If you had told Colorado Avalanche fans in February that the team would have one game in San Jose to advance to the Western Conference Final they wouldn’t have believed you. They were the worst team in the league for a large stretch of the season and now they are one win away from the final four. Win or lose, this is been an incredible run for a young team that has the potential to grow into a powerhouse over the next few years.
For now they’re getting ready for game seven after fighting back to beat the Sharks in overtime Monday night.
You could tell from his interview after game six that Gabriel Landeskog is having a lot of fun. No one expected them to be here and it’s allowing the Avalanche players to stay loose and enjoy the ride. Tonight, the Avs are playing with house money tonight - it’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun.
The key will be for the Avalanche to jump out to an early lead and maintain pressure on the Sharks. As much fun as it would be to see Joe Thornton finally win a Stanley Cup, it’d be a lot sweeter for his playoff run to end tonight.
The last time the Avs were in this position was April 30, 2015 when they lost 5-4 to the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs. Like last night’s Blues/Stars game, that one went to overtime - something that isn’t good on anyone’s heart.
The last game seven win for the Avalanche was all the way back in 2002. That was a 1-0 victory in the conference semifinals against the....Sharks.
The Avalanche/Nordiques franchise is 6-7 all time in game sevens - tonight would be a good time to tie up that record.
This will be San Jose’s second game seven in as many playoff rounds.
Coach Jared Bednar wouldn’t tip his hand but it’s likely we are set to see the same lineup he iced in game six. Dressing seven forwards allowed the coaches the flexibility to shelter the pairing of Cale Makar and Samuel Girard. The two have been great together and a large reason for that is that they are seeing favorable matchups and a lot of offensive zone starts. Rolling seven defenders has been very successful for the Avs at times this season and it should help them avoid tough matchups on the road tonight.
Playing with 11 forwards worked out well as Bednar likes to throw Nathan MacKinnon out with the fourth line wingers anyway. That said, if Matt Calvert tells the coaches he can play, he’ll be in the lineup tonight.
Nathan MacKinnon played a team-high 26:32 in game six. He has elevated his play in these playoffs to a level we haven’t seen before. Even when he doesn’t have his best game he’s still the team’s most dangerous player. If the Avs are to win tonight, MacKinnon is going to be on the score sheet.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Matt Nieto
Gabriel Bourque - Derick Brassard
**Matt Calvert? Maybe? Please?
Ian Cole - Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Cale Makar
How the Avalanche win the game
Despite winning game six, it was pretty ugly at times. The Avs were badly outplayed from the midpoint of the second period until the end of regulation.
If they want to be successful in game seven, the Avalanche aren’t going to be able to just sit back on their leads the way they did Monday night. The team is most successful when they push the pace and put pressure on their opponents. San Jose is an older team that has had a much tougher road so far in these playoffs. When the Avs are pushing the tempo, the Sharks simply can’t keep up.
Move the puck, stretch the ice and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That and give MacKinnon, Landeskog, Rantanen and Tyson Barrie 30 minutes of ice time.
“It’s game seven, anything can happen” - the Avalanche captain told the Pepsi Center crowd after the overtime win Monday. He’s right. There’s nothing more fun - and more stressful - than a game seven.
***Don’t forget the game starts an hour earlier than the rest of the series (6pm in San Jose, 7 in Denver) so don’t miss the first period.