The Colorado Avalanche faced their first elimination game of the 2020 Playoffs and battled hard enough to play another day. The Avs scored five unanswered first-period goals to take down the Dallas Stars 6-3 in Game 5 to bring the series to 3-2.
With injuries beginning to mount, poor defensive zone play, and a lack of scoring, the Avalanche received contributions from 11 of 18 players who recorded at least a point in the game.
Michael Hutchinson got the nod in net and shut the door on the Stars to earn his first career playoff victory. The Avs played desperate hockey and did not look like they were ready to leave the NHL bubble.
With injuries still a factor in lineup decisions, some players were thrust into the heat of the battle in a do-or-die game.
- Connor Timmins made his NHL playoff debut replacing Kevin Connauton.
- Hutchinson got the start in goal as Pavel Francouz was ruled unfit to play.
- Joonas Donskoi missed his third straight game with Logan O’ Conner remaining in his place.
- Erik Johnson, Matt Calvert, and Philipp Grubauer all remained unfit to play
Game 5 Takeaways
One of the reasons the Avalanche have struggled in this series is the Stars’ ability to shut down the Avs’ speed in the neutral zone, and limiting the number of offensive chances. Fortunately, Colorado had no trouble finding the back of the net in this game firing four goals passed Ben Bishop in his return to the lineup before he was replaced by Anton Khudobin.
The Avalanche knew how important it was to have a good start to the game and they executed that game plan from the get-go. Andre Burakovsky led the way offensively posting two goals and an assist, while Nathan MacKinnon kept his 13-game playoff point streak alive with a goal and an assist.
The fourth line got the first goal of the game at 4:37 in the first period before the big boys followed suit. The Avalanche peppered the Stars with shots and flexed the offensive firepower with a five-goal first period.
Hutch Comes Up Clutch
Hutchinson was acquired by the Avs via the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline for depth, in the unlikely scenario that one of the strong 1A and 1B goalie combo of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz would get injured. With Grubauer already on the shelf after suffering an apparent groin injury earlier in the postseason and Francouz ruled unfit to play before Game 5, that scenario manifested itself.
The Avs made it easy on Hutchinson in the first period, limiting the Stars to a mere five shots and giving him a five-goal cushion. The Stars made a push in the second before pouring on 18 shots in the third, but Hutchinso shut the door.
“He didn’t get a lot of work early, but certainly did as the game went on, Dallas made a push, we took a bunch of penalties again (4-for-6 on the penalty kill). We were confident going in, if we played the way we could play, ‘Hutch’ could have a night for us, and he did. I couldn’t be more happy for the guy.”Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar
Hutchinson stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced in the victory. With Francouz listed as day-to-day, it’s possible the Avs will have to go back to Hutchinson for Game 6 in another win-or-go-home game.
Areas to Improve
Game by Game
It’s important the Avalanche don’t get too far ahead of themselves after this victory. There are still questions about the lineup, especially in goal, and the team will need to lock down defensively and limit the Stars’ scoring chances if they want to even this series.
If Bishop gets the start in the next game, it’s unlikely he will be as bad as he was in Game 5. Colorado will need to continue to get lots of pucks to the net and keep their foot on the gas offensively to be able to beat the Stars’ top goaltender.
Where is the Potent Power Play?
The Avalanche have been terrible with the man advantage in this series and that trend continued in Game 5. Tempers were flaring in the second period with the Stars visibly frustrated which led to some undisciplined penalties. Unfortunately, the Avs did not score on any of their six power-play opportunities in the game.
It’s important that the Avs make the Stars pay for their mistakes, especially in a game where so little separates a win from a loss, advancing or being eliminated. The Avalanche need to find the same power play success they had in Round 1 and take advantage of the opportunities they get in Game 6 to force Game 7.
Game 6 is on Wednesday at 8 pm ET. If the Avalanche can continue their strong play, increase their power play production and continue to get good goaltending from whoever mans the crease, they have a good chance of coming away victorious.
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There has yet to be a Game 7 in these playoffs and the Avalanche will need to dig deep to become the first team to force one this postseason and keep their Stanley Cup aspirations alive.