Colorado Avalanche should prepare for a long series against the Dallas Stars

After two disappointing results in a row, the Avalanche trail 2-1 - but it is not time to panic.
Dallas Stars v Colorado Avalanche - Game Three
Dallas Stars v Colorado Avalanche - Game Three / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The Colorado Avalanche find themselves down two games to one against Dallas. The mood among Avs Faithful could certainly be better. The glaring stat among detractors is that the Avalanche have not led for a single second of game-time in this series. This is unfortunately true on paper but does not tell the whole story.

Yes, Colorado needed a gargantuan third period and overtime heroics from Alexander Georgiev and Miles Wood to steal the opener, but they got it. The Avs proved that their quick-strike ability on offense is something to be reckoned with. They were the comeback kings of the NHL this year after all. Still, from what I have seen in this series their problems stem from execution.

It might be presumptuous of me to say this, but I expect this team to clean up those errors. I believe they are too skilled not to do better in Game 4. Much like I said after their opening loss at Winnipeg the Avalanche have offensive skills most teams and fanbases dream of possessing. Even after an absolute stinker in Game 3, the Avs core have three players in the top 10 in playoff points.

I am not running from the reality that those three big guns. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar weren't good enough in these last two losses. I'm only trying to regain a little perspective. If you look for Dallas Stars on those same charts you won't any one of them in the top 20, and they have played two more games—however, you will find two more Avs, Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen.

While Colorado struggled to find the net on Saturday they did come out with better energy to start the game. The issues with execution were most evident in their trio of failed powerplays in the first. That simply can't happen if you expect to win games in the postseason. Still, not all of that means they played bad hockey. The Avs sustained pressure which helped them get the penalties to begin with.

The second period might have been the best the team played all series long, but sadly, they only converted on one of those chances. The third was also the roughest. The Avalanche led Dallas in High-Danger Chances for the game 12 to 7. Looking beyond the outcome, those are the kinds of disparities you want.

For the uninitiated stat-heads: a high-danger chance is a quality shot from the slot, or the area between the two face-off dots and immediately in front of the net. This is the hot zone where an overwhelming number of goals are typically scored. If Colorado keeps the differential in that area they will have a great opportunity for success.

Tonight is a big test, no doubt. But another reason to be optimistic is home-ice advantage. Colorado had the league's best home record this season. The Avs were a robust 31-9-1 at Ball Arena. Dropping one on Saturday hurt, but the team's history suggests that losing two in a row in Colorado is highly unlikely. I believe they will show up tonight ready to play a full 60 minutes and once again shift the narrative of the series and their playoff hopes.

The Avalanche could use a morale boost, that much I concede. We might be seeing that tonight in the form of a returning Jonathan Drouin. Drouin has been out since suffering a very untimely cut in the regular season finale against Edmonton. Coach Bednar was not definite in his status but CHN's Evan Rawal reports it is possible.

The impact of a player like Drouin could be as much mental as it is a potential physical reality for Colorado. He is coming off a career-best 56-point season. But beyond that, he is known to be Nathan MacKinnon's best friend on the roster. The friendship brought Drouin into Colorado to begin with - to think that they might have missed the chance to play in the post-season together was the biggest of all bummers.

If Drouin is healthy enough to suit up tonight, it could open a big but necessary shuffle. Despite scoring the Avs‘ lone goal in Game Three, the tandem of MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has been a little out-of-synch. So much so that it drew a comment from the normally very reserved Bednar after Game 2.

Disharmony seemed to be a major question for the TNT broadcast crew despite the improved activity in Game Three. Most notably, when MacKinnon took a quick shift-change while still on the powerplay. I tend not to dwell on those kinds of micro-narratives, but I would nonetheless like to see if perhaps putting Mikko on the second line might help spark Casey Mittelstadt.

Mittelstadt was the Avs biggest deadline acquisition , and he was fantastic in his first-ever playoff action vs the Jets. So far against Dallas, he has struggled to put his stamp on a game. A little time with The Moose , and either Lehkonen or Nichuskin might be just what he needs to get it going again.

As is always the case with lineup injections, this could have some positive trickle-down effect. It would get Zach Parise back down to help the bottom-six guys too which is what he was brought in to do when he signed as a Free Agent.

Colorado could be getting healthier at just the right time to take momentum in the series back. Stars coach Pete DeBoer called his club's game on Saturday 'near perfect'. Personally, I think that is a wild take. On the PK in the first, and on their ability to shut things down in the final frame, maybe. But I hope the Avalanche take that comment as motivation.

Two empty-netters made the result look very different than the play on the ice indicated to my eyes. Colorado can come back and I think they will. I think this will be a long hard-fought series that goes 6 or even 7 games. I thought as much before the puck dropped in Game 1.

As much as that might make Avs Faithful sweat considering Pete DeBoer's much lauded Game Seven record of 8-0, I'll remind you all of one final stat to chew on. Pete DeBoer's teams have never hoisted a Stanley Cup, but Jared Bednar's team has indeed. Avalanche in six, or seven.