As the Colorado Avalanche move on to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 20 years, the degree of difficulty will only increase. There are a few key lessons and takeaways from the prior series that hopefully carry over in their match with the Edmonton Oilers.
Match star power
A lot of focus on this upcoming series in the media and on the ice will be about keeping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in check. The Avalanche did a fair job of that in the regular season holding both Oilers forwards off the scoreboard in their three meetings but each has heated up and now leads playoff scoring by a large margin with 26 points each. More importantly, Colorado needs to get their own stars going. Mikko Rantanen has yet to score on a goaltender and Cale Makar didn’t find the back of the net against St. Louis so this series would be a good time to make an impact.
Keep the play at 5-on-5
While the overall scoring was fairly even in the Blues series the Avalanche held the advantage at controlling 5v5 play with 61% Corsi For and 60% of expected goals. The longer the play remains at even strength is an advantage for the Avalanche. In that same vein, the power play only converted three times for the Avalanche in the series while also holding the Blues to four after an adjustment. The Oilers present a new challenge with the firepower they possess and are converting at 28.2% this postseason. In the regular season, Colorado held them off the board with no special teams goals scored, and hopefully, the strategies employed there will carry over.
Series Recap Thread: #GoAvsGo defeat #stlblues— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 28, 2022
This series took some weird twists and turns at 5v5 but the Avs finally got the outcome they pretty much earned - even if it wasn't always pretty. pic.twitter.com/pzXGn5qbnv
Bring back the home-ice advantage
While the Avalanche has a very impressive 5-0 record on the road in these playoffs they have now dropped their last two contests at home for a 3-2 record overall. The squad had not lost consecutive games at home all season and will need to find that type of dominance again to hold on to their earned home-ice advantage for finishing as the top seed in the Western Conference and the highest remaining seed overall.
Finding a way to get Alex Newhook back in the lineup without suffering an injury to the forward core should be a priority to maximize the depth that the Avalanche possesses. This should not come at the expense of Andre Burakovsky as his game-changing ability is also needed. Newhook had an impactful two games in the St. Louis series registering an assist on Erik Johnson’s goal in Game 4 and in his limited minutes managed some eye-popping analytics including a 71% Corsi For and 87% expected goals. Other capable players such as Nico Sturm and Ryan Murray have sat on the sidelines as well and their insertion at certain times could provide a boost as well.
Remember your identity
The Avalanche did a great job staying focused and away from needless retaliation and unnecessary physicality thus far but the emotion and intensity will only increase from here. When they stick to their game, push the play and maintain an attack mentality the Avalanche are a very difficult team to contain for an entire game. This team was built to consistently apply pressure with their speed and passing ability which should be an advantage against any opponent. Keep it up and they could be in a great position to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup.