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Questionable decisions cost Avalanche Game 3 against Couture, Sharks

Mistakes on the ice and behind the bench put Colorado behind in second-round series against San Jose.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche
Apr 30, 2019; Denver, CO, USA;San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche in game three of the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Pepsi Center.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A lot didn’t go right for the Colorado Avalanche in their 4-2 loss at home to the San Jose Sharks, They started their first second-round home game in nine years flat, allowing the Sharks to dictate the play, and couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot while trying to climb out of the hole they dug. Mistakes were made, penalties were taken, and coaching flaws were exposed. More on that later, first a recap of the game.

First Period

For the first 12 minutes of the game, the Avalanche were in the box for four of them. Birst, Matt Nieto for holding, and second Ian Cole for interference. In that time, the Avalanche allowed the Sharks to quiet the crowd at Pepsi Center and run the game at the pace they wanted to play. The used a string of good shifts on top of each other to open the scoring with two tough blows at the end of the period. Without Philipp Grubauer, it would’ve been worse.


To be brutally honest, Cale Makar in his sixth NHL game got beat here by one of the better centers in the league.


The Sharks got another one when Erik Johnson tried a stretch pass to one of the forwards on the top line, but Timo Meier stole it. From there, he simply walked in on Grubauer and sniped bar down on him.

After One

It was a very disappointing period for the Avalanche beyond just giving up the two goals. The Sharks had more shot attempts (11-16), shots (7-11), and scoring chances (6-8) in the first period. The one redeeming factor to take from the period was that at least the penalty kill was two for two and the scoring chance differential wasn’t too bad.

Second Period

At some point in the second, the Gabe-Mac-Rantanen line was reunited, but by then, the Avalanche were getting more than doubled in shots against. Midway through the period, the team was given a power play when Brenden Dillon was called for interference. The Avalanche had a great power play, doing everything but score, with Landeskog and Rantanen having three, maybe four, chances to bury it.


The power play was for naught, but three minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon created the luck the team desperately deserved. The team had just completed a penalty kill with Alexander Kerfoot in the box for running interference while on the power play. Cole cut off a stretch pass in the neutral zone and relayed the puck straight to MacKinnon as he headed to the bench. Mac then walked into the offensive zone and, you know, scored.

After Two

It was a better period for the Avalanche, especially if you ignore the first little bit of the period where they let the Sharks run roughhouse on them in the defensive zone. From the shot chart, it appears that they gave up 11 shot attempts in one shift about a minute into the second. That’s pretty bad, but taking it into context of the period, the summed results don’t look as bad. Shot attempts (14-21), shots (7-12), scoring chances (9-8). Once again, the scoring chances are pretty close. They were in this game all the way through.

Third Period


Matt Nieto had to play a lot on the penalty kill in this game, and all those extra minutes took him out of the even-strength game as he and the other penalty killers were forced to miss shifts in order to rest. They ended up going four for four on the kill for the night and Nieto was rewarded for such a good effort with a lucky deflection in front of the net off a shot from Sam Girard. Cale Makar got the secondary assist on the d-to-d pass.


Almost exactly a minute later, Nikita Zadorov caught himself up in all the hype and forgot to take care of the puck behind the net. He underskated his first touch because he was too weak against the oncoming forecheck, and forced Barrie to try and make an impossible play with the Sharks bearing down on him. To make matters more embarrassing, Zadorov “made up” for his mistake by running into Gustav Nyquist at the blueline while the puck was down low. Couture got the puck from there and beat Grubauer short side on a shot you can’t blame the goalie on. The mistake happened before the shot.

With the clock winding down, Avs fans thought their team tied the game with less than five minutes left in regulation when Makar’s point shot got through the maze of bodies in front, but it hit the post and bounced out. The team was then gifted a power play with three minutes left in the game when Couture got called for tripping. With three minutes to go, and the team down by one goal, coach Bednar decided against having the extra body on the ice to try and score a goal and instead waited for the power play to fail to achieve proper zone time and get a shot off.


He pulled Grubauer with about a minute left in the game, and the Sharks immediately got two chances at the empty net. The first was by Kane, who missed the empty net from inside the Avs’ blueline. The second was by Couture, who buried the puck in for his first career playoff hat trick.


  • First, the coaching decisions. If MacKinnon with Rantanen and Landeskog works, why didn’t coach Bednar and the staff play them together to start the game? They were going to get there eventually, what was the wait? They’ve done this a lot this season and it made sense when the team was experimenting during the season, but it’s made no sense to do so in the series.
  • Second, I understand that Nikita Zadorov has to play a high-minute game in order to create a sheltered third pair with the two youngest defensemen, and that this effect gets exacerbated when Johnson and Cole get taxed with having to kill four penalties, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. We don’t have anyone better right now, which means that Zadorov will need to do his best to stay break-even when he’s on the ice long enough to allow the more skilled players to create offense and win the war. In this game, he was a -4 in shot attempts, and -3 in shots, he was the principle person responsible for the second Couture goal, and was on the ice for two goals against. The simple solution would be to take fewer penalties so Johnson and Cole can take on some more of that responsibility, but apparently that’s easier said than done with this group.
  • Fourth, overall is the position we took Makar and it was an amazing decision. He looks so good. His reflexes at the offensive blueline to move the puck to clear shooting lanes is a thing of beauty.
  • Finally, the staff should’ve found more ice for Tyson Jost. He was looking really good (four shot attempts, two shots, two scoring chances) and I think he would’ve been able to handle the increase in competition if given the chance. Playing him eight minutes is simply not enough in a game where you’re trailing for most of it.