It feels like deja vu. The Colorado find themselves down 1-0 in their best of seven playoff series against a team that many think should beat them handily. The last time they were in this position, Colorado strung together four straight wins to shock the hockey world. Why not do it a second time?
The first step to repeating the upset is pulling the series even in game two this evening in San Jose.
The Avalanche started things off well Friday night as they put on a lot of pressure through the first half of the game. Unfortunately, San Jose was able to hold down the fort long enough to rattle off four straight goals in the second period leading to a 5-2 victory. The Avalanche didn’t play particularly poorly, but they didn’t look like the team that dominated Calgary in the first round.
The lack of depth became evident in game one as it was Tomas Hertl’s line that dominated the Avs’ middle-6 all night. Coach Bednar is going to need to find different matchups tonight if the team wants to avoid heading back to the Pepsi Center down 2-0 in the series.
Don’t forget puck drop is at 5:30 mt.
The Avalanche had two of their four defense pairs exposed in game one. Sam Girard and Erik Johnson couldn’t handle the top matchup. The scoring chances were lopsided in favor of San Jose whenever Girard was on the ice. Hopefully it’s just a matter of him working his way back from injury.
The coaching staff is clearly concerned about the way the defense played Friday night. During the off-day practice we saw Girard moved down to the third pair with Cale Makar while Ian Cole was moved up to line up with Erik Johnson Coach Bednar mentioned afterwards that it was largely experimental - to see how Makar and Girard look together - but we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Ian Cole take up some of Girard’s ice time tonight.
Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie were left alone at practice - which makes sense since they were the only pair that played well in game one.
Coach Bednar also mentioned that there is a possibility that they dress seven defenders for the game tonight. That move would make a lot of sense as it would allow him to isolate the youngsters and find more favorable matchups.
Aside from the potential of a fourth line scratch, the forward lines are expected to be the same tonight - at least to start the game. The middle-6 are going to have to be a heck of a lot better than they were in game one.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Calvert - J.T. Compher - Matt Nieto
Gabriel Bourque - Tyson Jost - Derick Brassard
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Ian Cole - Cale Makar
Joe Pavelski, Michael Haley and Joonas Donskoi all missed game one and are still listed as questionable and are unlikely to play again tonight.
Thanks to the injuries, Gustav Nyquist was moved up onto a line with Timo Meier and Logan Couture. Nyquist has left Sharks fans underwhelmed since he was acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline. He was probably the best player for San Jose in game one and made the kind of impact a good team needs when their top players go down with injury.
The effort gained praise from head coach Peter DeBoer after game one. “We’ve been waiting for that type of impact. The effort’s been there, but we haven’t had the impact on the game like we got last night, which is something he needs to build on and bring some more of.”
The ability to move Nyquist up from the bottom-6 shows the kind of depth the Sharks have. It was the depth that ultimately led to the win Friday night. The Sharks iced a line of Hertl, Evander Kane and Lukas Radil that ate the Avs’ third line alive. The San Jose trio was dominant at even strength. Being at home, DeBoer will have the opportunity to seek out the same matchup in game two - something that could pose to be a major issue for Colorado.
It’s going to be Martin Jones against Philipp Grubauer again tonight.
Grubauer wasn’t bad in game one, but he didn’t play to the level we have become accustomed to seeing over the last two months. We know he has the potential to hold the team in the game so let’s hope we see that tonight.
Martin Jones is nearly the exact opposite. He was terrible this season but has looked pretty good over his last few playoff games. That said, if the Avs get back to generating scoring chances at the rate they usually do, it’s only a matter of time before Jones breaks and the puck starts going in the net.