After a rather commanding 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the NHL Playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche will look to build on their effort in order to grab a quick 2-0 lead in the series.
The Avalanche were able to completely dominate the first game of the series and had it not been due to some incredible goaltending by Jordan Binnington, the final score would have been a lot more lopsided.
With that said, here are five ways the Avalanche can build on the win in order to turn this first round into a very quick series:
1. Dictate the way the game is played
For the first ten minutes of play Monday night, the Avalanche didn’t look like themselves. The team looked disjointed and almost as though they were trying to find chemistry after a long layoff. It took them a while to find their first shot on net and it was easy for the most pessimistic fans to quickly get worried about how the series was about to play out.
That changes once the Avs found their groove and settled into their own style of game. From the midway point of the first period, you could see the Avalanche shift the style of play to one they’re used to and everything fell into place. The final 50 minutes of the game was as lopsided as you’ll see a playoff game and that was due to the Avs dictating the pace and style of play. If they are able to do that again early in Game 2, the Blues will once again have no answer.
2. Continued dominance from the first line
The trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog spent Game 1 reminding the hockey world that they are the best line in hockey. The three star forwards combined for eight points and 16 shots on net while completely dominating their matchup with the Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn line.
They did the heavy lifting on offense in Game 1 and if coach Bednar is able to keep using the home ice last change to his advantage, that should continue Wednesday night.
3. Find a way to get some secondary scoring
While all four forward groups were great in Game 1, the only one to find the back of the net was the top line. Despite having an absurdly high shot share of nearly 80% (the best of the game), the line of Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi weren’t able to get anything past Binnington. If the middle-6 are able to get a couple past the St. Louis netminder, it will go a long way to alleviate the pressure on the top guys. The positive sign is that if they keep playing the way they did in Game 1, the goals will come.
4. Cut down on unforced errors
There are three plays that stand out from Game 1 - the Ryan Graves giveaway (that he made up for in a big way by making a tremendous save on Mike Hoffman), the Kadri giveaway that turned into the lone goal for St. Louis, and a goal-mouth chance where Rantanen missed a completely wide open from no more than two feet out. Ultimately, none of those three plays turned out to be costly but in a tightly contested playoff series, unforced errors like that have the potential to make a big difference.
Though it’s hard to find much to improve for Game 2, cutting down on those kinds of unforced errors is one of thing the Avs can work on.
5. Don’t get suckered into the nonsense
As Game 1 went on and it became obvious that Colorado would be leaving with a dominant victory, the Blues transitioned into a team that was trying to get under the skin of their opponents. Things got a lot more chippy and escalated towards a final scene of a complete line scrum at the end of the game - complete with Jordan Binnington making a fool of himself before leaving the ice.
This was nothing more than a transparent attempt by St. Louis to throw a superior team off their game. It’s a tactic that can work as a palyoff series goes on but something that the Avalanche need to avoid. Stand up for yourself and your teammates but more than anything, walk away. Let guys like Schenn and Binnington act like idiots and don’t get suckered into the trap. Stay focused and keep to the game plan and those Blues players will be off to the golf course in quick order.