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Avalanche playoffs

Boulding: It’s only one game, but Avs have too many passengers

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Jack Dempsey/AP

It would be easy, after the way the Colorado Avalanche played in the regular season, to worry a little bit following the team’s first defeat of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I mean the team lost a mere 26 times in 82 games this season, 19 of them in regulation.

The L’s didn’t come often, and perhaps that was a bit enabling for fans who are just so accustomed to winning. But here we are, the day after a loss in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round.

“It’s one game,” head coach Jared Bednar said on Thursday night, encouraging a reasoned response from all who were panicking. “We knew this was going to be a long, hard series. This is a really good team. They answered back after a bad night in Game 1. Now the onus is on us. We have to do the exact same thing. So we’ll make a couple adjustments and we’re gonna have to get back to work.”

And get back to work they did on Friday. After originally planning on taking it easy, the Avs changed gears and held a practice prior to heading to St. Louis with the series tied up 1-1.

“We went through some stuff this morning, had one meeting showing some of those mistakes. We know what we have to do and we weren’t very good at it. That’s No. 1,” Bednar said Friday. “And then we have a few other adjustments that we need to make and areas that we have to improve on. But we’re going to save a few of those for tomorrow as we get a little bit more time to finish up [last night’s] game. But yeah, guys are in good spirits. They understand it. It’s about us, mostly. Mostly about us.”

For a team that has worked hard to play the right way, a team that isn’t satisfied with winning if the result comes at the expense of the process, a game with high stakes that comes without “jump” or the regular effort expected is one of the ultimate disappointments.

But it’s not time to panic.

“We’ve done a nice job responding after losses all year long. I mean I can’t even remember, I don’t even know when we [last] lost back-to-back,” Bednar said. “Right at the end of the year where we had that little slump at the end of the year and before that I couldn’t even tell you when it was. Generally when we’ve addressed things as a team, our guys have responded and played well and played hard. It doesn’t always guarantee a win, but our guys have done a nice job elevating their game after losses and understanding what we did right, what we did wrong, where we need to improve, what we need to keep doing. They’re in tune with it.”

“Our philosophy is you’re not going to win in the playoffs if you don’t bring your best game. Well, everyone’s watched us play all year, and last night wasn’t even close. So you can’t expect to go in and play a team like St. Louis, who finished with 100 and whatever points and then think that you’re going to win if you’re not playing your best.”

Sometimes another team inserts themselves into the equation, and that’s what the Blues did on Thursday. They made line changes, they clogged lanes, they reduced time and space, and they scored more goals than the Avalanche.

But at least one member of the team dismissed that aspect of the loss.

“I think it was more just us not playing to our strengths and not playing how we can play, like we played in Game 1,” Mikko Rantanen said. “So I think it’s just like Nate said, just [have a] short memory here and move on and try to learn from that game. We know we can play a lot better than that.”

Like Ted Lasso said, be a goldfish.

Superstreak Bonus!

But there can be no passengers in the postseason, and unfortunately the Avalanche have a couple right now. Nazem Kadri has only scored once, in Game 3 against the Nashville Predators. Andre Burakovsky’s only points came in Game 4 in Tennessee. MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Artturi Lehkonen have no markers so far in this series.

And sure, his seven assists look good on a stats page, but Rantanen’s zero goals appear far worse after six playoff contests.

“Do you think Mikko is playing his best hockey that you’ve seen him play? Okay, well so that’s it,” Bednar said of his club’s regular-season goals and points leader. “There’s things that we show him, we talk to him about. He needs to get to the net and shoot the puck more, but again it goes back to you got to play your best hockey at the most important time. That’s now. So he’s got to get going a little bit, and it’s not just last night’s game. We need him to be an impact player. That’s what you need from your players in the playoffs.”

“So there’s lots of things you can do a little bit better. And you’d take incremental increases in play in a bunch of different areas and it turns out to be a really good game for him. We know he’s capable of it, and he’ll come around. We’ve got a couple of guys here that they’re going to have to go. This is going to be a tough series.”

This club, although empowered by depth throughout the season and down the stretch, needs its best players to produce, like Bednar said. They’re simply having a hard time doing that, and credit should go to the Blues.

When asked if he considered uniting a powerful top line of Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Rantanen—the way Blues bench boss Craig Berube stacked Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan O’Reilly, and David Perron in Game 2—Colorado’s coach balked a bit at the idea.

“Landeskog, Kadri, and Lehkonen was our best line in Game 1,” he said. “Dominant line in Game 1.”

There’s a benefit and a drawback to changing that pairing for the sake of another.

But while all eyes are on how the Avalanche responds to this first, faintest taste of adversity in the playoffs, some should be looking at Rantanen. He had 36 goals and 92 points this year. He can’t continue like this if the Avs are going to have any shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Like Makar said on Friday, parroting the organization’s marketing slogan as a mantra.

“It’s playoff time. You have to find a way.”

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Ryan broke into hockey media wIth Mile High Sports before ultimately covering the Avalanche as a pioneering in-house correspondent for the team. A frequent member of the PHWA, his freelance work has been used by The Denver Post, The Athletic, and Mile High Sports. You can catch his radio show, The Hockey Show, on Saturdays on Mile High Sports Radio.

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Donald Victory

Good article. Good to call out the passengers when Badner will not. From MacPassenger, to Mikko Ratpassenger, to Nazim Kadpassenger, to Burapassenger, to Compassenger.

And please no more injury excuses for this team. Seems to be their go-to motive oeprandi excuse bait to lure empathy for poor performances.

All the Havs need to ax themselves a question: “Am I willing to go all in and do whatever it takes to win the Stanley Cup?”

Passengers to pilots…

trev

who is this Donald victory? can we get a comment ban admins? there are downvotes on everything he says…I am happy to buy out his membership, maybe a large donation to the tip jar on behalf of the community.

Zach Heiman

Absolutely agreed

Thor's Hammer

Absolutely disagree! trev

Thor's Hammer

He makes excellent points with his/her posts. Too bad you are are so thin skinned. Don’t get caught out in the sun too long!

Aaron Rud

Bednar can’t remember the last time they had back to back losses???? He forgets the crap show of the last 2 weeks of the year, I guess. Get out with that nonsense. My word.

831

He clearly mentioned the slump to end the regular season. He said he can’t remember when they lost back to back games BEFORE that slump started.

Jared Moss

Natdog has to show up tonight, he’s not his usual game changing self. Hopefully the boys come out hard tonight

Donald Victory

Yup…Badners legacy continues to harden…and these players he could not manage will be part of it too!

Thor's Hammer

Agreed

John Klingenstein

I’m expecting the Avs to show all the quick to doubt whiners what’s up tonight. I think Kadri, Makar and Rantanen are all due for a big game along Mackinnon and the rest of the boys. They hust have so many weapons. I say the Avs win handly… 5-2 is my prediction. If the Avs get a big time performance from even a couple of those guys there is no way the blues can hang. Can’t wait for Binnington to get lit up!

Jordan

I think if we change anything, it should be Mikko to 2nd line and Landy to 1st line. Top two lines of Landy-Mack-Nichuskin followed by Lehk-Kadri-Mikko would be absolutely killer. I think the lines are fine, maybe bring in Newhook and LOC and drop Helm and NAK, but those are the only changes that would make sense but are unnecessary

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