After a long wait, we’ve finally reached the 2018-19 Playoffs. For the first time in over a decade, the Flames will have home-ice to begin a series as they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to town. We have a preview to the series that you can read here and we also asked some questions to our sister site Mile High Hockey which you can read here.
For each game of the series I’ll be looking at five things the Flames will need to do emerge victorious. Here’s tonight’s five!
1. Control your Emotions Early
There is little in sport like the raw emotion of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially for a fan base that hasn’t had a lot of winning in recent years. The Dome will be absolutely rocking and the boys will surely come out with energy tonight. The key will be to ensure that the energy is properly channeled. The Flames can’t get away from their game by trying to make a home run play to take over the game or impress the crowd. They’ll need to settle into the game and play the style that got them 1st in the West for the full 60 minutes. From there, it’ll be up to rowdy home crowd to give them that extra push.
2. Support Mike Smith (or David Rittich) Early
Mike Smith was well known earlier the year for often giving up goals within the first five or six shots of the game. If the Flames can get Smith settled in by limiting early chances, it should allow his game to really take off. Calgary has been pretty defensively sound this season, giving up the least shots in the league and that’ll need to continue tonight.
3. Lock Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk onto Nathan Mackinnon
Nathan Mackinnon is simply the best player in this series. He’s been one of the most dominant players in the NHL over the last two seasons, and it’ll be up to the Flames 3M line to shut him down on home ice. Mackinnon can single-handedly will the Avs to victory on any given night, so he’s priority #1. If Matthew Tkachuk can be his typical self and control play while also getting under Mackinnon’s skin, then the Flames should really be able to focus on other matchups. Mikael Backlund had a really strong season yet again and should be more than up to the task of matching up across from Mackinnon as well.
4. Get Phillip Grubauer Off his Game
Grubauer was one of the league’s hottest goaltenders down the stretch, and his emergence was a big reason why the Avalanche find themselves in the playoffs. It’ll be crucial for the Flames to get to Grubauer early, whether that be scoring, the crowd, or just crashing the net and poking around a bit. Calgary has to get into Grubauer’s head. It’s worth noting that he had a similar hot end to the season last year before faltering in the playoffs for Washington, so the Flames need to plant that seed of doubt in his mind early in this series.
5. Get the Powerplay Going
It’s well documented that the Flames powerplay had a poor end to the season. Actually that’s putting it lightly. It was DEAD LAST over the final month of the season. While Calgary does do well at 5-on-5, they will have to take advantage of a Colorado team that was in the bottom ten of the league this year. Calgary has the big guns to score on both units, now they just have to make things click.