Today, the Colorado Avalanche will be facing the Arizona Coyotes in game five of seven of the Stanley Cup Playoffs opening round. The Avalanche look to eliminate the Coyotes after putting on a clinic in game four. The Coyotes were only able to amass fifteen shots on goal and gave up a whopping 7 goals to the ever-dangerous Avs.
Colorado responded well after losing 4-2 to the Yotes in game three. In that contest, the Avalanche seemed to miss numerous opportunities, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper made forty-nine saves. The Avalanche couldn’t solve Kuemper, but that narrative officially met its conclusion in game four.
What’s left to say after the Avalanche’s dominant win in game four? I’m sure you Avalanche fans have heard the hockey world take notice of just how deep Colorado has become thanks to the handy work of GM Joe Sakic. Oppositions don’t get a break when playing this Colorado Avalanche team, because all four lines have tremendous speed with and without the puck.
Today’s matchup will be the first test for the Avalanche in an elimination game since last postseason. If Colorado is serious about making a run at the cup, they need to make a habit of getting that fourth win in short order. If a team like Arizona can sneak back into this series, the Avalanche could pay the price. All it takes is a seed of doubt when your opposition has a world-class keeper.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Joonas Donskoi - Nazem Kadri - Valeri Nichushkin
Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky
Matt Nieto - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Matt Calvert
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov
Arizona’s head coach Rick Tocchet undoubtedly had a lot to say after the embarrassing showing from the Coyotes in game four. I mentioned that Arizona looked like they were playing not to lose. At some point, they are going to have to take some chances to produce scoring opportunities.
One of the more intriguing matchups of this series has been between Coyotes forward Taylor Hall and Avalanche defender Erik Johnson. Taylor Hall has the skill and speed to ignite an offensive explosion, but Johnson has been able to check that speed and force Hall to the perimeter. If the Yotes want to make a comeback in this series, they will need a good showing from Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel. Both players were acquired to perform in these exact situations.
Arizona’s X-factor throughout the series has been goaltender Darcy Kuemper. I had to do the math twice, but Darcy Kuemper has allowed a mere twelve goals on 141 shots in four games. He’s stopped an average of 32.5 shots a game. These numbers are bound to be inflated based on the way Arizona plays, but they are still remarkable, and Kuemper has been Arizona’s best player.
Taylor Hall - Derek Stepan - Clayton Keller
Conor Garland - Christian Dvorak - Phil Kessel
Lawson Crouse - Carl Soderberg - Christian Fischer
Michael Grabner - Brad Richardson - Vinnie Hinostroza
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Jason Demers/
Alex Goligoski - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Jakob Chychrun - Jordan Oesterle
Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer has been on his game despite facing a limited amount of shots. Grubauer has only allowed three goals in three games, has a shutout, and has made some timely and impressive saves. He will get the start in game five and will look to send the Yotes packing.
I have already mentioned how good Darcy Kuemper has been throughout this series. The Arizona Coyotes desperately need him to have another incredible game this afternoon; if not, they will be checking out of the playoff bubble.