Avalanche Depth Needs to Execute in Kraken Series

The Seattle Kraken stunned the Stanley Cup champions in their first-ever playoff appearance and took Game 1 with a 3-1 victory. The Avalanche’s only goal came courtesy of a net-front pass from Nathan MacKinnon to Mikko Rantanen. The odd deflection, which saw Rantanen get low to the ice, was the lone shot that sailed past former Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer.

Sign up for our free ‘Avalanche Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.

The game offered some offensive surges by the Avalanche, but it was a mostly sloppy showing that did not showcase the team’s true talent. One of the biggest issues was the lack of pressure from the team’s secondary scoring, from Val Nichushkin to J.T. Compher. If the Avalanche want to win this series, they will need contributions from their depth players.

Avalanche Stats Don’t Lie

“I didn’t like our execution. That was probably the first thing that stood out to me. In a lot of areas of the ice, not just on our attack,” head coach Jared Bednar told the media after the game. “If you look at the goals, we gave them one, well two, on d-zone breakouts, turnovers that were gifts.”

Josh Manson Colorado Avalanche
Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

According to the official stats, the Avalanche bested the Kraken only in shots (with a total of 35 to Seattle’s 30) and faceoff percentage (the Avalanche won 56% of the draws). They threw fewer hits and blocked fewer shots, and, most significantly, coughed up more giveaways. The most notable turnover, of course, resulted in a goal when Devon Toews passed the puck to the Kraken’s Eeli Tolvanen, who capitalized on the mishap and fired a shot past netminder Alexandar Georgiev. It was a move uncharacteristic of Toews, who is typically reliable in his own zone and is counted on to play on the first defensive pairing beside Cale Makar.

Related Post: Avalanche’s Landeskog to Miss Playoffs With Injury

Latest News & Highlights

Colorado also took one more penalty, and while neither team capitalized on the power play, the short-handed minutes meant less time in the offensive zone. Josh Manson was responsible for four of the Avalanche’s six penalty minutes, and Bednar singled out the big defenseman specifically, calling him “rusty.” While he had a problem with the entire defensive core, saying they were “not good enough,” it was Manson’s game (he was a minus-2, threw only one hit and blocked two shots) that seemed to disappoint him the most.

No Execution from Colorado’s Depth Players

One of the key components of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup victory last season was their depth scoring. Players like Nichushkin, Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky–who is now an injured member of the Kraken–scored huge goals all postseason. In Game 1, the team’s depth, which was named one of the Avalanche’s X-factors heading into this first-round series, was virtually invisible.

Valeri Nichushkin Colorado Avalanche
Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nichushkin, for his part, created his most viable offensive opportunity short-handed and ended the night a minus-2. He totalled three shots on net, but only his short-handed drive had any potential to become a goal, though he was stonewalled by Grubauer. Compher added two shots on net, and Artturi Lehkonen only recorded one. Evan Rodrigues was the exception to the rule, registering an impressive six shots (second on the team behind MacKinnon, who had seven), but the second and third lines did not do enough to generate offense in the first game against the Kraken.

If they’re going to win the series, the Avalanche need to play their brand of hockey, with scoring from all angles and all positions and their superstars leading the charge rather than carrying the load. They have their work cut out for them ahead of Game 2 on Thursday.