The Avalanche hasn’t ruined it yet…not yet.
Despite being beaten 119-63 and losing Games 3 and 4 handily, the Avs still have a significant advantage in what has amounted to a miniseries.
A team with home advantage in a run of seven games only really gets into trouble when it loses on home ice. In the first four games of their second round series against the Vegas Golden Knights, both teams are 2-0 at home.
Now down to a three-game series, two of those games are scheduled for Ball Arena, where the Avs go 20-0-1 from the regular season. That’s where the Avs collective heads were for Game 5 on Tuesday.
“I think our guys have a good feeling about it,” said coach Jared Bednar after the Avs’ morning skates. “They know we weren’t where we were supposed to be in a series like this for a few games. This is a very difficult team that we played against, a team that doesn’t give you a lot of space and they worked and competed in certain areas when we hadn’t gotten into that battle. We played the last game and I expect to be even more so at home tonight.”
Bednar shook his front lines for Game 5, dropping Gabe Landeskog on the second line and promoting Brandon Saad (six goals in the playoffs) to first. He dropped right winger Joonas Donskoi to the fourth line and brought out rookie Alex Newhook, who played in Games 1 and 2, on the fourth line. Instead of Donskoi on the third line, sophomore winger Logan O’Connor – who has not played since March 31 due to a lower body injury – stepped in to play with Andre Burakovsky and Tyson Jost.
The offensive key for Colorado is to get star center Nathan MacKinnon (senseless last two games) out of his rut, as well as wingers Landeskog (shotless last two games) and Burakovsky (goalless in the playoffs), among others.
The Avs have put very little sustained pressure on Knights goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury since the first stint of Game 2. They need to find that offensive magic that made them the NHL’s top-scoring team in the regular season and the playoffs. They still lead the league in the play-offs, despite only producing six goals in the last three games.
“One of the most important things will be to find some space in the attack zone to try and get some things out of the cycle,” Bednar said. “We couldn’t find space there, so we looked at a few things, gave our guys some ideas and recommendations and we’ll see how we implement them tonight.”
“The boys are very excited,” said Jost. “We know what is at stake. It is a series of three games. It’s do or die now. We are back in front of our own fans. That’s exciting and I know the guys are going to fly tonight.”
He added: “The last game we fought hard. Didn’t see the result. Wasn’t what we wanted but I thought we had built a little bit so it’s something we can build on tonight and like I said the guys are really energetic and we’re excited to be flying tonight.”
Footnotes. Attackers Carl Soderberg and Kiefer Sherwood got scratched after playing in Games 3 and 4…. The Avalanche pairs stayed the same. … Veteran defender Erik Johnson, who has not played since January 31 due to an upper body injury, skated in a regular jersey on Tuesday morning but has yet to be released.