Julian Mongillo The Hockey Writers
Avalanche’s Special Teams Success Buries Coyotes to Advance
The Colorado Avalanche kept the good times rolling and the offense clicking with another barrage of goals, sending the Arizona Coyotes back to the desert in five games and booking their spot in Round 2. The Avalanche used their power play to propel them into the next round, scoring on two of the opportunities they got in the first period.
After a few close games at the beginning of the series, the skill and speed of the Avalanche were ultimately too much for the Coyotes to overcome. The Avs’ big guns led their team to victory as they have for most of this series with Nathan MacKinnon registering four points (two goals, two assists), Nazem Kadri potting two goals, including the eventual game-winner, and Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog both contributing two assists.
Game 5 Takeaways
The Avalanche’s success on the power play was one of the bright spots in this series after being ranked 19th through the regular season. The Avs capitalized on three of their four opportunities in Game 5 including the game-winning goal, which came on the man advantage.
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The team’s power play went 7-for-20 in this series and was clicking at a resounding 35 percent. The speed the Avs play with makes them hard to contain, allowing them to draw plenty of penalties. The team will need to continue to ride their red-hot power play to be successful moving forward.
Different Game, Same Grubi
Goaltending has not been a problem for the Avs all series, and Grubauer has been stellar in each of the four games he has started. His shutout bid in Game 5 was broken by Clayton Keller in the first half of the third period, which was nothing more than an item on the statsheet with the game already 6-0 at that point.
Grubauer stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced and was again not overly busy because of how far out of hand the game was after the second period. He was undefeated in the series, only allowing a total of four goals, and should be healthy and refreshed for the next round.
Battery Saver Mode
With the last two games against the Coyotes being so far out of reach early on, head coach Jared Bednar had the luxury of spreading out the minutes to all four of his lines. The top line was able to preserve their energy without having to battle as hard as other teams’ superstars may have had to in other series.
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This should bode well for the team as all players should be fresh heading into the second round. With a couple of days rest before Round 2 begins, the team should be able to get some recovery time in and shake off any ailments they may have picked up through Round 1. This extra time off also gives Vladislav Namestnikov some extra time to get healthy and hopefully return to the lineup sooner rather than later.
Areas to Improve
Keep the Intensity
Although the time off may be beneficial for the team to recover, it could also cause some unwanted play and bad habits to develop to start Round 2. The grinding and battling feel a playoff series usually has was lacking in this matchup, especially over the final two games.
The team cannot take their next opponent lightly, as it will surely be a tougher battle than they faced against the Coyotes. They will have to work much harder at both ends of the ice and cannot come out flat against their next opponent.
Not So Tough Times
The team has been rolling and has not faced much adversity, if any, thus far in the postseason. Aside from the two losses they’ve had in the eight games they have played since the restart, there has not been much hardship to face.
The team has also not had any significant injuries to any of their key players, like some other teams have been faced with this postseason. The team will have to keep strong mentally and focus to maintain the “next man up” or “keep pushing” mindset that comes if adversity hits.
Round 2 Opponent
With a couple of days before Round 1 wraps, up the Avalanche should be well-rested heading into the next round. The Vegas Golden Knights have already clinched the top seed in the Western Conference for Round 2, meaning the Avalanche will get the higher-seeded of the remaining teams that advance.
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Should the Dallas Stars, who are leading their series against the Calgary Flames 3-2, advance to the second round, the Avs will play their division rivals in Round 2. If the Flames were to advance to the second round, the Avs will have a date against the winner of the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks series.
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