Colorado and Calgary have played two pivotal games against each other in the last three weeks. The first was on March 17 when the Flames beat the Avalanche 3-2 in Colorado. At the time, this game wasn't a big deal because there was so much space between the two teams.
That's the way it's been for a while. Calgary has been struggling for a playoff spot for a long time while Colorado has always looked like they would see the postseason. Only a few weeks ago they were nine points ahead of the Flames, and it didn't look like the Flames would be able to make up that ground.
Last night, the two teams played each other in Colorado. It ended with Calgary winning again, only this time, it meant a lot more. By winning this game, Calgary tied Colorado for eighth place in the Western Conference. As of last night, they have made up the nine point deficit and are looking to overtake the Avalanche for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Obviously, this is going to be a close and entertaining finish. At most, the winner will finish only a couple of points ahead of the loser. There's even a chance that the two teams would tie.
A tie would not be good for Calgary. Since Colorado has won more games, they would win the tie-breaker and make the playoffs. If Calgary wants to see the postseason, they have to beat the Avalanche hands down.
This is going to be difficult for Calgary. Colorado has one extra game to play. That's one more chance for the Avalanche to gain points on the Calgary Flames.
But, the fact that Colorado has one more opportunity doesn't change the fact that they are in a slump. Over the last few games, they have been playing below average both offensively and defensively.
Offense is only a little below average, and last night it looked like it was getting better. They were able to generate some great opportunities on Kiprusoff, and forced him to make some great saves.
The biggest concern for Colorado is defense. Over the past few weeks, they have allowed a ton of goals. They floundered against the Anaheim Ducks by giving up five goals in both games they played against them. But the biggest blemish was when they allowed six goals to the Phoenix Coyotes, who are ranked 24th in the NHL in offense.
The scary thing for Colorado is the fact that yesterday's game was the first time in 10 games that they allowed fewer than three goals. And that's not even impressive because Calgary is the fourth least offensive team in the NHL.
Calgary wins its games by playing tight defensively, and the last few games have been no different. Right now, their defense is fourth in the NHL and has only allowed 2.42 goals per game.
The biggest reason that Calgary's defense has been solid is because of their goaltending. Kiprusoff is a solid veteran goalie that has made great saves over the entire season. When the defense flounders, they still have Kiprusoff to back them up.
Anderson too is a solid goalie. But he's been on a roller coaster this season. In the beginning, he was playing some great hockey and was a huge reason Colorado was at the top of the standings. However, as teams started to figure him out, they started to score more goals on him.
However, the biggest difference between the two goalies is experience. Kiprusoff is a veteran goalie who has been around the game for a while, as well as in a few situations similar to this one. By contrast, Anderson is a rookie goalie in unfamiliar territory. Personally, I'd take Kiprusoff in this situation over Anderson.
However, that's not the reason I think Calgary is going to beat Colorado.
The biggest advantage that Calgary has over Colorado is momentum. Right now, Calgary is on a three-game winning streak while Colorado has just lost their fourth straight. While Calgary has played well defensively, Colorado has struggled on both sides of the ice. Colorado has the difficult task of turning everything around at the last possible second. That will be their biggest challenge over the next few games.
But one thing's for sure. Both teams have a huge challenge ahead of them. Both Calgary and Colorado will find themselves in games against the Sharks, Blackahawks, and Canucks (the three best teams in the Western Conference). Whoever makes the playoffs will be the team that best overcomes these obstacles. As a fan, you won't want to miss these games. They have the potential to be the most entertaining games we've seen all season.
As always, feel free to leave a comment on the article and voice your thoughts. You can also see more of my thoughts and opinions at my blog, Tips for Hockey .