It looks like the Avalanche goaltending debate won’t be settled until tonight. When I asked head coach Jared Bednar whether or not he would like to tip his hand on whether Pavel Francouz or Michael Hutchinson would get the start in net, he respectfully declined to comment. He did reveal that Matt Calvert was back on the ice during today’s morning skate, but also wouldn’t tell me if he was an option to play tonight in Game 6.
“No I’m not going to say a thing about our lineup. At this point in the year, it just doesn’t benefit us at all,” Bednar said when asked of tonight’s starting netminder and Calvert’s health status.
Regardless of who is or is not playing, Bednar said to expect a similarly “grumpy” team as we saw in Game 5.
“We’re still sitting in a place where we’re down in a series, it’s a must-win game. There’s some nervous energy and guys aren’t happy with where we’re at, so I consider us a little grumpy and I expect that to continue through the series,” he said.
The Avalanche, however, can’t allow that grumpiness to goad them into taking penalties. Power play and special teams has clearly been the difference maker this series. Just look at Game 2, when Dallas cashed in on their 5-on-3 and the Avalanche could not. That shifted the momentum and was the key to the Stars winning that game. The Avs have to better on the man advantage and start taking advantage of their PP opportunities.
The Stars, on the other hand, has looked deadly on the power play. Dallas has cashed in on 35 percent of their PP chances so far this series while Colorado is a meager 13 percent, which is the second-worst of all the second-round teams. The Avalanche PK, by the way, is dead last.
“I do think we’ve seen some momentum swings during games and teams scoring in bunches and we’ve been on the losing end of that. It’s something we’ve addressed and talked about — how we can break momentum — and discipline would really help that, being able to stay out of the box because they’re power play is giving them a surge through the course of the series. That’s part of it,” Bednar agreed.
Bednar did say he thinks his team has gotten better as the series has moved along, adding they’ve gotten their “swagger back” a little bit. He said believes “our best game of the series is still yet to come.”
Facing elimination once more, the Avalanche need their best game of the series to be tonight.
Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. MT.
Other news and notes:
- Bednar commented on the chippy-ness of the series and how Dallas has been very effective in goading the Avs into reactionary penalties. He said that’s got to stop, especially given how effective the Stars have been on the power play this series. A guy like Calvert probably would help there.
- He also continued to praise the performance of rookie D-man Conor Timmins, while adding Hutchinson was impressive as well. “I was really happy with both guys. He looked poised, I liked his puck moving. He made a couple mistakes here and there but he was always trying to do the right thing…same with Hutch. Everyone’s rooting for these guys and I’m no different.”
- Another impressive rookie who has stepped up for the Avalanche has been Logan O’Connor. He’s been filling in nicely for Calvert on that fourth line. OC said he’s just been having fun with it and said this has all been “pretty special and unique, awesome” experience. If Calvert plays, I would expect Tyson Jost to get a seat.
- Bednar also said his team needs to stop “giving Dallas too much respect,” which I think is a good way of putting it. The Avalanche are the better team, at least in the regular season, but they haven’t shown their regular-season selves so far this postseason. It very much feels the Avs have been allowing Dallas to play their game rather than the Avs playing their own fast-paced, rush-attack game. They’re playing too East-West and slowing their game down to match Dallas, and that’s killing them.