What Went Wrong?
Where to even begin? The Flames were the #1 seed in the Western Conference and they fell to the 8th seed Colorado Avalanche in 5 games during the first round of the NHL Playoffs. Disappointing, sure. Unacceptable? Yup. Failure? You betcha.
That all may seem harsh but when the team with second best record in the league bows out to an eight seed that played 10x better than Calgary, it should be deemed as a failure. The Flames showed zero push back when they were challenged and their best players were an absolute disaster when it mattered most. Sure, Johnny Gaudreau played “well” in Game 5, but down 3-1 on the scoreboard and 3-1 in the series isnt exactly the best time to show up. Calgary overworked their goaltender in Mike Smith to the tune of 205 shots over the five game series, including 108 between Game 3 & Game 4.
Many things went wrong in this series and despite you not wanting to read about this less than 12 hours after a humiliating defeat, we’re feeding it to you. Buckle up!
Top Guns Fired Blanks
Let’s be honest: Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Giordano were trash in the playoffs. There, it had to be said. Johnny Gaudreau had one point in this series, an assist WAY back in Game 2, a 3-2 OT loss. He had two breakways in Game 5 AND a penalty shot, but came up empty each time. He did show some fire with a late second period scrum in the final game of the series, but come on, too little, too late. The disallowed goal surely hurt, but that goal wasn’t making any kind of difference in this series. Sean Monahan? He was invisible. He had one goal and one assist. Clearly not enough from an elite, top line centre. Elias Lindholm? Outside of a hit bonanza in Game 1, he too was too light in Round 1. Two points in five games after that monster 78 point season is an utter disappointment. Matthew Tkachuk who is “built for playoff hockey” wasn’t built for playoff hockey. Things looked very promising after his Game 1, two game goal outburst, but after that he completely disappreared. No agitating. No penalty drawing. Nuffin’. And the leading candidate to take home the Norris Trophy was a non factor as well. Mark Giordano was a -3 and had only two points in this series.
Add it up and it spelled disaster for a Flames team that won 50 games in the regular season, but couldn’t win 4 games in the playoffs.
One Team Wanted It More
Colorado clearly wanted this series more than Calgary and it showed. They got outstanding goaltending from Philipp Grubauer, their top players stepped up and they pushed the Flames around after being embarrassed in Game 1. After that opening game defeat, Colorado outscored the Flames 17-7. Colorado outshot the Flames 179-132 over the final four games of the series. The Avalanche top trio absolutely scortched the Flames once the got on track. Nathan MacKinnon had three goals and five assists. Mikko Rantanen had five goals and four assists. Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and three assists. If you don’t read that and see that Colorado was the better team, re-read it again.
Coming In Hot
As the regular season wound down the Flames took their foot off the gas pedal. Calgary went 3-4-0 in their final seven, including back to back 3-1 losses to the Ducks and Oilers. While you might think things like that don’t matter, they do. Colorado roared into the playoffs by going 8-1-2 in their final 11 games.....because they had to. The Avalanche were fighting for their playoff lives and they had to win to get in and that’s exactly what they did. The Av’s were confident, even after suffering a 4-0 Game 1 defeat and maybe the Flames were slightly over confident? How a 50 win team with five players who scored 70+ points failed to show up in the playoffs will remain a frustrating mystery for some time to come. Colorado? They won 38 games, finished 8th in the Western Conference and had they had three players with 70+ points, yet the underdog outplayed the top and deservedly so, they are moving on.
There are a few other things that hurt the Flames in this series and they can be pinned on post season performances and a potenital mid season gaffe.
-T.J. Brodie: Brodie was an abomination in the playoffs. What started out as a very promising season turned into a nightmare for the Flames defenceman. Brodie looked like the Brodie of last season, turning the puck over eight times and registering a -1.
-Jame Neal: He’s not the Real Deal....at all. This was a failure from the start and is looking more and more like a Troy Brouwer/Jaromir Jagr type deal. Neal was trash during the regular season and he spent too much time being hurt. Neal was another player that was “built for the playoffs,” but looks more like he’s built for a trade. Neal played in four games, was a -3 and took only seven shots. He was single handedly responsible for Calgary’s 3-2 OT loss with his lack of effort in the defensive end in Game 4.
-No Trade?- The Flames decided that making a big splash at the deadline was not in their best interest and with hindsight being 20/20, maybe they should have made a deal. The Flames chose to only add Oscar Fantenberg, who was fine and serviceable, but he clearly wasn’t a piece to push the Flames over the top. Would Mark Stone have been the piece to make the Flames, bigger, tougher and better? Maybe. But with the James Neal scenario fresh in everyone’s mind, who knows if a big name would have been a help.
In the end your Calgary Flames were an extreme disappointment.....in the playoffs. The team that dominated the Western Conference was a joy to watch. They gave us a season to remember with their play at both ends of the ice. Bill Peters was clearly the right choice to coach this group and there’s not a lot of negative things you can say about him. The Playoff Flames were something you’re going to want to forget. They looked timid, not confident and like they had never played together before.
With all that said, you have to give credit to the Colorado Avalanche. The better team won out in the end and they proved that you don’t have to be the “best” team to win a series. Calgary came in as the shiny new car with all the bells and whistles. Colorado came in the dependable used car with some dents and dings. Sometimes flashy isn’t always reliable. That was clearly the case in this series. Kudo’s to the Avalanche. They were by far the better team and deserved to win. Now begins a long offseason and an uncomfortable look in mirror for the team from Calgary.