The Colorado Avalanche can win even without starting goalie Philipp Grubauer because they have a very capable backup in Pavel Francouz.
The Colorado Avalanche went into the bubble with a bit of a goal tending controversy. When the NHL season was put on pause, they had Pavel Francouz in net because erstwhile starter Philipp Grubauer was on the injured reserve list. Fast forward four months, the time it took to work through Phases 1-3, and Grubauer was healthy again.
The controversy came in how well Francouz had been playing before the pause. Since going in for Grubauer during his injury at the Stadium Series game, he went 7-3-2. He also recorded a shutout in his “playoff” debut, the round robin game against the Dallas Stars.
However, the Avalanche had traded for Philipp Grubauer to be their starting goalie, and so that’s who they tapped for the Arizona series. Francouz, of course, got one game — the Avalanche’s lone loss.
Grubauer is now “unfit to play.” We don’t have to speculate too much on why. He left Saturday’s game after making a save that seem to either pull or tear a groin muscle. He lay prone on his face, wincing, for a couple minutes before having to be helped off the ice. The coaching staff has already stated he will not practice today.
Here’s the injury.
Yeah, that doesn’t look like something he’s going to bounce back from. Francouz went into the game in relief of Grubauer. Unfortunately, he let in the game-winning goal, so he’s the goalie of record for the loss. So, officially, he has two playoff losses and one win, if you count the round robin game. (The NHL does, I do not.)
When the Avalanche play on Monday, Francouz will be the starter, and Michael Hutchinson will be his backup. Hutchinson has never played in a playoff game.
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*Insert “This is fine” gif with the room burning around a dog drinking coffee.
To add insult to injury — or, in this case, more injury — cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson blocked a shot in Saturday’s game and never fully returned. He was able to skate, but his status is unknown at the time of writing.
Well, the Colorado Avalanche are just going to have to keep on keeping on. Francouz is an unflappable man. You can even see it in the clip above as he’s getting ready to go in for Grubauer. He’s known for chilling in his crease when the play is on the other end of the ice. Other goalies don’t do that.
We have to return to the regular season, when Francouz had to take over for Grubauer, and he excelled at the task. A hot goalie can win you playoffs series, and why shouldn’t Francouz be the hot goalie? He has been in the past.
The key is the defense also has to help him. The Avalanche can’t be loosey-goosey on defense like they were in Game 1. They need to run their defensive plays as a five-man unit. The defensemen like to jump into the plays — and they’re hand-picked to do just that. So, the forwards must collapse back to help on D.
To help their unflappable but still first-year goalie.
And if he needs help the other way, they can play a run-and-gun style of hockey, too. The Avalanche have it in them to score a bunch of goals, which is forgiving for a goalie.
The Colorado Avalanche are built to win now. They can do so even with the loss of Philipp Grubauer in net. St. Louis did it with a rookie last year. Colorado can do so this year.