Avalanche coach sounds the alarm after Game 3’s first playoff loss
The Colorado Avalanche has lost once in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games and holds a 2-1 Stanley Cup second round lead. At first glance, this hardly seems like an emergency.
But the way they played the last two games, the way they spat the last one, the way coach Jared Bednar spoke afterwards, it suddenly feels like they’re in trouble against the Golden. Vegas Knights.
“We’re going to have to compete a lot more than that to beat them, and sooner we’ll realize that…” Bednar said after a 3-2 loss at the T-Mobile Arena on Friday. “If we haven’t already, we’re late for the party.”
The Avalanche beat the Golden Knights 7-1 in Game 1. By then, after sweeping the St. Louis Blues in the first round, they had won five straight games by three or more goals.
In retrospect, it was fool’s gold and maybe even made them overconfident.
[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Avalanche series coverage]
Colorado had six days to recover for Game 1 while Vegas had a day after a seven game streak against the Minnesota Wild, and it wasn’t a lag. These teams are tied at the top of the NHL standings with 82 points each in the regular season, with the Avalanche winning the Presidents’ Trophy thanks to the tiebreaker in regulation wins (35-30).
The Avalanche won 3-2 in overtime in Game 2, but Philipp grubauer had to make 39 saves and needed the help of his goal posts. They were outscored 31-12 in the second and third periods combined.
A game is one thing. When a team wins the Stanley Cup, it often comes back to a victory stolen here and there by the goalkeeper.
But two consecutive matches? It’s a trend. At least the makings of one.
Grubauer made 40 saves and needed the help of his goalposts again in Game 3. The Avalanche were dominated by 43-20, including 14-3 in the first period and 19-8 in the third. Although they were leading 2-1 with less than six minutes left in the third, they allowed two goals in 45 seconds.
Just like that, the skin tone of this best-of-7 series changed.
“I mean, for five straight periods now, they’ve been a lot more competitive than us, and to dissect the game further than that is a waste of time,” Bednar said. “It’s a waste of time.”
When asked if he was surprised the Golden Knights had more willpower, Bednar didn’t hesitate.
“Yes I am, because we have a chance to take control of the series,” Bednar said. “… It’s not always pretty. It won’t, especially when you’re among the best teams in the League. You’re not going to dominate a team – or shouldn’t, OK? But tonight they will. ‘did, and then the last 40 minutes the other night they did. So it’s too long now. It’s too long. “
When asked if competitiveness falls primarily on leaders, again, Bednar didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, it starts there,” he said. “It starts there. I mean, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the stats, but go ahead and check our top guys numbers tonight and see what they’ve done against their best guys. Guys. It’s not close. The hardest -working player that we have right now, OK, is Phillipp Grubauer. “
Video: Golden Knights rally, loss of 1st Avalanche playoff loss
Colorado’s best line of Gabriel Landeskog (two goals, one assist), Nathan MacKinnon (two goals, one assist) and Mikko Rantanen (one goal, one assist) lit up the scoreboard for Game 1. The best defender too Makar wedge (one goal, three assists).
Rantanen has scored two power-play goals in the last two games – the overtime winner in Game 2 and the goal that put the Avalanche 2-1 ahead in Game 3 – but the best players don’t have not produced a point evenly in two games.
Bednar shuffled the lines in the third period on Friday.
“Well, what would you do? ” he said. “Did you see anything going on? There’s nothing going offensively all night. Zero. So you’re going to leave it like that?
The Golden Knights have been the NHL’s best defensive team in the regular season (2.18 goals against per game), and they’ve done a great job of saving time and space in the last two games. It’s up to the Avalanche to adapt to that, and it’s less X’s and O’s than heart and soul.
“It’s easy for a coach to just say ‘Well you’re overworked’ or the players to say ‘It doesn’t work’ or ‘It doesn’t work’,” Bednar said. “But the video doesn’t lie. They were more competitive from start to finish and then they won the hockey game.
“Now we have to go out, make that adjustment. This is the fit. People ask me this morning, “What’s the fit? What are you going to do here? The fit for us now is to make sure we get past our opponent and execute. [if] we do it and then we give ourselves a good chance of winning the hockey game. But it’s a competitive group.
“Now we have to increase that, because it’s not close.”