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Western Conference Playoffs Round One Preview: Game 1, Calgary Flames vs Colorado Avalanche

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned to the Saddledome!!!!

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Western Conference Playoffs Round 1

Calgary Flames (0-0) vs Colorado Avalanche (0-0), 8 PM MT, Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary AB

TV: NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN - Radio: Sportsnet 960

Calgary Flames 50-25-7 (107 pts) - Colorado Avalanche 38-30-14 (90 pts)

Well, here we are! It’s the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Calgary Flames as they open up their first round match up with the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames come into this series as the top dog in the Western Conference, having scored the second most goals during the regular season (289) and averaging 3.52 markers a contest. The Flames also found themselves as the second best team in the league with their 107 points, trailing only the Eastern Conference juggernaut that was the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames are well rested as they last played on April 6, a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Avalanche found themselves in the playoff mix as the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. Colorado put together a very good final stretch, going 8-1-2 over their last 11 games to push them past the Arizona Coyotes for that coveted last playoff spot. While the Flames can score goals in bunches, the Av’s are no slouch when it comes to lighting the lamp. Colorado finished 10th in the league with 258 goals and their top line is as potent as they come. Nathan MacKinnon (99), Mikko Rantanen (87) and Gabriel Landeskog (75) combined for 261 points on the season and that trio had nine points in three games against the Flames during the regular season.

These two teams have never faced each other in the playoffs and Calgary took the season series by way of a 3-0 sweep. Goaltending could be the X Factor in this series as the Avalanche seem to have found something in Philipp Grubauer and Calgary is looking more like they will lean on veteran Mike Smith as the playoffs start as opposed to David Rittich who statistically had the better season.

Either way these are exciting times for both franchises. Calgary’s 2018-19 season was remarkable seeing the face lift the team went through this past off season. Calgary finished 37-35-10 in 2017-18 with 84 points and missed the playoffs. The last time they were playing hockey into mid-April was in 2016-17 and they were unceremoniously swept by the Anaheim Ducks. The Avalanche meanwhile are making their second straight post season appearance as they were ousted by the Nashville Predators in six games last season in the first round.

Starting Goalies (E=Expected, C=Confirmed)

Flames: Smith (E) - 23-16-2, 2.73 GAA, .898 Save%

Avalanche: Grubauer (E)- 18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 Save %

Team Leaders

Flames: Goals- Gaudreau (36), Points- Gaudreau (99), PIM- Bennett (93), Save%- Rittich (.911)

Avalanche: Goals- McKinnon (41), Points- McKinnon (99), PIM- Cole (115), Save%- Grubauer (.917)

What’s Happening With The Opposition?

Colorado Avalanche Coverage: Mile High Hockey

Players To Watch

Calgary Flames

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

James Neal (F): 7G - 12A, 4 points in last 5 games

Colorado Avalanche

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nathan MacKinnon (C): 41G - 58A, 5 points in last 5 games