Avalanche vs. Kraken Series Preview: Georgiev’s Time is Now
We’re previewing the upcoming playoff series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Seattle Kraken.
If you missed it, we’ve already previewed the forwards and defense on both teams.
What’s on the docket today? Goaltending.
When the Avalanche went out and acquired Alexandar Georgiev in the summer from the New York Rangers, they were taking a risk.
A risk on a goaltender who had never been a starter before, and a risk on a goaltender who had seen his numbers decline for three consecutive years. Did he have what it takes to be a starting goaltender in the NHL?
I think we found out the answer this season.
Georgiev tied Linus Ullmark for the league lead in the NHL for wins with 40. He started a career high 62 games, which is 30 more than his previous high. With all of that, and with a beat-up defense in front of him, he finished sixth in the NHL in goals saved above average. At 5-on-5, he was third best. A remarkable season, and Joe Sakic’s final official trade as GM of the Colorado Avalanche looks like a good one.
After practice on Sunday, Georgiev was asked if he expected this type of season from himself as a starter.
“Yeah,” he said.
That’s it. That’s all he said. He’s a quiet guy, but he’s very confident in himself. This season, he showed he has every right to be.
“He’s gotten better and better as the season’s gone on, and he’ll have to do the same again in the playoffs,” Jared Bednar said on Monday.
That’s the only question mark around Georgiev. Heading into the season, the question was around him never having been a starter in the NHL. Now, the question is around him having no playoff experience. The only way to answer that question is by playing. On both Sunday and Monday, he said he just looks at game one of the playoffs as “Game 83.” That should tell you all you need to know about his demeanor. He’s not rattled by anything, and I don’t expect that to change in the playoffs.
Behind him, the Avalanche have Pavel Francouz. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Francouz, as he hasn’t been consistently healthy since the new year. But when the Avalanche needed him in the playoffs last year, he delivered, going 6-0 and winning all four of his starts. The Avalanche know if they need him, he’ll be ready.
Before Georgiev, the Avalanche went out and brought in Philipp Grubauer to be their starting goaltender. Grubauer was successful with the Avalanche, but was never able to get over that hump in round two of the playoffs. The team let him go, and he signed with Seattle two summers ago.
It has not gone the way he expected it to go.
In two seasons with the Kraken, Grubauer has put up save percentages of .889 and .895 as their starter. The team was able to get by with sub-par goaltending in the regular season, but can they do it in the postseason? Grubauer finished with a negative goals saved above average, at -8.93. That’s not good. And you can’t blame it on the defense, because as we went over in the other previews, the Kraken don’t give up a lot defensively.
Would anyone be surprised if we see both of their goaltenders this series? If anything, I expect it. Although, Martin Jones wasn’t better than Grubauer in the regular season. In fact, the numbers show he was much worse. His goals saved above average? -21.15. Yikes. His record, however, was significantly better, as he won 27 of the 48 games he played. If Grubauer struggles, they won’t hesitate to make a change.
This is an easy one. Georgiev may have no playoff experience, but he’s coming off the best season of any of the goaltenders in the series, and it’s not even close. He also now has a healthy defense in front of him. It’s fairly clear that the Kraken are winning in spite of their goaltending, not because of it. Given Francouz’s performance in the playoffs last year, I’m not sure this matchup is particularly close. The Avalanche take this one.