The Colorado Avalanche face the Arizona Coyotes for the first game of the first round of the playoffs! Keys to success.
The Colorado Avalanche officially start their 2020 NHL playoffs today. No more round robin for them — from here on out, every game counts.
That fact is significant because the Avalanche are also hoping today marks the first day on their march to the Stanley Cup. Mission 16W, baby.
Like I said, though, every game is important. So important, in fact, that the Tampa Bay Lightning-Columbus Blue Jackets game went through five overtimes! That’s a total of eight periods of play — equivalent to two-and-a-half whole games! Unlike Mike Milbury, I love those games.
As noted in a previous post, this is only the second time the Avalanche have met the Coyotes in a playoff series. In 2000, the Avalanche beat the Coyotes 4-1 in a first-round series. Fun fact, Daniel Briere, who spent a season with Colorado, skated on that team. Jeremy Roenick, whom Patrick Roy still couldn’t hear, also played on that team.
We don’t have Roy anymore, and the Yotes don’t have Briere and Roenick anymore either. They do have Oliver Eckman-Larsson, whom our captain, Gabriel Landeskog, declares is one of the best blueliners in the NHL. True as that may be, we have one Cale Makar — not to mention Nathan MacKinnon in god mode!
Well, this afternoon (in the COVID world, we get afternoon games), it’s up to the Avalanche to set the stage. Let’s look at some keys.
Offense vs Defense
The Avalanche have turned their once-maligned defense into a crown jewel. However, a team with MacKinnon on the front lines will be an offense-heavy team. As reported, though, almost a third of Colorado’s goals came from the new guys during the season. And they’ve kept it up in the round robin.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes do have a drool-worthy blueline quarterbacked by Eckman-Larsson. Indeed, Arizona was third-best in goals-allowed per game in the regular season. Colorado is going to want to bust that stat.
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The Colorado Avalanche have a serviceable goal tending tandem in Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz. For now, it seems Grubauer will retain his starting duties. However, the coaching staff pay lip service to the idea that each goalie has to earn his ice time, same as any other player.
Meanwhile, the Avs will be facing an old Minny nemesis, Darcy Kuemper. In the regular season, Kuemper posted a 2.22 goals against average and .928 save percentage. He also threw a shutout against Colorado in the regular season. In his four games against Nashville in the play-in round, he posted a 2.77 GAA and .933 save percentage.
Grubauer — or Francouz, if he gets a start — will have to be sharp to counter the stingy Yotes.
Grit vs Finesse
Neither offense nor goal tending — or even defense — is going to be a problem for the Avalanche. They are a deep, solidly-built team from front to back. However, they’re built as a finesse team. They like the pretty game.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, are a little more on the gritty side. They’re not afraid to get dirty in the dirty areas. As we saw against the Vegas Golden Knights, that grittiness can sometimes present a problem for Colorado.
The Avs aren’t grinders. However, they’re going to have to grind away at the Coyotes if they want to prevail today.
How to Enjoy the Game
Time: August 12, 3:30 PM MDT
TV: NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, ALT, FS-A PLUS, FS-A (JIP)
Radio: FM 92.5, AM 950
Fun fact: Today is my birthday, and I’m hoping for an Avs win to celebrate the only time in history there’s been hockey on my birthday.