Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Avalanche Preview: Game Two vs. Minnesota Wild (Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One)

Wild Mindset

The Minnesota Wild blew game one. They had the Avs down 4-2 with 20 minutes left. They were leading by one goal with three minutes to go and an empty net to shoot at. They allowed the game-tying goal with 13 seconds left and then lost in overtime. They still have a chance to split on the road, which is what every team hopes for heading into the playoffs, but now that’s the best they can get. They had a chance to take both games in Colorado. Something like that can deflate a team.

Trusting Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov’s playoff trackrecord isn’t very good. He had to be the biggest concern for Wild fans heading into the playoffs and he wasn’t very good in game one. He gave up five goals on 31 shots, including a relatively weak game winner to Paul Stastny. Bryzgalov has to be better if the Wild hope to have any chance of winning this series. If I’m a Wild player or fan, I’m not so sure I trust him to steal a game when he needs to.

Semyon Varlamov Rebounding

Semyon Varlamov was the best player on the Avs this season and a potential Vezina Trophy finalist. But he wasn’t good in game one. He was shakey early and the Wild took advantage of it by scoring four goals in the first two periods, including a couple that Varly would definitely want back. If you believe, like I do, that Varlamov didn’t play well early because it was his first game in a week then you’re probably not worried about Varly moving forward. But if he just can’t handle the playoff pressure, this series could turn into a track meet.

The MacKinnon Factor

We all knew that Nathan MacKinnon was a special player. He proved that once again in game one with three assists. MacKinnon actually dictates the Avalanche offense though. When Patrick Roy needs a goal, he loads up with Mackinnon, Gabe Landeskog, and Paul Stastny. To start the game though, MacKinnon is the center between Ryan O’Reilly and P.A. Parenteau. If I’m Roy, I’d experiment with MacKinnon, O’Reilly, and Jamie McGinn while putting Parenteau with Stastny and Landeskog. No matter who he’s playing with, MacKinnon is the most dangerous player on the ice.

Special Teams Focus

The Avs won game one despite losing the special teams battle. They didn’t cash in on four power play chances and gave up a power play goal on two chances. The Avs have to be better on the special teams moving forward. Maybe it won’t cost them in this series, but it will definitely cost them down the road.

Injury Updates

John Mitchell and Matt Duchene didn’t practice on Friday and are doubtful to play in game two. Duchene is definitely out, likely until a potential game five, with a knee injury while Mitchell is day-to-day with a concussion. As always, you never know how things are going to go with concussions, so Mitchell could return in game three or might not play the entire series. Cory Sarich is also out with a back injury and, if he plays in the series, game five seems to be a best case scenario.

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