The Colorado Avalanche walked into the Shark Tank on Friday night and played one good period, before getting out-classed by the San Jose Sharks en route to a 5-2 loss in game one of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Brent Burns led the Sharks from the back, producing a four-point night (1g, 3a) in the win.
Rookie Cale Makar showed that a lot of his potential and promise has developed into its final stages with a one-assist and two-shot night, but it wasn’t enough to help push the Avs to score more than two goals.
Tyson Barrie also had a good night from the defense, producing six individual scoring chances from nine shot attempts in over 16 minutes of 5v5 hockey, tied for the most ice time on the team with captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Philipp Grubauer stood as tall as he could in net, but the quality of chances coming his way was too much and he could only stop 22 of 26 in the loss.
Right off the bat, Cale Makar made his presence known in the series when he started the play that led to the goal with a drive through the neutral zone towards the net by himself. The play progressed in the offensive zone, and he got the puck back at the point where he threw it back towards the net. Martin Jones stopped the initial shot, but gave up a massive rebound that Gabriel Bourque buried with gusto.
The Avs nearly got another goal in the same fashion, but Jones came up big with a toe save.
Jones keeping it a one-goal game. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/RoztwYfokC— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 27, 2019
With five minutes left in the period, we got our third iteration of the same play. Brent Burns was able to get around the Avalanche wingers and step up for a shot in the high slot. Gustav Nyquist picked up the rebound, skated to his left, and shovelled the puck into the yawning cage past Philipp Grubauer.
Almost right away in response, the Mikko Rantanen appeared to score a second go-ahead goal, but he clearly kicked the puck into the net rather than off his stick and in, so the goal was disallowed.
Rantanen scores, but it looks like he knows it's going to be waved off after getting kicked in the net – and he was right. pic.twitter.com/ZZAVe9sz0c— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) April 27, 2019
After a point, the Avalanche were leading in shots 6-1, but the Sharks were able to push back and even up the shot clock leading up to their own goal. By the end of the period, the Avalanche were up 13-8 in 5v5 shots, while nearly doubling up the Sharks 24-13 in shot attempts. Scoring chances were an astonishing 19-6 in favor of Colorado as well. Frankly, it was a dominant period that the Sharks didn’t have an answer for.
The strong play continued in the second when Tyson Jost drew a tripping penalty on Dylan Gambrell. The power play got set up in the offensive zone and a point shot from Rantanen got perfectly tipped by Colin Wilson in the heart of the slot, restoring the one-goal lead for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon got the second assist on the ppg.
JT Compher drew another power play when Brenden Dillon high-sticked him in the face, drawing blood. On the ensuing four-minute power play, the Avalanche got several good chances, including from the stick of super-rookie Makar during his shift on the second power play unit. Ultimately, they were unable to score.
A few minutes after the power play expired, Erik Johnson (who left the game in the first period to deal with an injury of equipment issue of some kind) gave the puck away at the offensive blue line to Marcus Sorensen. He had Joe Thornton with him, and the two connected for Jumbo Joe’s second goal of the playoffs.
Over the next several shifts, the Avs’ control over the pace began to wane. There was a moment midway through the period when Ian Cole had to take drastic measures to bat the puck out of a trajectory towards the net, with Grubauer flailing in his crease. A couple shifts later, Kevin LaBanc carried the puck into the offensive zone, dangled through Rantanen in slick fashion before sniping on Grubauer top shelf. It was frustratingly a pretty good goal.
Ugh. The Sharks got their third goal of the period with another goal from the Thornton line. Burns whipped a shot from the half wall off the crotch of Makar such that it moved around Grubauer and into the net. Ugh. What a terrible bounce stemming from half a period of terrible hockey.
At one point, the Avalanche had a +19 shot-attempt advantage, but that gradually disappeared over the final 10 minutes of the second where the Sharks went on a 6-23 run of 5v5 shot attempts. Over the course of the period at 5v5, the were behind in shot attempts (14-23), shots on goal (8-12), and scoring chances (5-15). The second was a complete 180 reverse of the first period. To make matters worse, the Sharks earned the bounces to bring them two goals ahead rather than leaving the period tied.
The first 10 minutes of the third period were dictated by the Sharks containing the Avalanche to protect their lead. There weren’t many chances either way, with the two sides only combining for three shots through the first 10 minutes.
The next five minutes were supposed to be filled with the Avalanche beginning to apply the pressure and push the Sharks to get back in the game, but they could barely get the puck out of their own zone. Grubauer had to make a couple diving saves to keep the game in hand, while his skaters were flailing around the defensive zone trying to get themselves organized.
With two and a half minutes left, the Avs were finally able to get the puck in the offensive zone and pull Grubauer. They nearly got a goal when Rantanen dangled around Erik Karlsson before taking a shot from a tough angle, but he couldn’t get the puck in the net. Up until that point, Cale Makar was the best player on the ice, doing everything with his puck protection to give the Avalanche the most chances near Jones. Honestly, he is so impressive.
And with 28 seconds left, the Sharks broke up a play in the neutral zone and quickly deposited the puck in the empty net. Sharks win.
- The Avalanche got out to a great start, but there was no push-back when the Sharks came at them with their own energy. Mistakes piled upon each other and eventually the battle of attrition left the Avalanche without any momentum. They tried to start something in the dying minutes of the game, but there wasn’t much heart or effectiveness in their play. The only person who stood out in this time was Makar. The kid has unrelenting energy.
- Tyson Barrie had a quietly great game. I didn’t notice him too often, but when I checked the box score, he somehow came out of it with nine individual shot attempts, six scoring chances, and three shots. He played the most minutes of all the Avs at 5v5 and came out with a 63% shot attempt differential by the end of the night.
- Barrie’s strong play will be pretty important moving forward if Erik Johnson keeps playing the way he did in this game. One massive giveaway to put the Avs down followed up with a total performance that was below par in shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and goals. At the very least, he needs to play break-even against the Sharks’ best units (namely, any forward line in the offensive zone with Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson) if the Avs have any shot at winning the rest of the war.