The Colorado Avalanche emerged victorious in the first meeting against the Arizona Coyotes with a 3-0 win in Game 1. The game was closer than the score suggests as it was knotted at zero before the Avalanche got their first goal to break the deadlock with just under seven minutes to go in the game.
The Avs added two more goals in quick succession, for a total of three in a span of a minute and 23 seconds.
Kuemper was the biggest, if not the only reason this game was even close heading into the third period as the Coyotes were unable to generate much offense. Colorado dominated the game from start to finish, posting 40 shots compared to Arizona’s 14.
Game 1 Takeaways
The Power of Grubauer
One of the only questions the Avalanche had heading into the post-season was the play of their goaltenders. Grubauer drew the start in this one after being the starter in last year’s playoff run and rewarded his team with a shutout to kick off the series.
With the game tied up late in the third period, Grubauer had no margin for error, especially after how well his team had been playing. The ‘Yotes did not generate many shots but Grubauer remained sharp which is tough to do considering how sporadic the shots against him were. He should be exuding confidence heading into Game 2.
Stay the Course
The Avalanche did not hold anything back and layered its offensive attack wave after wave throughout the game. Despite firing 28 shots on goal through two periods they were unable to solve Kuemper heading into the third period. The Avs did a good job staying disciplined without sacrificing defense to generate offense and were rewarded with three third-period goals.
It’s hard not to get frustrated in a game where the ice is tilted in one team’s favor but is not reflected by the numbers on the scoreboard. This makes cheating on the defensive side of the puck all the more tempting but the Avalanche were able to stick to their game plan and execute on the ice, despite their frustrations.
Kadri to the Rescue
Kadri showed general manager Joe Sakic that acquiring him was worth it when he tallied the power-play goal to break the deadlock that eventually stood up as the game-winner. In our series preview article, Kadri was labeled as the Avs’ X-factor and proved to be just that in Game 1.
The 29-year-old centerman was one of the only players to get to the dirty areas of the ice like the front of the net where he would eventually score his goal from.
He has more to give on the physical side as he failed to register any hits in the game but was second on the team with seven shots on goal. This is an encouraging game for Kadri and one that will give head coach Jared Bednar confidence in him going forward.
Areas to Improve
Keep the Foot on the Gas
Although it was a dominant victory, the Avalanche still cannot take the ‘Yotes lightly. They remained disciplined and did not give many opportunities to the Avalanche on the man advantage. They defend well and stifled the Avs offense off the rush for most of the game while waiting for their opportunity to capitalize on a mistake (although it never came) to try and win the game.
With a goalie in Kuemper who can steal a game or a series like he did with Nashville, the Avs have to build off this strong start and remain focused on the task at hand.
Find the Playoff Fire
It is hard to jump into a playoff series with an opponent having already been playing with the “do or die” mentality in the Qualifying Round. It’s no secret that the round-robin games the Avalanche played did not carry the same significance. Bednar explained that he knows the team needs to take their game to another level.
“But, now it’s different. It’s playoff time. To me, you can log the stats wherever you want in the round robin, it still for us was regular season. It was still trying to accomplish the goal that we set forth in training camp and now it’s done. Our intensity will have to go up, our competitiveness will have to go up. I am happy with where it’s been but it’s going to get harder and harder as you play on. Every game is going to get tougher and tougher from here on out.”Jared Bednar
This game was lacking that hungry, hard-hitting, combative flare that comes with most playoff games. The Avs will need to develop the playoff emotion in their game and understand that it’s time to play “win or go home” hockey.
The Avs will look to jump out to a 2-0 series lead and build off their strong outing in Game 1. They will look to generate offense sooner next game and not let the Coyotes hang around to pounce on their mistakes. The Avalanche will look to draw more penalties than the two they drew in Game 1, especially with the game-winner coming on the man advantage.
They can expect a strong bounce-back effort from the Coyotes forwards next game in what was a sub-par performance offensively. Game 2 of this series goes Friday at 2:00 P.M. ET.