Saturday’s loss to the Dallas Stars should be a jolt for the Colorado Avalanche. Avs Goaltender Philipp Grubauer left that game with an injury, shifting the responsibility to Pavel Francouz, who will continue between the pipes for Game 2. Top-four defenseman Erik Johnson sat out the third period after suffering an injury early in the contest.
All this drama aggravates an inescapable fact after Game 1: The Dallas Stars are not cowed by their opponent. In Game 1, the Stars’ style of play eroded a lot of the creativity and speed that’s the hallmark of the Avalanche skaters.
Falling down 2-0 would be a virtual death knell for Colorado. But even with the uncertainties that come with Francouz playing in goal and the lingering questions of Johnson’s health, it is hard to fathom Colorado getting wiped out so rapidly.
Nothing in the numbers suggest Colorado is ready to keel over. At DraftKings, Colorado is -165. That is quite high, but there is a danger to be suckered into recency bias. In other words, the Stars’ success wasn’t a gimmick, but they can still lose the series. I would grudgingly advise taking the favorite even though the price is steep.
In Game 2, Dallas established the cycle early. The Stars had their defensemen taking a very aggressive posture on their pinches, and their forwards were adept at rattling the Avs’ skaters on breakouts. These tactics were very effective, except with the Avs’ top forward group.
The Nathan MacKinnon line collected all three even-strength goals, finishing with a 74.30% expected goals and 10 shots on goal at 5-on-5. Composed of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, and often playing with defensemen Cale Makar and either Ryan Graves or Samuel Girard, this Avs group had the speed to push Dallas back and enter the offensive zone with speed.
In the offensive zone, the MacKinnon line’s three-wide set at the blue line had Makar and his left-handed partner sliding down or fanning out while MacKinnon helmed the point. At three wide, they sought to utilize Landeskog in the middle slot. This look was virtually unstoppable.