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RAPID REACTION: Top Forwards Drop The Ball For Avalanche

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It’s pretty rare for Jared Bednar to call out his top players, but the Avalanche head coach got as close to doing it as he has all year after Game Two.

And for good reason. Colorado’s top forwards, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, weren’t up to snuff on Thursday night, and it ultimately cost the Avalanche.

“They’ve got to go to work,” Bednar said after Game Two.

Those aren’t a lot of words, but it really says a lot. Bednar’s actions during Game Two showed his frustration with the top line at various times during the game.

It really started with MacKinnon’s penalty in the first period. With plenty of time, and no one really pressuring him, he flipped the puck up into the air from the defensive zone. Was he trying to send it out of play? I’m sure he wasn’t, but the issue is the fact that the penalty came with him sitting in the defensive zone, not moving his feet. He had time to make a play or start to move his feet, but he didn’t.

Less than a minute later, it was 1-0 Dallas.

Bednar tried everything he could to get the duo going, outside of separating the two Avalanche stars. Valeri Nichushkin started on that line, but he didn’t finish there. Zach Parise spent time up there, Casey Mittelstadt (zero shots on goal) took some shifts with them, and ultimately, Artturi Lehkonen finished the night on the top line. A healthy Jonathan Drouin might take that spot at some point in this series, but when you have two guys making over $20 million together, the third guy shouldn’t be the one making that line click.

Rantanen drew two penalties in Game Two, but continues to look frustrated. The shorthanded goal by Seguin, which ultimately turned out to be the game-winner, will not look good on tape for Rantanen. He floats back into the defensive zone, and instead of stopping in front of his net, just continues to glide by Seguin, who ultimately rifles the puck into the net.

Chris Tanev has matched up against the top line through two games, and done a decent job so far. Bednar doesn’t hide from matchups at home, and said as much after the game, so I don’t expect them to be too worried about that when the series shifts back to Denver. What he can’t have is his top player losing their cool, which is what he felt happened in Game Two.

“They were the guys who got frustrated the quickest and the longest,” Bednar said. “They’re going to get keyed on this time of year. They have the ability to win games for us if they stick with it and are resilient and play the right way like they have all year. Tonight in the second period, they didn’t. They got frustrated. I was looking for anyone that might be able to give them a spark and help them kind of get their game going, but they’re also partly responsible for that. They have to take it upon themselves to make sure their game is right and in order, probably longer than anybody else because they play the most minutes.”

Pretty harsh words from the head coach. On Saturday, we’ll see if his stars respond.

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