The Colorado Avalanche are 2-0-0 and at the top of the Western Conference Round Robin seeding tournament after beating the Dallas Stars 4-0 on Wednesday afternoon. Cale Makar, Joonas Donskoi, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Andre Burakovsky all scored for the Avalanche, while Pavel Francouz was perfect on 27 shots for the shutout.
The Avs got a lot of production from their depth, with every line behind Nathan MacKinnon beating their competition and providing some goals for their team. MacKinnon led the way offensively, with six shots on goal and an assist. Burakovsky, Donskoi, and Samuel Girard all led the way in points with two each.
Before the game, there were a few lineup changes on both sides. For the Avs, Pavel Francouz got the start — Coach Bednar planned to split the four pre-playoffs games in order to make a decision on a starter. For the Stars, both goaltender Ben Bishop and defenseman John Klingberg were deemed unfit to play. Jake Oettinger dressed as the backup for Anton Khudobin, and rookie Thomas Harley started in the top-six.
Where’s Makar? On an early power play, the Avalanche were moving the puck in a triangle at the top of the zone between Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Cale Makar, each trying to set the other up for a one-timer. What finally worked was a passing play from MacKinnon that went off Nazem Kadri in the middle to Landeskog, who quickly set-up Makar for a knuckling blast that beat everyone.
Former Av Blake Comeau had a great chance in the middle of the period when he came bursting through the middle and got his stick stuck in the midsection of Francouz in his follow-through. Luckily everyone was okay and Comeau clearly wasn’t trying to spear anyone.
The second power play unit got a goal as well at the tail end of the Avs’ second man advantage. Right off a faceoff with four seconds left in the PP, Andre Burakovsky handed the puck back to Sam Girard for a one-timer from the point. Joonas Donskoi got his stick on the rebound and scored exactly one second after the power play expired.
It was special teams superiority for the Avalanche in the first. Essentially scoring on both their attempts from point shots with the extra man on the ice. The Stars got a power play late off a penalty from Girard and got three chances in the second minute, but couldn’t find the back of the net. By the numbers, the Avs were behind at 5v5, down in shot attempts (15-17), but even in shots (11-11), and scoring chances (10-7). Overall, good signs off the start.
Both teams gave each other scares in the second period. Each team got chances in front of the net off dangerous rebounds, but positively for the Avs, no goals for the majority of the period. The game had some really good pace few whistles that was really fun to watch.
The Avalanche extended their lead near the end of the period with a goal from Valeri Nichushkin. Mikko Rantanen and Nichushkin were able to steal the puck from Anton Lundell at the Stars blue line and MacKinnon pounced on the puck. Nichushkin went back door and tapped home a rebound after Khudobin couldn’t get a handle on the low shot.
This image is a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen the last two Harry Potter movies.
The second half of the middle frame was completely in the Avs favor. They torched the Stars in shot attempts (24-12), shots (13-7), and scoring chances (11-5). The Avs were able to weather a few storms in the period, but once they did they were back on their game and dominating.
The Avs officially got their second power play goal off the stick of Burakovsky. In fact, it was the exact same three players who connected on this goal as who was on the first one. This time, instead of a rebound in front of the net, it was Burakovsky whipping a wrister from the top of the zone that pinged off the post and settled in the net behind Khudobin. Girard got the first assist and Donskoi got the second.
- The Avs were pretty dominant in this game. Every player on the team got a shot attempt at 5v5, with MacKinnon leading the way with eight shot attempts and only Burakovsky, Ian Cole, and Ryan Graves were at the lowest end with one attempt each at 5v5.
- While the MacKinnon line was about even in shot share on the night (52%), the rest of the lineup absolutely blew it out of the water. The third line of Burakovsky, Donskoi, and JT Compher were 65% in nine minutes The second line with Landeskog, Nichushkin, and Nazem Kadri also had a huge night with 73% of the shots in their 11 minutes. Even the fourth line was 62% in their high defensive zone starts.
- Cale Makar played the most on the night with almost 22 minutes, but everyone else was below that marker and above 10 minutes. Coach Bednar was able to roll four lines relatively easily and kept everyone fresh. I love lineup depth.
- Rookie Thomas Harley made his NHL debut in the game, but only played very limited minutes. He got three minutes in the first period, four in the second, and almost four in the third for a total of 10:58 on the night. This game was a lot to ask for the 19-year-old who Stars fans hope will be a key part of their defense in the years to come, he wasn’t up to the pace and made some giveaways, but there’s still a bright future for him.