The thing is, the Avs just are not going to get any help from anyone else. If they are going to win this damn division title, they’re going to have to do it themselves.
The Vegas Golden Knights just won’t lose. They’ve lost only two games in the last 15, including back-to-back weekend victories over the St. Louis Blues. The Avs have won five of their last six, but haven’t gained any ground on Vegas. So here’s the deal: the Avs have three games left – one at Vegas tomorrow night and two at home against the Los Angeles Kings at home this coming week. If the Avs win in regulation against the Golden Knights and win the two games against the Kings, they will be Honda West Division champs. Anything less, and the Golden Knights are the champs and would play St. Louis in the first round.
Anything less, and the Avs will play the Minnesota Wild in the first round. Whether the Avs get home-ice advantage against the Wild remains undetermined. The Wild never lose anymore, either.
The Avs will play Vegas tomorrow, but will Nathan MacKinnon?
MacKinnon missed a second straight game last night with his lower-body injury. While I’ve speculated that maybe the team will choose to shut him down for the final week and let him go into Game 1 of the first round as healthy and rested as possible, coach Jared Bednar said after last night’s 3-2 win over the Kings “there’s no truth to that.”
“We win out, we’re in first place. That’s what we know. Maybe even first place in the whole league if we win out,” Bednar said. “Home ice, that’s our goal. Now, that’s our goal with or without Nate. We still don’t know yet. We’ll be smart. If he’s hurt and can’t go, or if we feel like it’s getting worse, we won’t play him. Our job will be to go and win without him.”
The Avs won these last two games without MacKinnon for one big reason: the play of defensemen Cale Makar and Devon Toews. Makar had a goal and assist in each game, and Toews had two goals last night, with an assist in the other. That offense from the top two D-men made the winning difference each time.
“(Makar) always has that offensive dynamic,” Bednar said. “It was a great performance by both those guys.”
- Jonas Johansson got another win. He’s now 4-1-1 with the Avs, with a 2.27 goals-against average and .907 saves percentage. Say what you want about him, he’s done a pretty nice job for this team.
- The NHL has loosened some of the Covid restrictions of the season, which means the Avs can now actually go out of their hotel rooms now on the road and have some team dinners, etc. Don’t discount how important that is to a team. I suspect the team will be having a very nice, very fancy and very fun team dinner tonight in Vegas.
- Carl Soderberg didn’t play Saturday night, and Bednar said it was because he had some “back tightness.”
- Alex Newhook played a third straight game and, while he didn’t get on the score sheet, he was a plus-1 in more than 14 minutes of action.
- Patrik Nemeth returned after missing some time from Friday’s game with a sore neck. He didn’t have a great game, on the ice for both Kings goals against.
- Sam Girard and Brandon Saad won’t play in Monday’s game, Bednar said. It sounds like there’s a chance they could play in one of the final two games against the Kings, but it’s not official.
Highlights from last night’s game: