LAS VEGAS – Five o’clock sharp. Don’t be late. Don’t be showing up to the meeting with any margaritas or bloody maries in the system either.
It’s going to be a tough Avalanche team meeting planned at 5 local time here tonight. Coach Jared Bednar has issued a mandatory team meeting at that time, where he gave a preview of what will be on the agenda for his players:
“The message is going to be that there is no easy ice out there, that you’re going to have to earn every inch out there,” Bednar told media this morning from T-Mobile Arena, where the Avs held an optional practice in which about 15 players skated under the tutelage of skills coach Shawn Allard.
Bednar and his two assistant coaches, Nolan Pratt and Ray Bennett, will spend the afternoon poring over video from last night’s Game 3 debacle in which, while the final score (3-2) was close, not much else was about the game. If the Avs had lost the game, where Marc-Andre Fleury had to steal it or the Avs had plenty of good scoring chances, Bednar and the rest of Avalanche Nation probably wouldn’t have this serious a case of concern about what’s going on with the team.
But the fact is, the Avs have been outshot 83-45 the last two games by Vegas and the Golden Knights are seemingly dictating all of the play right now. The Avs outshot opponents most every game in the regular season, almost always having a solid edge in puck-possession time. Right now, it’s the reverse, which is why Bednar is sounding 10-bell alarms.
“Desperation and tenacity on the puck and that’s where we have to get to as a group,” Bednar said. “We’ll make sure we make adjustments and communicate that to our players at our meeting at 5 o’clock tonight”
Avs captain Gabe Landeskog, who had an assist in Game 3 but no shots on net, acknowledged both concern and optimism over where things stand.
“We’re still up 2-1 in the series,” he said. “We’re confident we can make some adjustments. But it’s the playoffs and we need to step up, and leadership really needs to step up.”
As I said last night, I think the Avs should and will go to more of a muck-it-up, neutral-zone trap system that Vegas has used effectively the last two games. The Avs have to try to chop the ice up more into thirds and fight for every inch of every zone, but especially in the middle third of the ice. Landeskog admitted that his team “made it too easy” for Vegas to skate through the neutral zone the last two contests.
Does this mean the Avs will have to play more of “Vegas’ game” moving forward? Maybe. The Avs can’t have a regular-season mentality in which they think it’s going to be fun and freewheeling out there. The playoffs are all about a pure fight, for every inch of that ice and every possession of that puck.
They have to be tougher, mentally and physically. Vegas is full of big guys who play the game hard, and that translates better to the playoffs than regular season. The Avs may not be as big as Vegas, but they can still play tougher against them. They have to skate like they’ve never skated before, have to want this as much as anything they’ve ever wanted in their lives.
If not, it’ll be another soul-crushing, second-round exit for a third year in a row.
NOTEBOOK: Bednar said “there’s no question we miss Naz” when asked about the ongoing absence of Nazem Kadri, who has served five of eight games of his suspension. His second appeal remains in the hands of neutral discipline arbitrator, Shyam Das. I think we’ll get a ruling by Monday morning at the latest. … Kadri could play Game 7 of this series, regardless, if it goes that far.