The Colorado Avalanche kept the good times rolling with a convincing 4-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in their second round-robin game. The win improves the team to a 2-0-0 record and tied for the top seed in the Western Conference round-robin tournament play.
They did not need a last-second goal in this one to get the victory, as the Avs scored the opening goal of the game and added three unanswered goals in what was a dominating team performance.
Game 2 Takeaways
One of the things the Avalanche needed to work on from their first victory over the St. Louis Blues was their poor power play. It appears that the problem has been solved as they improved their 1-for-5 performance in Game 1 and capitalized on two of their five power plays in Game 2.
Related: 4 Takeaways from Stars’ Second Round-Robin Game
They should really have been 3-for-5 on the man advantage, as the second goal was scored just seconds after the Stars returned to even strength, which is even more promising. If the Avalanche can continue to be lethal on the power play they will be an even more dangerous team to meet when round one begins.
With head coach Jared Bednar openly stating he is undecided of his starting goaltender in Round 1 of the playoffs, Francouz was given his opportunity in goal in Game 2.
After Grubauer’s stellar performance stopping 31 of the 32 shots against the Blues in their opening game, Francouz was able to one-up his German teammate posting a 27-save shutout in his playoff debut. Although this was his playoff debut the netminder looked as good as he did for the majority of the regular season.
“Honestly I wasn’t much nervous today, and that kind of scared me because usually I am pretty nervous,” Francouz said postgame. “So, I was a little bit afraid of that, but it didn’t affect my performance, I guess. I don’t even know why, but I felt pretty comfortable today.”Pavel Francouz
Francouz did struggle with his rebound control and left a few loose pucks in the slot that should have been controlled or smothered, but he got the job done nonetheless. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the final round-robin game and would be hard to see Bednar not go back with the hot hand in Francouz after such a great result.
Aside from the goaltending change, Bednar made only one other change to the lineup by scratching Tyson Jost for Matt Nieto. With the insertion of Nieto onto the fourth line there was a noticeable difference in the speed and reliability in that trio.
Related: Avalanche Prospect Profile: Alex Newhook
He and the other members of the fourth line (Bellemare and Calvert) all saw a bump in usage with Nieto playing 14:15 compared to Tyson Jost’s 09:45.
Nieto also brings upside to the team’s penalty kill over Jost and helped kill both of the Stars power plays. He is third on the team in shorthanded time on ice with only Ryan Graves and Erik Johnson seeing more time than him on the penalty kill during the regular season.
|Player Name||Shorthanded Time on Ice (SHTOI)|
|Ryan Graves (D)||193:11|
|Erik Johnson (D)||177:46|
|Matt Nieto (LW)||164:42|
|Ian Cole (D)||155:40|
|J.T. Compher (C)||151:13|
Perhaps the Avalanche’s three-goal lead had something to do with the increased ice time for the fourth line but they rewarded Bednar with trustworthy reliable shifts which are crucial in a playoff series.
Bednar also experimented with a slight change to two of the team’s forward lines swapping left-winger Andre Burakovsky from his top line for Vladislav Namestnikov.
This switch paid dividends as Namestnikov potted the third goal of the game with assists from his new linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. It is worth knowing that should Burakovsky struggle offensively, Namestnikov is a viable replacement option on the team’s top line.
Areas to Improve
It’s hard to be critical of a team that has improved to 2-0-0 in the round-robin tournament and coming off an impressive 4-0 win but there are a few areas that need to be more consistent and need work.
Not as Physical
The Avalanche were not as physical against the Stars as they were against the Blues. Of course, every opponent plays a different style of game but the Stars much like the Blues are a hard-nosed, physical team, however, the Avalanche did not follow suit. They were outhit by the Stars 45-22 in this game which is significantly less than the 40 hits they had against the Blues in Game 1.
Clean Up the Defensive Zone
Although it may not seem like the Avalanche had trouble in their defensive zone by posting a shutout that wasn’t the case. The team struggled at times to breakout and turned pucks over in their own zone.
Related: NHL Outplays the NBA and MLB in Restart
Fortunately, the Stars failed to capitalize on these errors. The slot coverage and clearing of shooting lanes in front of Francouz also could use some work as there were a lot of second-chance opportunities available for the Dallas forwards.
Good teams will find ways to make their opponents pay for their mistakes and too many loose pucks and broken plays could be the difference in a game, especially high stakes playoff hockey.
The Avalanche will play their final round-robin game against the Vegas Golden Knights in what will be a battle for the top seed in the Western Conference. Both teams currently have four points in the standings and are firing on all cylinders. The Golden Knights are a resilient team, having come back from deficits in both their round-robin games to get their wins. This will be a great test for a young team heading into the round of 16.