The Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken are preparing for game one of their first-round matchup at Ball Arena in Denver, CO, and Mile High Hockey has your playoff preview essentials covered!
Netminding always plays a vital role in the playoffs. It could prove the integral factor of control in this highly anticipated series. Can Alexandar Georgiev prove that he's not just a reliable regular-season starter? Will Colorado's former netminder experience a revival? Will the Avalanche see Martin Jones at all? Let's get into it.
Philipp Grubauer hasn't returned to his Vezina Finalist caliber since inking his deal to be the Seattle Kraken's first-ever goalie. In his last season as an Avalanche, he posted a 1.95 GAA in 39 starts and an SV% of .922. This season, he has a 2.85 GAA and a .895 SV%, winning 17 of 39 games. These regular season statistics might not be all that telling at the end of the day unless Gruabuer's performance, or lack thereof, emulates these numbers. He, of all netminders, knows how offensively explosive and efficient this Avalanche team can be.
Grubauer/Seattle leads the league among netminders with 39 or more starts in expected goals against. That indicates a systematic approach to insulating a slightly lesser goaltending tandem. If Grubauer is to step up in the playoffs, perhaps it will be due to the Kraken putting an emphasis on limiting Colorado's shots on goal.
Some might argue that had Grubauer given just a little more in 2021, the Avalanche might have gotten past the Vegas Golden Knights. Many think his worst game in the biggest of the playoffs was that night. Some might say that the past is all we have to predict future outcomes. That said, it's natural for Avalanche fans to question Grubauer's reliability in the heat of postseason hockey.
It's always nerve-racking to face a former Avalanche player in the postseason, especially when it comes to goalies. Grubauer is a solid keeper with great potential, but it hasn't been realized in Seattle. I hope the matchup doesn't bring the best out of him.
The Seattle Kraken may decide not to go with Phillip Grubauer inside this series and instead give veteran Martin Jones the honors. Jones has played on four different NHL teams since 2013. He has 42 starts and three shutouts while posting a .887 SV% and a GAA of 2.99 this season with the Kraken. Those numbers aren't all that intimidating, but there are some deeper analytics that point toward some positive attributes for Martin. For instance, he allows the third fewest rebounds per save. Combine that with Seattle's shot-limiting tendencies, and you have the goalie tandem that has faced most occasional shots of any other with 35+ starts.
When teams can get shots off, Jones begins to show some weakness. Only Jonathan Quick has a lower save percentage than Jones in terms of shots on goal. Netminding could make or break the Seattle Kraken against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Conversely, Avalanche might be sporting the best goalie tandem they've had in the last five postseasons.
ADVANTAGE ALEXANDAR & FRANKIE
The Avalanche have a clear advantage with Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz in the net. This will be Georgeiv's playoff coming-out party if all goes to plan. He has just two playoff appearances and one playoff start but has proven to be better than anyone could have expected this regular season. To say he has come on late in the year would be an understatement. He is top ten in saves above expected and on shots on goal, and he is the new owner of the road win record in a single season for Colorado. Let's not forget that the Avalanche clinched each round on the road in last years iconic and glorious cup run.
Georgiev is good on the road. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/U9Jcj4MVOD— AltitudeTV (@AltitudeTV) April 7, 2023
It feels like. For the first time in a long time, the Avalanche will bring one of the league's best netminders into the playoffs. Not since Semyon Varlamov has there been as much potential for an Avalanche goalie to steal a game. I predict this postseason will be all about how defensively efficient the Avalanche are. That bodes well for Georgiev, who has proven he can get the necessary saves in crunch time.
Alexandar Georgiev’s game-saving play: pic.twitter.com/aY7wH9K47K— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) January 25, 2023
We all know Pavel Francouz has what it takes to step in and deliver as a backup tender. He acknowledged the crowd as they chanted "Frankie, Frankie" during his shutout performance against the Edmonton Oilers last season. He was all the Avs needed in more when Darcy Keumper couldn't go. That sort of thing gives the starter and coaching staff peace of mind. Let's hope he's fully healthy and good to go.
Let us know what you think of this goalie matchup in the comments, and don’t forget to tune into our Mile High Hockey Lab broadcast today at 3:30MT for more playoff preview content!