The Colorado Avalanche will face the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time ever Thursday as they begin their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Scotiabank Saddledome with puck drop coming shortly after 10 p.m. Eastern.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames: By the Numbers
- The Flames took all three games in the season series but with a goal differential of only four. The first meeting between the two in mid-October was the only one to go to overtime.
- Colorado’s +14 goal differential in the regular season is the second-lowest mark of all playoff teams and better than that of only the Dallas Stars.
- The Avalanche rank ninth among playoff teams in goals for and 14th in goals allowed. The Flames +62 goal differential is second to only the Tampa Bay Lightning and only the Lightning scored more goals.
- Five Flames players scored at least 20 goals and notched 70-plus points in 2018-19, while only four Avalanche skaters hit 20 goals and three were able to top 70 points.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames: Projected Goalie Starters
Philipp Grubauer vs. David Rittich
The starters for both teams remain a mystery heading into Thursday, as both relied on a goaltending committee in 2018-19. Grubauer vs. Rittich is my best guess based on regular-season performance.
Grubauer started 33 games against Semyon Varlamov‘s 49, but the former was also used in four relief appearances, while Varlamov never came in to replace Grubauer. The 27-year-old German led the pair in save percentage and goals against average and picked up just two fewer wins.
Rittich received the larger portion of work in his timeshare with the older Mike Smith. He led the two with a .911 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA. The 24-year-old twice beat the Avalanche in the season series, stopping 56 of 61 shots on goal.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames: Key Injuries
The Flames are at full health as RW Sam Bennett is back in time for the postseason.
Mikko Rantanen will return for the Avalanche after last playing on March 21. Colorado remains without only C Vladislav Kamenev.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames: NHL Best Bet
Moneyline: The Western Conference champs open at -190 at home. It’s a fine number at which to take the Flames regardless of who suits up in goal for either club.
Against the spread: Rantanen’s return will bolster the Avalanche at either end of the ice, making +1.5 at -165 the better play.
Over/under: The total for Game 1 is 6, a number the two teams topped in two of their three games this season. With both teams back to full health up front, and none of the four goalies involved having a wealth of playoff experience – with Smith’s last run coming with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011-12 – the OVER is the best play at -110.
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