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Colorado Avalanche Playoff Game Day: all in to force Game 7

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It’s going to be full throttle tonight with the Big Three.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Colorado Avalanche
Jan 15, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates with right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) and left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) after scoring a goal in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center. 
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in these playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche are facing elimination. They are doing so at home, a place they love, against a San Jose Sharks squad that has been slowly getting harder to beat as these playoffs go on. Will the Avs be able to stem the tide and force a Game 7 on the road? Tonight, we’ll find out.

The series at Pepsi Center is one game apiece, with Colorado taking Game 4 in a 3-0 win. Philipp Grubauer was fantastic in that game so the Avalanche will hope he is at that same level tonight.


Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are going to be playing tonight with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen. Sven Andrighetto will be sitting at forward while Patrik Nemeth comes in on defense. Basically . what this comes down to is that the forwards will be three lines deep while the defense has an extra man that they can throw out during special teams and in defensive situations.

With essentially on three forward lines, coach Jared Bednar is going to lean on his top line more than he ever has this season. And why shouldn’t he, he’s their best chance to win by a country mile. Looking at icetime numbers in the regular season, here are the most minutes each of the big boys have played this season.

Nathan MacKinnon, April 4th vs WPG - 26:40
Gabriel Landeskog, January 9th @ CGY - 26:31
Mikko Rantanen, January 9th @ CGY - 25:42

In the January 9th game against Calgary (where MacKinnon played 25:37), the top line combined for 25 shot attempts, 19 shots, and 21 scoring chances. The Avalanche crushed the Flames 61-39 in even-strength shot attempts and 32-20 in scoring chances. They also lost the game 5-3.

That’s not to say they’ll lose this game, too. Far from it. The Avalanche were behind by two goals 12 minutes into the game and pushed with all their might to bring the game back. We know what this team is capable of when they’re down, and they’re down right now. Let’s hope we see them at their best.

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot

Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen

Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Matt Nieto

Gabriel Bourque - Derick Brassard

Defense

Ian Cole - Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie

Samuel Girard - Cale Makar

Patrik Nemeth


San Jose Sharks

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gave a pretty good preview of Game 6 from his side, so I’ll let him take it away.

Joe Pavelski is still out so there are no changes to the Sharks’ lineup.

Forwards

Timo Meier - Logan Couture - Gustav Nyquist

Evander Kane - Tomas Hertl - Joonas Donskoi

Marcus Sorensen - Joe Thornton - Kevin Labanc

Michael Haley - Barclay Goodrow - Melker Karlsson

Defense

Brenden Dillon - Erik Karlsson

Marc-Édouard Vlasic - Brent Burns

Joakim Ryan - Justin Braun


Starting Goalies

No changes. Philipp Grubauer vs Martin Jones.

Gru put on a performance of the season in Game 4 when he stopped 32 — 29 of which were considered scoring chances — for the shutout win. Of the goalies who made it to the second round, Grubauer is tied for second in save percentage with a .932, and if getting swept by the Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t count as making the second round, he’d be tied for first. Jones has seen his save percentage slowly rise over the course of the playoffs. In the series against Vegas, Jones had a .904. In the series against Colorado, Jones has a .926.