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Avalanche playoffs

Dater column: Avs were due for bad game, but this was horrendous

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LAS VEGAS – If there was any game the Vegas Golden Knights were likely to win, it was this one. A Friday night on the Strip, which was poppin’ all day, full of maskless let-out-of-their-houses-for-the-first-time-since-last-March revelers, rooting on a desperate team in need of a win. They got it, 3-2 over the Avs in a Game 3 that was not nearly as close as that score would indicate.

The Avs still have a 2-1 series lead, but this series is taking an ominous turn. Basically, the Avs have been outplayed for the last five periods by the Golden Knights, and pretty badly too. The Avs still have a series lead, but Vegas has lots of momentum building, or so it seems. The Avs were outshot 42-20 in this game. In Game 2, Vegas outshot Colorado 41-25.

For those keeping score, that’s 83-45 in the last two games.

Say what you want about Vegas coach Pete DeBoer, but he’s a very good coach who knows how to make adjustments. Since the second period of Game 2, it feels like the Avs can’t get the puck much anymore. If they do, they’re under relentless checking pressure and giving it right back. DeBoer seems to have made the right defensive adjustments that have taken away all the time and space of Avs players. The Avs dominated their opposition most of the season with puck-possession play, but right now they’re watching Vegas play with the puck all the time and leaving it all up to Philipp Grubauer, who was tremendous again – until the final minutes when Vegas got a lucky bounce on him, then Grubi finally looked human on the winning goal with 5:18 left.

It’s up to Jared Bednar now to make some adjustments, to counteract the defensive scheme DeBoer has devised. If the Avs don’t make some adjustments, this will be a tied series after Sunday night.

Bednar, by the way, was pissed at his team afterward:

“The adjustment we have to make is to outwork them,” Bednar said, before snapping at a question about why he changed up his lines in the third period (“Did you see anything happening out there?” he said in response).

“For five straight periods, they’ve been way more competitive than us. It’s as simple as that. Looking at it any other way is a waste of time,” Bednar said.

He’s right. The Avs looked like they thought they could just throw their sticks out there and Vegas might fold, down 2-0 in the series.

“We’re kidding ourselves,” Bednar said, if that’s the case.

Now hiring!

Look, you can’t totally overreact to one bad game. The Avs had won 11 in a row, and as awful as they were in this one, it was still a 1-1 game heading to the third period and they had a 2-1 lead with 5:18 left in the game. But to me, this game never felt close. And neither did the last two periods of Game 2. The fact is, the Avs’ only really good game of the three in this series was against a tired Vegas team in Game 1, on home ice. Vegas has looked like the better – and, to Bednar, this is the cardinal sin – harder-working team since.

The Avs got a no-show performance from the top line, with Nathan MacKinnon rarely touching the puck. Bednar said Vegas’ “top guys were way better” than his team’s top guys.

The third line, centered by Tyson Jost? Well, Jost wasn’t any good, but Valeri Nichushkin was strong on the puck all night and seemed to care, at least. The only line that produced a goal was the fourth line, a rebound score by Carl Soderberg in the second.

I think the Avs need to go to more of a trap defensive system that DeBoer is using. He may have to sacrifice some of the freelancing the top skaters like to do with the puck, but the purpose of anything now is to win the game no matter how ugly. It felt like the Avs were in regular-season mode for this game, not the down-in-the-gutters mentality you need to win this time of year.

Guys such as Sam Girard need to be better too. La Tornade is a key part of the Avs’ transition game, and right now he’s not creating much time and space for himself with the puck like normal. Patrik Nemeth and Conor Timmins were scary with the puck much of the time, and not in a good way. Is it time for Bo Byram to parachute into the series? (I don’t really think so, though. He hasn’t played in a long time. I fear too much rust).

This was a game in which the absence of Nazem Kadri was keenly felt. Kadri is great on faceoffs, which the Avs aren’t winning much of right now. J.T. Compher has been invisible the last two games in his spot. Rantanen salvaged an otherwise bad night with a clutch go-ahead goal in the third. But that was about his only good play of the night.

Every team deserves a bad game now and then. Vegas had theirs in Game 1 and have been much better since. Game 3 was the Avs’ stinker.

Will they respond Sunday with a showing we’re more used to seeing? Puck drop is 6:30 mountain.

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies. Previously Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report to name just a few.

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Richard Trujillo

Mackinnon usually waits until game five or six to pull his annual disappearing act. This year he decided that he should hang em up for the year in game 2. Your best player should show up in the biggest moments. Mackinnon hasn’t proven he can handle the pressure of a Stanley Cup run. I say it every single year. Sakic needs to make a big splash in the offseason or at the deadline and land an ELITE forward. Due to the upcoming salary cap situation their window is going to slam shut fast and we will watch this core go… Read more »

Zach Zavilla

Richard, cover up… your stupid is showing.

Richard Trujillo

Are you saying he doesn’t disappear in the 2nd round every year when they need him the most?

Aaron Hinton

Not to kick a man while he’s down Richard but ROR is recording ads in Canada for how to successfully pull through a Tim Horton’s drive thru, Duchene is recording his first country album and Staz is very close to hitting the links.

Richard Trujillo

Yet O’Reilly has his name on the Cup.

Aaron Hinton

And George Washington won the Revolution. What’s your point?

Richard Trujillo

Pretty sure my point was made in the first post.

dp10

MacKinnon has 68 career points in 47 playoff games. MacKinnon is no Joe Thornton type of player who collects points only in the regular season and disappears during the playoffs! Not even close! Quite the opposite, I think the expectation that MacKinnon will score every night (he had an assist on Rantanen’s third period PP goal tonight) is just ludicrous. This is not to say MacKinnon was great tonight. Nobody except Grubauer played well over the last 2 games! The whole team needs to step up on Sunday night!

Richard Trujillo

Now compare his career game 7 performance to Tyson Jost. Mackinnon just doesn’t show up when it matters most.

dp10

Not sure why Avs were so passive in the first 30 minutes and thought that they could get away with timely scoring.Oh well, 2 bad games…1 win. It’s time the Avs find another gear! There are plenty of candidates to whome this applies…Burakovsky, Compher…

pukface

Well done AD. You can’t have your top line disappear completely from any game in the playoffs. MacKinnon was not good in this game and neither was Makar, but they get a pass here. The problem right now is getting to pucks in the defensive end, moving it quickly, and winning battles (the occasional face-off win would help too). Every puck sent into the Avs end seemed to result in a scoring chance for Vegas. Continuing to try to hack pucks up the boards off of backhands is exactly what Vegas is looking for and is what they are forcing… Read more »

[…] Avalanche 11 game winning streak came to a crashing end. Vegas badly outplayed the Colorado Avalanche again, but this time the Avs could not reclaim an improbable win as they did […]

Aaron Hinton

It’s never the X’s and O’s it’s about the Jimmy’s outworking the Joe’s. We’ll see who this team really is on Sunday. Champs or Chumps??

Matt Briggle

First, I would just like to channel my inner DeBoer and say that the first penalty on Nemeth was not only soft, but never should have happened. About 30 seconds before that in the corner battle Timmins lost his stick and the Vegas player pushed it behind the net before he could recover it – obvious by the book interference. That put Timmins out of position which led to the chance in the crease which led to the Nemeth penalty. Also by DeBoer logic, the Landy slashing call in the first was a really soft call. Second, the refs were… Read more »

SV

Some of the fan whining is a bit overheated. It’s the first game the Avalanche have lost all playoff and in almost a month and a few of you are ready to burn the house down. Get a grip, folks! That said, what has surprised me the most about the last two games is how easily Vegas is able to move the puck across the ice. There’s no forecheck, no attempt at disrupting passes until Vegas has the puck in the Avs’ zone. The Avs defense does a bit better at disrupting the Knights’ business when they are in their… Read more »

colorado_gary

Losses? They happen in the playoffs. Vegas has to win 3 of 4 from the Avs. The Avs have shown they can play smothering defense. Time for some adjustments and a 3-1 series lead.

The PG

To those people that need to hear this: take a looong, deep breath. Let it out slowly. Remember:

The Avs took the best Vegas could throw at them, stole one game, and were less than 6 minutes from stealing a second. Plenty of time left. Relax.

pukface

Bednar sure appeared to be relaxed after that one. With the exception of game 1 when the Avs jumped on a clearly tired Vegas group they have been outplayed severely in the last three of four against Vegas. Grubauer stole two wins in those four. They are trending in the wrong direction in the effort department which is what has fans jittery as well as the head coach. Good of you to provide the support though – greatly appreciated.

GWood

I think MacK needs to adjust his game and approach when the opposition decides to commit more men on him when he enters the zone at high speed with that ultra quick, darting style he has. I get that that type of play creates fear and is a key factor for his success, but when a team swarms him in that situation, he gives the puck away in some errant/random attempted pass – almost every time. I would like to see him change it up a bit and concentrate on being more methodical and maintaining possession. Just slow it down… Read more »

Peter Downe

Waiting for Kadri ? Ask a Leafs fan how that is likely to work out.

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