The Colorado Avalanche got the best of the Vegas Golden Knights during the regular season back on Dec. 23 and Oct. 25 with commanding 7-3 and 6-1 victories respectively. However, playoff hockey is not the same as the regular season in which the Avs were bested by Vegas with 15 seconds remaining in the overtime period.
The Avalanche will finish second in the round-robin tournament as a result of the loss and play the 11th seed Arizona Coyotes in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 3 Takeaways
Philipp Grubauer started his second game of the round-robin tournament after Pavel Francouz’s stellar performance in Game 2. After having a great outing in the Game 1 win against the Blues where he allowed only one goal, Grubauer took the tough-luck loss in extra time in this one.
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He turned away 22 of the 26 shots he faced and also failed to stop a penalty shot by Jonathan Marchessault for the Golden Knights’ third goal of the game. He was not overly busy and looked sound in net despite taking the loss.
All signs point to Grubauer getting the start when the first round begins considering head coach Jared Bednar went back to the German netminder after Francouz’s shutout in Game 2. Either way, whichever goaltender gets the nod in the Avs’ next game, the team will surely have strong play from either player with the “backup” ready to step up if the starter falters early on.
There were no lineup changes made by Bednar prior to this game besides Grubauer getting the start over Francouz. Matt Nieto also remained in the lineup while Tyson Jost was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Vladislav Namestnikov also started on the top line again, alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, and remained there for the entirety of the game. As a result, Andre Burakovsky skated on the third line with Joonas Donskoi and J.T. Compher.
It looks like Nieto has played his way into the lineup with his speed, hard work, and ability to contribute on the penalty kill. It is unlikely there will be any changes to this lineup against the Coyotes, barring any injuries.
Although the Avalanche weren’t victorious, the resiliency they showed in this game is worth noting. The team trailed three times this game and battled back three separate times to erase one-goal deficits. This is a great thing to see from a team that doesn’t often trail in games and it shows their willingness to battle to get a win.
The Avs also got some scoring help from their depth players with Donskoi scoring to tie the game at 2-2 and Compher scoring to push the game to overtime while also adding an assist. It’s good to see goals coming from multiple sources other than the top-six forward group so they aren’t always relying on them to get on the scoreboard.
Areas to Improve
It is important to keep your cool and not let your emotions get the best of you in meaningful games, to the point where you are hurting your team. MacKinnon was subject to this when he took a penalty from the bench at the start of the second period for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Golden Knights eventually capitalized on the power play to take a 1-0 lead in the game.
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It’s important to stay disciplined and keep your emotions in check to ensure your opponents don’t get an edge in the game that could end up being the difference in a game or a playoff series.
The Avs have been up and down while on the man advantage since the return to play. Although they made good on one power play, they failed to capitalize on the other five opportunities, including a lengthy 5-on-3 two-man advantage that Vegas killed off.
The importance of special teams showed in this one-goal game and if the Avalanche wants to make a deep playoff run they will have to find consistency on their power play.
The Avalanche will meet the Coyotes in a best-of-seven series beginning either Tuesday or Wednesday. They split the season series 1-1 against the Coyotes during the regular season with their win coming in overtime.