NASHVILLE — At the Avalanche’s Sunday afternoon optional practice at Bridgestone Arena, I asked Jared Bednar — among other things — to what extent would he would play it safe with Darcy Kuemper, or do you err on the side of caution in the playoffs?
“No, we don’t have to,” Bednar said. “Like I said, the only thing that will keep him out of the lineup tomorrow would be the swelling in his eye.”
To preface what I’m about to say:
I’m going to assume I don’t need to go through that all again, and that you know what happened to Kuemper late in the first period on the Avalanche’s 7-3 rout of the Predators in Saturday’s Game 3.
As scary as it looked, it’s not serious. But why push it?
Kuemper should be held out of Monday night’s potentially series-ending Game 4.
That very well could end up happening anyway if the remaining swelling is significant and potentially troublesome.
But it shouldn’t have to come down to that, to a decision made on the day of the game.
The problem is that the Avalanche, in time-honored hockey tradition, want to avoid conceding what would be the major rationalization for the move, for going with Pavel Francouz as the Game 4 starter.
In the immortal slightly adapted words of Dave “Tiger” Williams, them Preds is done like dinner, anyway.
At least in terms of which team will advance, the suspense is gone.
Yes, in light of that, play it completely safe with Kuemper, whether the series ends Monday night or moves on to a Game 5 in Denver Wednesday.
If Francouz plays and the Avs win Game 4, Kuemper will end up with a week to additionally or completely heal.
If they lose and the series continues, reassess.
There’s a fine line here and sensible arguments to be made on both sides. Including the one that keeping a goaltender in the playoff rhythm is desirable, and that a week off after a sweep already is a potential issue on that front.
And given playoff gamesmanship, I’m not even ruling out that the Avs already had decided Kuemper would get the night off, but were keeping alive the speculative drama.
I don’t think that was the case, but it wouldn’t shock me, either.
Sitting Kuemper would not be a sign of arrogance, but pragmatism with the big picture and the Cup or bust mentality intertwined.
Let him — or make him — be a spectator for Game 4.
Terry Frei (firstname.lastname@example.org, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here