When the Colorado Avalanche finished off the Calgary Flames in game five Friday night, we knew the team would have some time to rest and regroup. Now we know that the Avalanche are going to get the maximum time off before starting their second round series.
Last night the San Jose Sharks forced a game seven in their opening round series as they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 in double overtime. The Sharks have fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the series and now have a chance to finish off the defending Western Conference champions at home.
With game seven set for Tuesday, the earliest the Avs can start their second round series is Thursday night.
Colorado wasn’t expected to make it this far so in essence they’re playing with house money. It doesn’t matter who they play in the second round, they will be viewed as the underdog - a role the team and fans seem very comfortable with.
If the Avalanche could select their opposition, they’d likely go with Vegas. Colorado went 2-1 against the Golden Knights this season while they lost all three matchups with San Jose, though there would be pros and cons to each. They know they can beat Vegas, but Mark Stone has been the best player in the playoffs so far and you never want to get caught facing off against a hot superstar - just ask the Flames.
On the flip side, San Jose is a team that bet the Avs in each of their last four matchups. That said, Martin Jones is a huge wild card. He spent the season - and the first five games of the series with Vegas - as one of the worst goalies in the NHL. He has been the Achilles heel for San Jose all season, that said he’s the only reason the Sharks are even playing game seven. Sunday night, Jones played what was undoubtedly the best game of his NHL career. He made 58 saves over four and a half periods before the Sharks were able to score a lucky shorthanded goal for the win.
If Jones can gain confidence it could be dangerous for anyone who comes up against San Jose. They have one of the most talented rosters in the league and if they can get league-average goaltending, they’re likely the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
Regardless of the opponent, the Avalanche will start the series on the road. That shouldn’t be a problem for a team that went 2-1 on the road in the first series and didn’t look at all intimidated by the road opposing crowd noise. While they were a lot better at home, the Avalanche put up a respectable 17-16-8 record away from the Pepsi Center in the regular season.
The league has hinted that the winner of Tuesday’s game seven will start the second round at home Friday night. That means the Avalanche will have had a full week of rest and practice to prepare. Hopefully the time off gives Samuel Girard enough time to recover and get back int he lineup. As well as the team has played without him, Girard was on the team’s top pair all season and the Avalanche lineup is better when he is there.
If he’s ready to go, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Coach Bednar dress 11 forwards and seven defenders. It’s something they did at times during the regular season and would make a lot of sense now that Cale Makar is around. The fourth line of Tyson Jost, Sven Andrighetto and Gabriel Bourque are averaging around seven minutes of ice time each so far in the post season. With the way Bednar double-shifts Nathan MacKinnon it would be easy enough to replace Bourque or Andrighetto with Girard. The team wouldn’t lose much up front and it would give the coaches more options as they try to match their defenders in different situations.
The Avalanche aren’t close to being one of the deepest teams in the playoffs. They rely heavily on big minutes from their top players. With the way Bednar has been playing his MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Ian Cole and Erik Johnson, the extra few days can do nothing but help.
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter who wins game seven. The Avalanche were written off by most - including many in their own fan base - back in January. They’re now the hottest team in the NHL and have a week to re-energize before they go back to proving the doubters wrong.
Who would you rather the Avs face in the second round?
This poll is closed
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Knights