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Game Two Preview: Avalanche forced themselves into a must-win scenario

Colorado can’t afford to go back to Seattle down 2-0.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Seattle Kraken at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

To say Game 1 was a disappointment for the Avalanche is an understatement. The bottom three lines got completely dominated by the Seattle Kraken, and the Avs find themselves in a unique situation being behind in a first-round series for the first time in over five years. Colorado has to play tonight with some desperation to match Seattle’s passion, otherwise, they will head back to the Pacific Northwest in as deep of a playoff hole as this group of players has ever been in.

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado has to play with more fire than they did in Game 1. They didn’t really start playing their aggressive forechecking brand of hockey until late in the second period, and at that point, they were chasing the game and their improved effort fell short. The main culprit behind the loss was a lack of execution according to Jared Bednar, as the idea that the Avalanche didn’t play hard is bunk, but the shot chart from Game 1 provides compelling evidence that they did not play as hard as Seattle did.

All that said, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic going into Game 2. As Jared Bednar said, the Avs played far from their best game, gifted Seattle two goals, hit two posts, and lost by two. With a little more luck, like Alexandar Georgiev’s great save off Devon Toews’ brutal giveaway not bouncing right back onto a Kraken stick to gift Seattle their first goal, or Nathan Mackinnon and Bowen Byram’s shots hitting the right side of the post instead of the wrong one, the Avs would have snuck out a victory in Game 1. The Kraken needs a lot of things to go right to win this series, and Game 1 was a perfect example of it.

Projected Lineup

Evan Rodrigues — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin — J.T. Compher — Artturi Lehkonen
Alex Newhook — Lars Eller — Denis Malgin
Matt Nieto — Ben Meyers — Logan O’Connor

Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Bo Byram
Josh Manson — Erik Johnson

Note: Jack Johnson was the announced starter for Game 1, but he hurt himself in warmups and was scratched in favor of Erik Johnson. Darren Helm has been practicing and Jared Bednar has said he may play in this series but because it’s the playoffs, your guess is as good as anyone’s outside the Colorado locker room as to when he’ll return from injury. These above were the expected lines coming into the series, but Jared Bednar hinted that he may change the lines around, so don’t be surprised to see Artturi Lehkonen or Val Nichushkin back on the top line and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines jumbled around after getting dominated in Game 1.

Seattle Kraken

Talk about a dream start for your first playoff game. Seattle was handed a goal by Devon Toews right from the jump, and that allowed them to play their free-flowing style of hockey that has frustrated so many opponents this year. Seattle has a deep core of forwards, and they put on display the chief concern amongst Avs fans coming into this series, which is that the Kraken’s depth forwards are superior to Colorado’s depth forwards. If Game 1 is how this series is going to go, Colorado will need their superstars to win this series for them.

Seattle also got a virtuoso performance from former Av Phillip Grubauer in Game 1, as he was the highest-rated player in the entire game by Hockey Stat Cards.

If this is the Grubauer we can expect in this series, the Avs have a really tough matchup on their hands, and this series is very likely going at least six games. The analytics heavily favored Colorado largely thanks to their advantage in net and in having multiple superstars to Seattle’s zero, but if Grubauer can play Georgiev to a draw or better in goal, that changes the entire dynamic of this series. This is the main thing to watch going forward because if the regular season version of Grubauer shows up going forward, Avalanche fans will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Projected Lineup

Jared McCann — Yanni Gourde — Jordan Eberle
Jaden Schwartz — Alexander Wennberg — Morgan Geekie
Eeli Tolvanen — Matthew Beniers — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Jesper Froden — Ryan Donato — Brandon Tanev

Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak — William Borgen
Carson Soucy — Justin Schultz


It’s the playoffs so unless something catastrophic happens (or you’re the indecisive Minnesota Wild), the starters are going to start. Alexandar Georgiev was very good in Game 1, as Jared Bednar said all three Kraken goals were “earned” and Georgiev couldn’t do much about them. Georgiev is at the bottom of the list of concerns after Game 1, as he gave Colorado a chance to win while they were still finding their way into the game.

Philipp Grubauer is the story of the series so far, as he played phenomenally in his playoff return to Denver. The “will Martin Jones play” talk has quieted down for now, and after being the best player on the ice in Game 1, it’s hard to see how Grubauer won’t play the entirety of this series for the Kraken, even if he does regress to his underwhelming regular season performance, given how he was still better than Martin Jones.