Kraken can’t put Avalanche in big hole at home, lose in Game 2

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US News, April 21, 2023. Kraken come close but Avalanche rally back for 3-2 win that evens series. They can’t put Avalanche in big hole at home, lose in Game 2.

It didn’t get off to a good start for him. Although I didn’t think either of the goals that he let in were particularly difficult saves, Georgiev deserves a lot of credit for keeping Seattle’s goal total tonight at two.

He was under assault for the most of the first period—less so from quantity than from quality. He wasn’t asked to make many outstanding saves once the Avs calmed down in the second period, but when he was, he delivered.

He was a bit fortunate. At the conclusion of the second period, Jordan Eberle missed the 3v1 opportunity, but his extended leg was still the save the Avs required at that time. After that, he needed to maintain stops on breakaways and odd-man rushes. things locked down and kept his team in contact.

We knew the Avs were going to require better goaltending this postseason than last and tonight was a good example of what they need. Georgiev doesn’t have to steal the game, per se, but he’s going to have to have some big moments. 

Devon Toews

Toews opened the game with an inexcusably bad pinch that led to a 2v1 the other way and resulted in Justin Schultz’s game-opening goal. It was another huge mistake from Colorado’s smartest player that was downright befuddling. How did Toews go from being the rock on their blueline to a downright liability through four playoff periods?

Then the real Devon Toews showed up. His reading Seattle’s slow change and rocketing the puck up to a waiting Evan Rodrigues kickstarted the whole play that led to Val Nichushkin’s game-tying goal. It was the kind of aggressive decision we’ve seen define Toews’s Colorado tenure.

As the third period wore on, you could see Colorado’s defense activating more and creating the kind of offense the Avs lacked in Game 1. This paid off when Toews pounced on yet another juicy rebound from Philipp Grubauer and Toews beat Grubauer cleanly for the game-winning goal. Toews was back and Colorado is tied in this series in large part because of him.

Bowen Byram/Cale Makar

They played nearly 16 minutes together at 5v5 and completely dominated the Kraken. With this pairing on the ice, shots were 17-5 for the Avs with a 13-6 advantage in scoring chances.

These guys combined for 12 shots on goal and eight hits. Byram continues to come close to his first career postseason goal as he registered eight shots on goal of his own tonight and multiple scoring chances. He’s been Colorado’s best offensive defenseman through two games and took his game to another level tonight and registered an assist on the Lehkonen goal.

Makar followed a solid Game 1 with another very good offensive showing, but his play on the two Seattle goals was notable. The first goal, it doesn’t look like he realizes he’s in a 1v2 situation as he completely closes on Tolvanen and then backs off the puck pressure, making the pass to an open Schultz pretty easy.

It got better for Makar, whose shot was tipped by Lehkonen and he made several plays with his legs that resulted in chances for the Avalanche. He looks more and more comfortable, which is a big problem for Seattle.

This new “top pairing” for Colorado earned another game together.

Artturi Lehkonen

A playoff-style player, his tip-in goal and assist tonight are exactly what this club needs from him. He finished as a stat-stuffer in the box score with one goal, one assist, four shots on goal, six hits, and two blocked shots.

I’m not sure I really need to say more than that because that stat line is a very accurate depiction of his game tonight. He did a little of everything for Colorado and the Avalanche needed all of it.

Colorado’s physicality

This was the one area of Colorado’s game that you noticed from the first period as a positive. The Avs were chasing hits a little too much, but they brought a commitment to hitting Seattle and making life miserable for them. Game 1 was, simply put, too easy for a playoff win. They weren’t battered, they weren’t bruised, and no Kraken players were second-guessing going to the dirty areas of the ice because of any punishment received.

I don’t know if any Seattle players will hesitate moving forward (they aren’t really a team wired that way as a club that enjoys physical hockey as well), but Colorado certainly upped the physical ante tonight and wasn’t going to settle for just another playoff game. This came with costs.

When your hits leaders on the night include names such as Rodrigues, Lehkonen, Makar, Byram, and MacKinnon, you’ve gotten total buy-in from this group on playing a more punishing style. It worked.

This made me laugh but, somehow, Josh Manson was one of three Avs to finish the night with zero hits.

Duds, That first period

What a nightmare sitting through it was. It was a “Twilight Zone” level of confusion for me. How could this team, the defending Stanley Cup champions who scratched and clawed and fought all season long for the Central Division title, have a first-period response to their Game 1 loss that bad?

It was shocking to watch. It wasn’t as if Seattle came out and forced their hand, caused mayhem and created some great goals. Once again, Colorado handed them free goals, easy goals, easy opportunities for goals. It was just so easy for Seattle. They weren’t pressed at all. Brandon Tanev is blowing kisses to the crowd and Philipp Grubauer is setting up a lounge chair in his crease because Colorado couldn’t get anything going in his area.

I called Game 1 a tremendous disappointment on the whole and even that felt better than the first period of this game. Slow starts have been a pox upon Colorado’s house in the last few weeks of the regular season, but nothing like what we saw tonight. My goodness, what a mess.

It’s nice that Colorado rebounded from this fiasco of an effort because I really couldn’t explain what was going on other than absolutely brutal hockey.

Unsung Hero, Nathan MacKinnon

Not often this guy ends up here but with zero points tonight, it would have been easy to overlook his contributions. His skating stressed Seattle’s defense in a way that never happened in Game 1 and he came thisclose to a clean breakaway chance in the third period.

He pushed the pace while on the ice and attacked and attacked and attacked. It was a relentless assault from MacKinnon, especially in periods two and three, and I thought this was one of the rare nights when his efforts weren’t rewarded on the scoresheet.

I’d like to see him be a little more patient, a little more creative on the power play than settling for him bombing one-timers that Grubauer can easily read, but that’s been a complaint of mine all season so I’m not likely to see any returns on that.

MacKinnon’s puck management wasn’t great early on but he started feeling it as the game went on. He also helped out on the defensive side a bit. His role in Tanev’s short-handed goal wasn’t great as he could have made more of an effort in all facets, but life is as much about responding to adversity as the adversity itself.

I thought MacKinnon responded and he ended with eight shots on goal and four hits. I loved his mojo in the third period.

Evan Rodrigues

I really wasn’t sure where to put Rodrigues tonight but I wanted to make sure I wrote something about him. He was awesome in this game. I haven’t loved the MacKinnon-Rodrigues combination for a while and wanted to see Lehkonen there instead, but Jared Bednar found something by putting the three of them together.

The on-ice numbers for Rodrigues are actually jaw-droppingly incredible tonight: 31-6 Corsi, 19-5 shots on goal, 18-3 scoring chances, 8-1 high-danger chances. That’s outrageous.

Funny enough, it was his physicality that jumped off the ice to me as he had five hits, including two huge hits in periods one and two. He was putting a charge into the game in a different way and the Avs needed that spark.

His slip pass to Nichushkin on the game-tying goal was understated brilliance. It looks easy, but a tired Will Borgen wasn’t able to make a play on the puck at all and the puck landed flat on Nichushkin’s blade. Great, great game from Evan Rodrigues.

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