerous looks and a flopping Grubauer, Matt Nieto got a breakaway and flicked it over the two pad stack that Smith attempted.That short-handed goal made it 1-0 Colorado. Side note, this was Nieto’s first goal since December 6th, 2018, and what a goal it was.
After the goal, roles switched. Colorado dominated offensively for over a minute in the offensive zone. Smooth puck movement and smart passes. A few moments later, Mike Smith flips the puck over the glass, and takes a delay of game penalty. Now it’s Colorado on the man advantage. An incredibly strong look on the power play, that involved one timer after one timer after one timer for the Avs, they couldn’t find a way. Whether it was blocked or stopped by Smith, it just would not go. Then as the penalty expired, Colorado got awarded a tripping penalty, by, guess who, Derick Brassard. An incredible passing sequence after great puck movement at the point results in Sam Bennett with a perfect pass to a sneaky Rasmus Andersson, and the game was even at 1.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 14, 2019
Following the Andersson goal, it was back and forth. At the 4 minute mark, as the Flames were getting set on the faceoff in their own end, Travis Hamonic really took over and was directing the coverages. Future captain? Anyways, right off that same draw, the Avalanche had a great chance that was stopped by Smith. Then again, about 30 seconds later, Alexander Kerfoot put one off the crossbar. At the 2:30 mark, Colorado got a power play opportunity, thanks to Rasmus Andersson, who received a holding call. But Calgary played very well, keeping the Avs to the outside, and generating two shorthanded looks.
Side notes: Alexander Kerfoot has looked outstanding in the offensive zone, and especially on the power play, but the hockey gods show no mercy, and no matter what he threw at the net, he couldn’t get it home. Also, Nathan MacKinnon has skated with a ton of confidence, and he has done a fantastic job trusting his abilities, and dicing through players and into space. One downside, however, is the physicality has taken a dip. Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov opened the game, using their size and strength, playing the body and keeping the play to the perimeter, but that physicality was not quite evident in the second frame.
As for the Flames, if you didn’t fully get an idea of how the Flames were blocking shots like when they were killing penalties, this should paint a very clear picture; the Flames totaled 19 total blocked shots in this game. Let’s say those were unblocked, and got on net, the Avalanche would be outshooting Calgary 46-20, and the Avs have only blocked 4 total shots, so that goes to show how vital those blocks really are.
Early on, Avalanche applied a lot of pressure. They did a great job holding the line, especially Erik Johnson. Almost 2 minutes they held it in the offensive zone, but the Avs missed the net over and over again. When they did get it on net, Smith stopped and froze it, getting a very important line change. But the Avalanche kept coming, and Smith made more remarkable saves. And another.
Mike Smith has been vintage Mike Smith for the Flames, and if he can keep that going moving forward, then the Flames will be the toughest team to beat in the West. From the 16 minute mark to the 13:30 mark, it was a back and forth affair, with neither team able to sustain puck possession. That’s when Nemeth got a holding penalty on Gaudreau, and Gaudreau got a penalty for embellishment, making it 4 on 4 for two minutes.
To me, I don’t think Gaudreau sold anything. Nemeth is twice his size and tugged him down from behind. Despite the four on four, it went back to the back and forth affair. Right as the 4 on 4 concluded, Zadorov took an interference call, and another power play chance for Calgary. Early on, Calgary was rushing every move, and they needed to settle it down. Colorado took advantage, breaking up the passes and clearing it down the ice.
Second half of the man advantage was far better, much smoother, but the same results. Colorado was getting in the passing lanes and keeping everything on the perimeter. When the power play expired, the fans in Scotia Bank Arena was trying to shift the momentum, getting louder and louder as each second passed. At the 7:33 mark, Sean Monahan found the back of the net, Gaudreau did a fantastic job waiting for an opening. He fired one that was deflected, but it was swatted towards the net by Sam Bennett, which went right into Monahan’s wheelhouse, and he wasn’t going to miss from there.
At the 4 minute mark, Colorado had strong possession of the puck, but it went nowhere. At the 3 minute mark, Colorado had more offensive zone possession, but Mike Smith continued to hold them off. But it isn’t over. Colorado got right back to the offensive zone, got an offensive zone draw, and the Avalanche finally got some puck luck, and JT Compher buried it. Man, what a game. Back and forth action once again, following the Avalanche goal.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 14, 2019
The Flames picked up the physical game, which at this point has been nearly completely abandoned. Calgary then got a golden opportunity, after a bad turnover at the blue line. Matthew Tkachuk had a great opportunity, which was stopped, but then on the rebound, Tkachuk was absolutely robbed by the stick of Grubauer. Potentially a game saver. Overtime, here we come.
Here we go. Both teams have been defensively sound, and advantageous offensively, not to mention solid goaltending both ways. First great chance was for Johnny Gaudreau, denied by Grubauer. Calgary explosive early. About 3 minutes into OT, Ian Cole drills James Neal in the numbers in a dangerous spot. To this point, Colorado has been great on the penalty kill. Power play unsuccessful, but dominant. Colorado quickly moves up the ice, and on the rush, MacKinnon has a good chance denied by Smith.
Colorado swinging the momentum, and it’s MacKinnon doing so. After even more blocks from Calgary skaters, Gaudreau and the Flames get a quick transition, and Grubauer was up to the task of stopping Johnny Gaudreau’s slot shot. Back and forth affair again, with each team generating shots off the rush. The Avalanche stretching the ice, with long passes from their own end to the opposite blue line, but ending in turnovers, and Calgary taking advantage. That’s when Grubauer robs the Flames of a point-blank opportunity, and MacKinnon takes it the other way and wires it past the glove of Mike Smith.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 14, 2019
Calgary Team Hero
Mike Smith was fantastic, and once again gave them every chance to win. Travis Hamonic and Mark Giordano also blocked a combined 11 shots between each other, taking away quality opportunities from the Avs. The defense in general was sound, and did a fantastic job keeping the Avalanche on the perimeter and taking away space.
Calgary Team Villain
Consistency. The Avalanche were a different team in periods two and three, as in the first they were banking on bursts of offense. However, in the next 2 periods, they sustained offensive zone time. Meanwhile, the Flames didn’t really expand their effort. Not that they played poorly, but they weren’t keeping the puck in the offensive zone like they did in the first. They need to raise their play with their opponents, or they’ll see more results like this.
Colorado Team Hero
Building on what they started, improving as the game wore on. They got better and better as time ticked down. Philipp Grubauer was also spectacular, with incredible timely saves, most notably the stick save on Tkachuk with the game even at two. He followed that up with an arm save in OT, which was immediately followed by the MacKinnon goal. Nathan MacKinnon took charge offensively as well, and he skated with a confidence and poise, dicing through the Flames defense on several occasions. Alexander Kerfoot as well was working in the offensive zone. He had some remarkable opportunities, but the posts show no mercy, and he came up empty.
Colorado Team Villain
Derick Brassard took 3 offensive zone penalties, which is just unacceptable. Add to the fact that one of those turned into a Calgary Flames goal, especially when Colorado was beginning to pick up the pace at that point, it was a killer at the time. Also, puck luck was nowhere to be found for the Avs, up until the late third period and into the OT period, where a couple bounces went their way. Finally, the Scotia Bank goalposts. Poor Kerfoot man, the posts show no mercy as I said earlier.
My 3 Stars
*Nathan MacKinnon, COL, GWG, controlled the offense for Colorado
**Philipp Grubauer, COL, Timely saves won the Avs this game, great outing for Gruby.
***Travis Hamonic, CGY, He was a puck magnet, he blocked everything
Expectation for next game
Both goalies have been x-factors in this series, and it has been a very back and forth series so far. Not surprised if there will be another OT game between these two, in either game 3 or 4 in Colorado. Calgary had a 24-15-2 Road record this season, and Colorado had a 21-14-6 Home record. This is going to be a fun series.