It’s taken just nine games for both No. 1 seeds from their respective conferences to be ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nine. And the team that tied an NHL record for wins in a regular season went out in four. The 107-point Calgary Flames resisted for an addition game as the eighth-place Colorado Avalanche dispatched them in five games after a 5-1 win on Friday.
In the NHL’s storied history, over 100 years of existence, never have the top seeds from each conference from the regular season been put out in the first round.
After the Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world earlier this week, the Avalanche sent similar tremors when they fanned the Flames, Colorado’s first series win in 11 years
It’s hard to imagine.
Maybe Colorado was burned out a bit after clinching the final playoff spot just a few days earlier. Maybe it was Smith’s solid outing after he was given the vote of confidence heading in as the starter despite his struggles down the stretch
Maybe it was all a facade.
Game 1 seemed more like what many thought this series would resemble as Mike Smith and the Flames shutout the Avs 4-0.
Colorado made a third-period comeback in Game 2 and then won the game in overtime. The momentum carried into Game 3, where Colorado scored six to take the series lead. Finding themselves down once again in the third, the Avs erased a 2-0 deficit to tie the game and then won once again, emphatically, in overtime.
Game 5 was just a continuation of Colorado playing better and finding a way.
The Avs built a 2-0 lead, allowed a goal with six seconds left in the first, and then took over in the second and third.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for teams playing meaningful games down the stretch. The Avalanche did so every night until Game 82. An off-night could have spelled disaster, so there was that heightened sense of urgency and ability to play at a high level right out of the gate, even if Game 1 didn’t suggest that.
Calgary, better rested, took advantage in Game 1, but Colorado’s pace was just too much after that.
Smith, who had all sorts of question marks dragging in the tin cans behind him. But he put a lot of that to rest in Game 1, and then was solid the rest of the series. His problem was lack of run support.
Johnny Gaudreau? One assist.
Sean Monahan? One goal, one assist.
Elias Lindholm? One goal, one assist.
Matthew Tkachuk? Two goals, one assist
The Flames found just seven goals in the final four games. That won’t do it in the playoffs, even with Smith playing well. .
Calgary led the lead with a league-low 28.1 shots allowed per game in the regular season. They entered Friday’s game allowing a league-high 43.3, over 15 more per game (and eight more than the next most-peppered team in the playoffs this year.
And, most importantly, they couldn’t stop Mikko Rantanen (five goals, four assists) or Nathan MacKinnon (three goals, five assists.
Colorado’s top line came as advertised. In fact, they combined (along with Gabriel Landeskog) for 21 points in the series, more than all of the Flames’ 12 forward combine.
Calgary’s regular-season offense proved more false advertising.
“Calgary didn’t _____” will be a popular fill-in-the-blank question in southern Alberta for the days and weeks to come as try to figure out what went wrong in the postseason.
Aside from Tampa’s epic exit, Calgary’s is not far behind in terms of unlikelihood. If nothing else, both series show that all a team needs to do is get into the playoffs. From there, the sky’s the limit.