For the second straight playoff series, the Colorado Avalanche find themselves trailing after game one. The San Jose Sharks took an early series lead with a 5-2 win at home Friday night. Colorado jumped out to an early lead and dominated the first half of the game, but the veteran Sharks weathered the storm before taking control of the game in the latter stages of the second period.
The team has no reason to panic as they were able to reel off four straight wins after dropping the first game against the Calgary Flames. That said, the Avalanche is going to need to make some adjustments if they want to avoid heading home down 2-0 in the series.
Here are five ways the Avalanche need to improve if they want to tie the series.
1. Create better defensive matchups
Two of the three pairs for the Avalanche were dominated in game one when the teams were playing at 5v5. The third pair of Ian Cole and Cale Makar were outmatched during their even strength ice time, with the veteran ending the game with a 17.65% shot attempt ratio.
The re-united pair of Sam Girard and Erik Johnson were not good when playing at even strength. Girard was on the ice for a team-worst 24 shot attempts against. It’s his first game action in more than two weeks, so he can be excused for an adjustment period, but he’ll have to be better in game two.
Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov were by far the team’s best defenders in game one. Coach Bednar might look to switch up the matchups Sunday.
2. Third line performance
The line of J.T. Compher, Matt Nieto and Matt Calvert were eaten alive by the Sharks trio of Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and Lukas Radil. Colorado’s third line was only able to generate one shot attempt against that San Jose group and spent most of their ice time pinned in their end of the rink.
The Avs are a much more top heavy team than San Jose, but if they want to be competitive in this series, they’re going to need a much better performance from the third line.
3. Take more shots
The Avalanche won the battle on the shot clock in game one, but 28 shots simply aren’t enough - especially when you’re playing against a goalie that had one of the worst performances in the NHL this season. Martin Jones was the Achilles’ heel for San Jose this season - and early in round one. He had a sub-900 save percentage this season and has been known to let in a lot of stinkers. Getting the puck on net with more frequency could pay huge dividends.
4. Fine more ice time for Alex Kerfoot
Alex Kerfoot began the game on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. As Mikko Rantanen was worked back onto their right wing, Kerfoot found his ice time diminishing to the point. That’s something that shouldn’t happen in game two as Kerfoot led all Avalanche forwards with four individual scoring chances generated. The temptation to load up the first line will always be there, but leaving a player like Kerfoot on the ice with MacKinnon creates more depth for a team that desperately needs it.
5. Capitalize on chances
The Avalanche dominated the first half of the game from a shot attempt perspective. They scored early, but weren’t able to put San Jose away despite dominating play. Going forward in the series, the Avalanche are going to need to put more pressure on the Sharks during these dominant times. It’s easier said than done, but putting a couple past Jones when they’re dominating play will be imperative throughout the rest of the series.