Brad Marchand had a pair of goals as the Boston Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, at Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
Bruins netminder, Jeremy Swayman (4-2-0, 2.18 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in six games played) made 27 saves on 29 shots against in the win.
Jonathan Bernier (4-2-0, 2.80 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 31 out of 35 shots faced in the loss.
Boston improved to 7-5-0 (14 points) on the season and moved ahead of the Buffalo Sabres for 5th place in the Atlantic Division standings by virtue of games-in-hand (the Bruins have played 12 games, while Buffalo has played 13 games thus far).
New Jersey fell to 7-4-2 (16 points) overall and remained in 5th place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
The B’s also improved to 2-4-0 on the road this season, as well as 16-6-5 in 27 games at Prudential Center.
Trent Frederic (upper body) was the only Bruin out of the lineup due to injury, but head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple adjustments to his lines from Thursday night’s, 5-3, loss to the Edmonton Oilers entering Saturday.
Karson Kuhlman re-entered the lineup in place of Craig Smith on the third line, while Mike Reilly was scratched in place of Jakub Zboril on the third defensive pairing.
Smith and Reilly were joined by Oskar Steen on the short list of healthy scratches for Boston on Saturday. Steen was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday and will likely be on the third line in place of Kuhlman on Sunday against Montréal.
Early in the first period, Jesper Boqvist caught David Pastrnak with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty, yielding the afternoon’s first power play opportunity to the Bruins at 6:37 of the first period.
Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Swayman played the puck outside of the trapezoid for a delay of game penalty at 7:27.
Kuhlman served Swayman’s minor, while the two teams skated at 4-on-4 for about 1:10 prior to an abbreviated power play for the Devils.
New Jersey couldn’t capitalize on the shift in skater strength, though.
Minutes later, Connor Clifton checked Tomáš Tatar away from the puck and received an inference infraction at 10:08. Once again, however, the Devils couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the period, after switching up his bottom-six forwards– demoting Jake DeBrusk to the fourth line after a slow start and promoting Anton Blidh to the third line alongside Erik Haula and Kuhlman– Boston’s third line broke through for the afternoon’s first goal of the game.
Haula (1) sent a rebound off an initial shot by Blidh through Bernier’s five-hole to give the B’s a, 1-0, lead at 17:37 of the first period.
Blidh (1) and Kuhlman (1) tallied the assists on Haula’s first goal of the season (and first goal in a Bruins uniform, as well).
Entering the first intermission, Boston held a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal, 14-9.
The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2) and hits (6-5), while New Jersey led in takeaways (9-6). Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, in the first period.
The Devils were 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play after one period.
Dawson Mercer tripped up Clifton to kick things off in the middle frame with a Bruins power play at 2:58 of the second period.
Late in the special teams action, Marchand (7) wired a shot from the point with eyes through traffic past Bernier to give the B’s a two-goal lead.
Charlie McAvoy (7) and Patrice Bergeron (7) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 4:10 of the second period.
Jesper Bratt sent a pass to Andreas Johnsson before Johnsson setup Mercer (5) in the slot on a tic-tac-goal to cut Boston’s lead in half as the Devils got on the scoreboard and trailed, 2-1, 28 seconds after Marchand scored his first goal of the afternoon.
Johnsson (5) and Bratt (6) notched the assists on Mercer’s goal at 4:38 of the second period.
For the third time in their last five periods, Boston allowed a goal less than one minute after scoring a goal.
About two minutes later, however, the B’s extended their lead back to two-goals as Marchand worked a pass to Pastrnak for a blast that rebounded off of Bernier’s glove before Marchand (8) collected the garbage and snuck the puck past Bernier’s left pad.
Pastrnak (7) and McAvoy (8) had the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the game– his 50th career two-goal game– and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 6:52.
Less than a minute later, Taylor Hall hooked Alexander Holtz and presented the Devils with a power play at 7:14, but New Jersey wasn’t able to beat Boston’s penalty kill.
Midway through the middle frame, Brandon Carlo cross checked Nico Hischier away from the play and both players cut a rut to their respective penalty boxes– Carlo for cross checking, Hischier for embellishment– at 13:50.
After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams returned to 5-on-5 action without any issue.
In the waning minute of the middle frame, Charlie Coyle banked the puck off of a referee inadvertently, which led to a fortunate bounce for the Devils as Mercer faked a shot and passed the puck off to Bratt (3) for a one-timer goal to pull New Jersey back to within one at 19:24 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 26-18, in shots on goal– including a, 12-9, advantage in the second period alone.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-5), hits (14-8) and faceoff win% (59-41) after two periods, while New Jersey led in takeaways (17-9).
Both teams had three giveaways each through two periods.
The Devils were 0/3 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.
Midway through the final frame, Pastrnak got a shot off that ended up loose in the crease after Bernier made the initial save, but in the ensuing scrum Bergeron (6) tapped the rubber biscuit over the goal line to give Boston another two-goal lead, 4-2, at 10:49 of the third period.
Pastrnak (8) and McAvoy (9) snagged the assists on Bergeron’s goal– completing a three-assist afternoon for McAvoy (his first since Jan. 26, 2021, in a, 3-2, overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Seconds prior to the goal, Hall had made incidental contact in Boston’s own zone with Devils defender, Ryan Graves, who was slow to get up and off the ice under his own power.
Berner vacated the crease with 2:33 remaining in the game for an extra attacker, but briefly returned to the net before leaving once more around 1:33 left in regulation after New Jersey iced the puck.
Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, used his timeout after a stoppage in play with 1:21 remaining in the action so that assistant coach, Mark Recchi, could drum up a plan to rally his team and tie the game.
Bruins assistant coach, Chris Kelly, had other ideas, however.
In the last minute of regulation, Bratt turned the puck over on a giveaway to DeBrusk’s skates, leading DeBrusk (3) to gain control of the puck, skate forward and hit the empty twine from the center ice logo on an unassisted effort.
DeBrusk’s empty net goal cemented a, 5-2, victory for Boston at 19:06 of the third period.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-29, despite trailing the Devils in shots on goal in the third period alone, 11-10.
The B’s exited the building with the lead in blocked shots (25-8), hits (16-11) and faceoff win% (54-46), while New Jersey left their home ice with the advantage in giveaways (8-4).
As there were no penalties called in the third period, the Devils finished Saturday afternoon’s effort 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2 on the skater advantage.
Boston improved to 6-3-0 (2-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 6-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after one period and 5-1-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
New Jersey, meanwhile, fell to 4-4-1 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-4-1 (1-3-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-1 (1-3-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.
The Bruins return home Sunday to host the Montréal Canadiens at TD Garden for the first time since the 2019-20 season before having five days off prior to their next road game in Philadelphia next Saturday (Nov. 20th).
Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.
And then Wednesday’s games happened too.
Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.
Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.
The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).
A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).
The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.
Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.
In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.
Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.
In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.
However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.
As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.
We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.
For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).
Will Coloradofinally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?
Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:
No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?
The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.
Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.
Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.
The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.
Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.
Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.
Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?
The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.
Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.
As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.
Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?
I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.
You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.
If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.
The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.
Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.
Can Arizona avoid the basement?
Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.
That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).
Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.
Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?
The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.
That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.
It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.
Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.
Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?
The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.
Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.
Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.
If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.
That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.
Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.
Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?
Eh, it’s hard to say.
The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.
Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.
Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.
It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.
Is this the toughest division to project?
The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.
The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.
The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.
The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.
Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.
What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?
They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.
There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?
What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?
I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.
Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.
Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.
First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.
What does this mean for the Leafs?
Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.
The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.
No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.
A lot and not a lot has changed since then.
Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.
So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.
That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.
Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?
No. Let’s be realistic here.
The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.
In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.
In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.
That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.
Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.
Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.
A little more patience won’t hurt them.
The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.
It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.
As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…
At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.
Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?
I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.
The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.
That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.
Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.
Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.
Additions: F Darren Helm, F Mikhail Maltsev (acquired from NJD), F Dylan Sikura, D Jordan Gross, D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO), D Kurtis MacDermid (acquired from SEA), D Stefan Matteau, D Roland McKeown, D Ryan Murray, G Darcy Kuemper (acquired from ARI)
Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with TBL), F Matt Calvert (retired), F Joonas Donskoi (expansion, SEA), F Sheldon Dries (signed with VAN), F Ty Lewis (retired), F Liam O’Brien (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Brandon Saad (signed with STL), F Miikka Salomäki (SHL), F Carl Söderberg (SHL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with WSH), D Kyle Burroughs (signed with VAN), D Ryan Graves (traded to NJD), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with DET), D Conor Timmins (traded to ARI), G Philipp Grubauer (signed with SEA), G Peyton Jones (signed with Colorado Eagles, AHL), G Adam Werner (signed with CGY)
Still Unsigned: F Travis Barron, G Devan Dubnyk
Re-signed: F Tyson Jost, F Gabriel Landeskog, F Jayson Megna, F Kiefer Sherwood, D Dennis Gilbert, D Cale Makar, G Jonas Johansson
Offseason Analysis: If next spring doesn’t bring the desired results to Colorado, it’ll be 20 years since the Avalanche last made an appearance in the Western Conference Final.
Back in 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were in the prime of their dominance and the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry was red hot as the two teams went at it for not only regular season titles, but Stanley Cup rings as well.
Colorado had won in 1996 and 2001, Detroit won in 1997, 1998 and would do so again in 2002, as well as 2008– five years after Patrick Roy played his last National Hockey League game.
In the 2002 Western Conference Final, the defending Stanley Cup champion Avs were once again the team to beat, but the Red Wings took the series in seven games and went on to win the Cup.
Since then, both teams have had a bit of a falling out.
When Joe Sakic took over as General Manager of the Avalanche, the goal was simple– return the franchise to its glory days.
The bump in the road that was the 2016-17 season brought the team the 4th overall pick after losing in the draft lottery, yet at 4th overall in 2017, Colorado selected their biggest game-changing defender since the acquisition of Ray Bourque in Cale Makar.
Sakic turned his attention to a Makar extension when it seemed like things had gone south with keeping captain, Gabriel Landeskog, in town.
The 22-year-old defender signed a six-year extension worth $9.000 million per season after finishing second in Norris Trophy voting to New York Rangers defender, Adam Fox, for the 2020-21 season.
Makar had 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games– exactly a point-a-game in his sophomore campaign, limited again due to injury after amassing 12-38–50 totals in 57 games in his first NHL season in 2019-20.
Sakic signed Makar to an extension on July 24th and then in the 11th hour as free agency drew near, signed Landeskog to an eight-year extension worth $7.000 million per season.
The 28-year-old captain was Colorado’s 2011 1st round pick (2nd overall) and has 218-294–512 totals in 687 games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with the Avs.
Landeskog had a promising 52-point season (22 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games in his first year in the league, then the 2012-13 48-game lockout shortened season kept him to 9-8–17 totals in 36 games.
The Avalanche missed out on the playoffs from 2011-13, but in 2014, Colorado squared off against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round– only to lose in seven games.
That playoff series, however, was the first taste of playoff hockey for Nathan MacKinnon and went decently for Landeskog as well.
After amassing 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 81 games in the regular season, Landeskog had 3-1–4 totals in the seven-game series against the Wild.
Then his production dropped to 59 points in 82 games in 2014-15, and 53 points in 75 games in 2015-16– coinciding with Colorado’s fall from grace.
In the dismal 2016-17 campaign for the Avalanche, in which the team amassed 48 points on the season with a 22-56-4 record, Landeskog had just 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) and had a minus-25 rating.
But the Avs have made the playoffs every season since then– succumbing to the Nashville Predators in six games in the 2018 First Round, bowing out to the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the 2019 Second Round, losing to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the 2020 Second Round and dropping out in six games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 Second Round.
In that span, Landeskog’s had a career resurgence. He had 62 points in 78 games in 2017-18, 75 points in 73 games in 2018-19, 44 points in 54 games while battling injury and the COVID-19 pandemic shortened regular season in 2019-20, as well as 52 points in 54 games in last season’s 56-game regular season schedule.
Some say his resurgence can be accredited to the emergence of Colorado’s dominant first line with MacKinnon at center, Landeskog at left wing and Mikko Rantanen at right wing, but then how can that attribute to his own individual playoff success?
Landeskog had seven points (four goals, three assists) in six postseason games in 2018, 3-5–8 totals in Colorado’s 12-game 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff experience, 2-11–13 totals in 14 games during their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble run and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in ten games in the Avalanche’s 2021 postseason run.
It’s plain to see that whereas MacKinnon is the superstar forward, Landeskog is the lifeblood of the organization– both as the captain and as a clutch performer when it matters most.
Landeskog’s reasonable cap hit should take some pressure off of Sakic as he negotiates extensions with MacKinnon after the 2022-23 season and Rantanen after the 2024-25 season, when the salary cap ceiling is expected to have risen due to the increased revenue from the current U.S. broadcasting rights packages.
Two big pieces were taken care of, so naturally Sakic set his sights on Philipp Grubauer… …who chose to leave for the Seattle Kraken in free agency.
Grubauer signed a six-year contract worth $5.900 million per season with the Kraken on July 28th– the day that free agency began and a week after Seattle claimed Joonas Donskoi from the Avs in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
Last season, Grubauer went 30-9-1 in 40 games played, had seven shutouts (tied for the most with New York Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov) and amassed a 1.95 goals-against average, as well as a .922 save percentage in that span.
It was a breakout year for the 29-year-old goaltender, so why not cash in while you can?
The downside for Colorado, however, is that it left them briefly with uncertainty in the crease until they acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes later that same day.
Sakic worked the phones quite a bit this summer between agents and fellow general managers.
On July 15th, Colorado swapped defender, Ryan Graves, with the New Jersey Devils for forward, Mikhail Maltsev, and a 2021 2nd round pick (from NYI via NJD- 61st overall, Sean Behrens).
On July 27th, Sakic sent a 2023 4th round pick to the Kraken for defender, Kurtis MacDermid, whose father, Paul, played for the Québec Nordiques from 1993-95.f
After losing Grubauer to Seattle in free agency, Sakic dealt defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick to the Coyotes for Kuemper.
Much like Linus Ullmark going from the Buffalo Sabres to the Boston Bruins via free agency this summer, it’s hard to tell what to expect out of Kuemper in an Avalanche uniform.
He should be better considering the overall quality and depth of defenders on Colorado’s blue line a la Ullmark’s upgrade from Buffalo’s defense to Boston’s defense in front of him.
That said, Kuemper hasn’t really been a starting goaltender for long. It’s a risk, like when Colorado sought after Grubauer in the first place from the Washington Capitals a few summers ago.
In his first season as a starter, Kuemper went 27-20-8 in 55 games with Arizona– notching five shutouts and recording a 2.33 goals-against average, as well as a .925 save percentage. Good stuff.
In 2019-20, he went 16-11-2 in 29 games, had two shutouts and yielded a 2.22 goals-against average, as well as a .928 save percentage.
Last season, he went 10-11-3 in 27 games, dropping to a 2.56 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and once again recording two shutouts.
Kuemper is 31-years-old and made his league debut with the Minnesota Wild back in the 2012-13 season– the same season that Grubauer broke into the league with the Capitals, albeit two years younger in age.
How will a full 82-game schedule as the starting netminder with Pavel Francouz returning from an injury that prevented him from being the backup in Colorado last season impact Kuemper’s performance in the crease?
There’s kind of a lot at stake here. No pressure or anything, but the Avalanche are trying to win the Cup now rather than later.
Speaking of “win-now” mode, the loss of Donskoi, Brandon Saad and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare puts Colorado in a difficult spot.
They don’t have the dominant bottom-six players on paper that they had last season that made them as much of a threat as the Golden Knights or Tampa Bay Lightning.
Instead, they’ll be relying on the emergence of youth in Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor and Maltsev mixed with a combination of young players getting better in Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher, as well as a veteran in Darren Helm.
Much like how Saad brought in Cup winning experience to the dressing room last season, however, Helm is doing so for the Avs this season as he happened to be on the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings– appearing in seven games in the 2007-08 regular season, then 18 postseason games for Detroit in their 2008 Cup run.
It was Helm’s first taste of NHL action and he already was on top of the mountain. Now 34, he’s looking for more.
Sakic has a way of taking reclamation projects and maximizing their production in Colorado, though we’ll see if the same effect can be applied to Stefan Matteau and Ryan Murray on the blue line, as well as other moves already mentioned.
The Avalanche have depth, but do they have enough depth?
Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, Colorado finished the 2020-21 regular season with 39 wins– one shy of Vegas (40 wins) for the most in the league– and eliminated in the Second Round by that same Golden Knights team (the Avs won the tiebreaker with 35 regulation wins to Vegas’ 30).
That said most of the Avalanche roster remains the same and there’s the feeling that one of these year’s they’ll get over the hump and back into the later end of the postseason.
Super teams don’t always win, but having a (super) consistent performance down the stretch and in the playoffs does and that’s what the Lightning have done best for the last two years– turning it on when it counts and sustaining the pressure.
Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020
Additions: F Sammy Blais (acquired from STL), F Barclay Goodrow (acquired from TBL), F Dryden Hunt, F Greg McKegg, F Ryan Reaves (acquired from VGK), D Patrik Nemeth, D Jarred Tinordi
Subtractions: F Colin Blackwell (expansion, SEA), F Pavel Buchnevich (traded to STL), F Phillip Di Giuseppe (signed with VAN), F Brett Howden (traded to VGK), F Patrick Newell (Eliteserien), D Tony DeAngelo (buyout, signed with CAR), D Nick DeSimone (rights acquired from VGK, signed with CGY), D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO with COL), D Darren Raddysh (signed with TBL), D Yegor Rykov (KHL), D Brendan Smith (signed with CAR)
Still Unsigned: F Gabriel Fontaine, D Brandon Crawley
Re-signed: F Filip Chytil, F Julien Gauthier, F Tim Gettinger, F Ty Ronning, D Libor Hajek, G Adam Huska, G Igor Shesterkin
Because nobody sought vengeance for Tom Wilson’s shenanigans, Rangers owner, James Dolan, arose from his desk and remembered that he owns more than just the New York Knicks.
Heads were rolling as Chris Drury was instated as New York’s General Manager before last season ended– leaving Jeff Gorton to take a role with NHL Network during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Gerard Gallant replaced David Quinn behind the bench.
If the Rangers had a good thing going from the second-half of last season onward, well, they’ve surely burned it to the ground in a scorched-Earth search for guys that’ll punch other guys in the face for their 2021-22 roster.
Greg McKegg and Dryden Hunt are extra bodies to stockpile with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) until somebody gets injured or booted out of the Rangers’ lineup because they’re suspended for trying to take Wilson’s head off or something.
New York was one or two pieces away from being a playoff contender and currently has about $8.872 million in cap space with almost $30 million to spend next summer when pending-restricted free agent, Kaapo Kakko, needs a new deal.
But for the time being, the Rangers decided to punt.
Sure, Jack Eichel is still available if the Buffalo Sabres ever decide to trade him one of these days (with or without letting him get his desired surgery done).
Drury’s logic, however, doesn’t necessarily see a fit for Eichel on the team– I mean, is he even tough enough?!?
Mika Zibanejad’s name is out there for some reason. He’s not too pleased by the rumor mill churning up whatever it can to excite Rangers fans about a team that took one step forward and two steps back on paper.
Pavel Buchnevich didn’t have to be traded. But he was.
Nothing makes sense anymore.
On July 17th, Drury traded a 2022 7th round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the rights to restricted free agent forward, Barclay Goodrow, then signed Goodrow to a six-year extension worth about $3.642 million per season.
The 28-year-old had 6-14–20 totals in 55 games last season en route to winning his second-straight Stanley Cup ring with the Lightning, but Buchnevich, 26, had 20-28–48 totals in 54 games.
Somebody’s got to replace the scoring.
That same day, Brett Howden was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for Nick DeSimone’s rights and a 2022 4th round pick, but DeSimone tested the waters of free agency and signed with the Calgary Flames.
On July 23rd, Buchnevich was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick.
Blais had 8-7–15 totals in 36 games for St. Louis last season while battling injury and bouts on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.
There’s still 13 points to replace to makeup for trading Buchnevich.
On July 29th, Drury listened to Gallant’s preferences for a rougher style, if not a personal request for a familiar face as New York traded a 2022 3rd round pick to Vegas for Ryan Reaves, who, at 34-years-old had 1-4–5 totals in 37 games for the Golden Knights.
Though he kept his penalty minutes relatively low with only 27 minutes spent in the box in 2020-21, he was suspended for two games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs for his intent to injure then Colorado Avalanche defender, Ryan Graves, on an unnecessary roughing incident in front of Colorado’s own net.
But hey, an eye for an eye, right?
If you can’t beat them on the scoreboard– just beat them up instead.
It’s worked well for the Philadelphia Flyers since 1975.
Don’t want to fight Goodrow or Reaves? How about Jarred Tinordi on the defense? Maybe Patrik Nemeth?
Both were signed in free agency– Nemeth to a three-year contract worth $2.500 million per season and Tinordi on a two-year deal with a $900,000 cap hit.
Ryan Strome and Zibanejad are pending-unrestricted free agents and if Drury’s done enough to alienate them from whatever plan they bought into when the Rangers were on the rise coming out of their recent rebuild, then they’re the biggest pieces of trade bait for the team going into the deadline.
That’s not what you’d like to hear if you have aspirations of acquiring Eichel, since New York can’t guarantee that either player would want to stick around in Buffalo for longer than this season.
At the very least, Ryan Lindgren’s three-year extension with a $3.000 million cap hit looks pretty nice on the blue line and Igor Shesterkin’s four-year extension worth $5.667 million per season is good enough to foster healthy competition between Alexandar Georgiev and Shesterkin for the surefire starting goaltender role.
The Rangers didn’t have to do this to themselves and yet, here we are.
They were a team on the verge of something special with one or two more pieces to go and a little more experience to gain as the younger players learn and grow.
Instead, New York chose to go in the opposite direction– to overreact rather than react accordingly. A few irrational decisions means is the difference between middle of the road insanity and making the playoffs.
It seems like the Rangers are destined for the former once again in 2021-22.
Additions: F Tomas Tatar, D Ryan Graves (acquired from COL), D Dougie Hamilton, D Christian Jaros (acquired from SJS), G Jonathan Bernier
Subtractions: F Nathan Bastian (expansion, SEA), F Christoph Bertschy (NL), F Brandon Gignac (signed with Laval, AHL), F Mason Jobst (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Mikhail Maltsev (traded to COL), F Nicholas Merkley (traded to SJS), F Brett Seney (signed with TOR), F Ben Street (DEL), D Will Butcher (traded to BUF), D Connor Carrick (signed with SEA), D Josh Jacobs (signed with CAR), D Ryan Murray (signed with COL), D David Quenneville (SHL), D Colby Sissons (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NSH), G Corey Crawford (retired), G Aaron Dell (signed with BUF)
Still Unsigned: G Gilles Senn (NL, NJD reserve list), G Evan Cormier
Re-signed: F A.J. Greer, F Janne Kuokkanen, F Yegor Sharangovich, F Marian Studenic
Offseason Analysis: The Devils, like Chicago, turned some heads in the first half of the 2020-21 season. Unlike Chicago, New Jersey wasn’t really anywhere near the top of the standings in their division, but at least Yegor Sharangovich’s emergence and Ty Smith’s performance was a welcome reception for a team that’s yearning for more.
Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood are all growing in their roles and looking for supporting cast members that haven’t been traded in recent years (think Blake Coleman, Kyle Palmieri and others) as the winds of change sweep through the Devils organization.
Now, it appears, is the time for New Jersey to blossom into something. What that something might be remains to be seen, however.
Sharangovich signed a two-year extension worth $2.000 million per season as a solid bridge contract after putting up 30 points (16 goals, 14 assists) in 54 games in his first NHL season after starting the 2020-21 calendar in the Kontinental Hockey League with Dinamo Minsk, where he had 17-8–25 totals in 34 games.
His speed is impressive, but his hands and quick shot might be even more so.
Zacha may have led the team in scoring with 35 points last season, while Hughes trailed with 31 points, but Sharangovich was tied with Jesper Bratt for the third-most points on the roster. Few people outside of New Jersey could’ve seen that coming.
On defense, Smith was a welcome addition to re-igniting some semblance of an offense from the backend.
That said, P.K. Subban managed to score 19 points in 44 games and was on pace for about 27 points in a regular 82-game schedule.
After bottoming out with 18 points in 68 games in 2019-20, Subban’s rise back to relevance times out pretty well entering a contract year for 2021-22– and with Dougie Hamilton locked up via free agency to a seven-year deal at Subban’s $9.000 million cap hit, a little healthy competition might just be the thing that he needs.
Hamilton had 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 55 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, which was down from his .852 points-per-game production in 2019-20, when he had 14-26–40 totals in 47 games prior to injury.
At .764 points-per-game in 2020-21, though, and being only 28-years-old, Hamilton is in the peak of his defensive prime and should be a power play specialist– quarterbacking New Jersey’s defense for a long time in the new-age era of two-way defenders.
Plus Hamilton is four years younger than Subban, so there’s less risk of things backfiring up front in Hamilton’s tenure with the Devils than Subban’s tumultuous drop in production from Nashville to New Jersey.
It’s a risk worth taking for a team that’s looking to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2018, when Taylor Hall went on his Hart Memorial Trophy winning MVP of the regular season run prior to being eliminated in five games in the 2018 First Round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hall is a member of the Boston Bruins these days– a team the Devils went 5-1-2 against last season.
The additions of Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier via free agency should shore up depth in the middle-six and in the crease where Mackenzie Blackwood and Scott Wedgewood looked fine, but in desperate need of veteran leadership– especially as Blackwood continues to emerge in the league.
New Jersey General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald, shouldn’t have to worry about any unexpected retirements like how Corey Crawford signed with the Devils before retiring prior to the 2020-21 season getting underway.
Offseason Grade: A-
Fitzgerald added one of the better free agents in the market to his roster and still has about $12.100 million in cap space to work with, which is the only reason why the Devils didn’t get an “A” since it seems like they could’ve done a little more.
Nobody’s really expecting New Jersey to make a deep run, but they should align themselves with better chances at playoff contention given the moves made this offseason.
For a team that’s been out of a serious run since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, it’s about time that the Devils get back into the playoff picture and adding Hamilton to New Jersey’s core certainly speeds things up by making the Devils a desirable destination at least.
Whereas other teams in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division are expected to falter, New Jersey’s stock is starting to rise so right about now would be the perfect time to buy in.
For the first time since 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights are heading back to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, on Thursday night as Vegas clinched the series 4-2 on home ice at T-Mobile Arena.
Marc-Andre Fleury (8-4, 1.91 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 12 games played) made 30 saves on 33 shots against in the win as the Golden Knights advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal.
Vegas will face the Montréal Canadiens in their first ever postseason series as the two teams will battle for one spot in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, while the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Islanders in the other Semifinal matchup.
The National Hockey League announced after Game 6 in Vegas, that the winner of the Golden Knights versus Canadiens series will be presented the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl– traditionally awarded to the victor of the Western Conference Final in a non-pandemic timeline.
Meanwhile, the winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will be presented with the Prince Of Wales Trophy as is usually awarded to the victor of the Eastern Conference Final when the league isn’t forced into a temporary realignment without conferences due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Golden Knights are the first team in league history to win seven playoffs series’ in their first four years of existence.
At the other end of the rink, Philipp Grubauer (6-4, 2.61 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 10 games played), stopped 17 out of 22 shots faced in the loss.
Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, served the last game of his eight-game suspension on Thursday, while head coach, Jared Bednar, almost wasn’t available to do his duty behind the bench as a COVID test irregularity prevented him from attending morning skate.
Bednar was later cleared hours before the game on another test.
Colorado jumped out ahead of Vegas less than a minute into the opening frame– emulating the Golden Knights’ patented style at home in the postseason– as Devon Toews (1) scored the game’s first goal on a catch and release shot over Fleury’s glove.
Nathan MacKinnon (6) and Brandon Saad (1) had the assists on Toews’ goal as the Avs pulled ahead, 1-0, 23 seconds into the first period.
Colorado’s lead didn’t last long, however, as it turns out Vegas can still score within the opening minutes of a playoff game on home ice even if they allow the game’s first goal.
Nick Holden (1) received a pass from Reilly Smith and floated a shot through Grubauer’s five-hole while the Avalanche goaltender was still looking to the right corner– completely unaware of the puck’s location on the ice.
Smith (5) and Nicolas Roy (4) tallied the assists on Holden’s goal as the Golden Knights tied the game, 1-1, at 1:15 of the first period.
Both teams managed to score on their first shot on goal in Game 6.
Moments later, Vegas almost took advantage of a complete swing in momentum as Alec Martinez rang the post with a shot, but he’d play a factor later in the period regardless.
Martinez sent a pass through the slot to William Karlsson (4) for a one-timer goal that beat Grubauer low on the short side between his pad and the post to make it, 2-1, Vegas at 15:06.
Heading into the first intermission, the Golden Knights led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and trailed the Avalanche in shots on goal, 12-10.
Vegas held the advantage in everything else, however, as they dominated in blocked shots (15-5), takeaways (12-1), giveaways (5-0), hits (23-15) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).
Neither team had seen any action on the power play after one period.
Alex Pietrangelo kicked things off in the middle frame with an errant puck over the glass and an automatic delay of game penalty as a result at 2:23 of the second period.
Colorado took full advantage of the ensuing power play as Mikko Rantanen (5) sent a shot off of Zach Whitecloud’s skate and into the twine after the rubber biscuit clipped Fleury’s blocker on its way by.
MacKinnon (7) and Gabriel Landeskog (9) had the assists on Rantanen’s power-play goal as the Avalanche tied things up, 2-2, at 3:47 of the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Shea Theodore worked the puck to Pietrangelo for the shot and subsequent redirection by Keegan Kolesar (1) as the Golden Knights forward pocketed his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and gave his team a, 3-2, lead at 14:27.
Pietrangelo (7) and Theodore (5) notched the assists on the marker, but Vegas wasn’t able to pull away just yet as Colorado kept things close.
Andre Burakovsky (1) scored his first of the 2021 postseason off the post and in while Martinez inadvertently screened his own goaltender.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (3) and Cale Makar (8) had the assists on Burakovsky’s goal as the Avs tied the game, 3-3, at 16:52.
Yet, just as quick as things can be evened up, things can fall apart as the Golden Knights’ forecheck forced a turnover in Colorado’s defensive zone as the Avalanche couldn’t make an exit.
Vegas worked the puck deep with an intentional shot wide of the net that caromed off the boards to the side of the slot where Pietrangelo (1) pounced on the loose puck for the eventual game-winning goal.
Alex Tuch (3) and Max Pacioretty (4) added the helpers as the Golden Knights took a, 4-3, lead at 19:42 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of action, Vegas led, 4-3, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Colorado, 22-16, in shots on goal, including a, 10-6, advantage for the Avs in the second period alone.
The Golden Knights continued to lead in blocked shots (24-7), takeaways (16-1), giveaways (12-1) and hits (37-31), however, as both teams managed to split faceoff win%, 50-50, through two periods.
The Avalanche were 1/1 on the power play, while Vegas had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the final frame.
Vegas executed a play unlike any other with tremendous hand-eye coordination as Brayden McNabb let go of a shot that was redirected by Theodore, then by William Carrier (1) on the doorstep on a zig-zag play that extended the Golden Knights’ lead to two-goals.
Theodore (6) and McNabb (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, as Carrier’s goal made it, 5-3, for Vegas at 11:46 of the third period.
Less than a minute later, the Golden Knights went on the power play for the first time Thursday night as Ryan Graves cut a rut to the sin bin for tripping Karlsson at 12:33.
Vegas was unsuccessful on the resulting skater advantage, however.
It was no big deal, though, as Colorado pulled Grubauer for an extra attacker with about 3:26 remaining in the game, thereby giving the Golden Knights ample opportunity to score at least one empty net goal.
And that’s just what they did.
Martinez botched a surefire empty net goal, so Pacioretty (4) cleaned things up by putting the icing on the cake with some extra insurance, 6-3, as a result of his unassisted empty net goal at 16:50 of the third period.
Bednar pulled his goaltender again for an extra skater, but Colorado couldn’t get another puck past Fleury.
At the final horn, Vegas had won, 6-3, and finished off the Avalanche 4-2 in the series– eliminating the Avs in six games in the process after Colorado rocketed out of the gate in the series with a, 7-1, win in Game 1 and a thrilling, 3-2, overtime victory in Game 2.
The Avalanche finished the night leading in shots on goal, 33-23, including an, 11-7, advantage in the third period alone and wrapped up Thursday’s effort leading in faceoff win% (53-47).
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights exited their own building leading in blocked shots (34-18), giveaways (15-1) and hits (46-42) in Game 6.
Colorado finished the game 1/1 on the power play, while Vegas went 0/1.
With the win, Fleury moved into sole possession of the fourth most postseason victories by a goaltender in league history with his 89th career Stanley Cup Playoff win.
Vegas will have home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Semifinal and the Stanley Cup Final, should they eliminate Montréal in the Semifinal, by virtue of having the best regular season record of the remaining four playoff teams.
Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena is set for Monday night at 9 p.m. ET.
Viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.
Meanwhile, the Islanders open up their series with the Lightning on the road in Game 1, Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena with puck drop set for 3 p.m. ET.
Fans in the United States looking to catch Tampa and New York can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.
To summarize, that’s Sunday, June 13th for Game 1 between the Isles and Bolts and Monday, June 14th for Game 1 of the Habs and Golden Knights.
Hockey is a 60-minute game and generally requires a “full 60-minute effort” to win, you know, the game, but the Colorado Avalanche didn’t do that on Tuesday, didn’t they?
If you read that in one of Bill Hader’s impression voices, give yourself a pat on the back.
Anyway, the Vegas Golden Knights scored two quick goals in the third period to send Game 5 into overtime, which was ended 50 seconds into the extra frame as the Golden Knights completed their comeback thanks to a game-winning goal from their captain, Mark Stone, and defeated the Avalanche, 3-2, on the road at Ball Arena in Denver.
Vegas leads the series 3-2 and can eliminate the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy winners on home ice in Game 6 on Thursday.
Marc-Andre Fleury (7-4, 1.81 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in 11 games played) made 28 saves on 30 shots against in the win for the Golden Knights.
Avs goaltender, Philipp Grubauer (6-3, 2.33 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in nine games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.
Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, made two changes to his lineup, replacing Carl Soderberg and Kiefer Sherwood with Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor.
Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri remains suspended for one more game after Tuesday’s effort. The earliest Kadri can return is if the Avalanche force a Game 7.
Mikko Rantanen fanned on a chance to score with an open net early in the opening frame, then bumped into Fleury and was assessed a minor penalty for goaltender interference as a result at 6:07 of the first period.
Vegas went on the power play for the first and only time of the night, but couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the period, with just over a second remaining on the clock, Brandon Saad (7) entered the attacking zone and floated a shot over Fleury’s shoulder on the blocker side while the Golden Knights netminder botched a save by reaching across his chest with his glove hand and coming up empty as the puck hit the twine behind him.
Devon Toews (5) and Rantanen (8) tallied the assists on Saad’s goal as the Avalanche took a, 1-0, lead at 19:58 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, Colorado led, 1-0, on the scoreboard thanks to Saad’s fourth goal of the series.
The Avs also held the advantage in shots on goal, 10-9, and led in takeaways (8-2), giveaways (6-1), hits (13-8) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).
Meanwhile, Vegas led in blocked shots (8-7) and was 0/1 on the power play as Colorado had yet to see any time on the advantage entering the middle frame.
There were no penalties in the second period as the two clubs swapped chances, ultimately leading to a one-timer goal from the bumper for Joonas Donskoi (3)– giving the Avalanche a, 2-0, lead at 16:28 of the second period as a result.
Newhook (1) and Patrik Nemeth (1) notched the assists on Donskoi’s goal as the Avs took a, 2-0, lead heading into the second intermission.
Colorado held the advantage in shots on goal, 21-14, and led in second period shots alone, 11-5, while also dominating in takeaways (13-8), giveaways (8-2), hits (30-20) and faceoff win% (53-47).
Vegas led in blocked shots (19-8), which would soon haunt the Avs.
The Golden Knights were still 0/1 on the power play and the Avalanche had yet to see time on the skater advantage.
Just over a minute into the final frame, Alex Tuch (4) batted the puck out of mid-air while settling a saucer pass from Nicolas Roy past Grubauer to cut Colorado’s lead in half, 2-1.
Roy (3) and Mattias Janmark (4) had the assists on Tuch’s goal at 1:03 of the third period as Andre Burakovsky’s turnover in his own zone deflected off of Janmark’s stick and led to Tuch’s goal.
The Golden Knights pounced on the swing in momentum as the home crowd was momentarily stunned.
Gabriel Landeskog misfired on a pass intended for either J.T. Compher or Ryan Graves along the point, but the rubber biscuit bounced off of the Avalanche defender’s skate and led Vegas on a rush back the other direction, whereby William Karlsson setup Jonathan Marchessault (6) for the game-tying goal.
Karlsson (7) had the only assist as Marchessault made it, 2-2, at 4:07 of the third period.
Just like that, Colorado’s two-goal deficit was gone.
Two, quick, sloppy plays gone horribly wrong. Vegas was surging.
The Avalanche managed to survive the Golden Knights’ onslaught, but failed to score on their only power play when Shea Theodore sent an errant puck over the glass for an automatic delay of game infraction at 10:50.
At the end of regulation, Colorado and Vegas were deadlocked, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite the Avalanche holding a, 28-24, advantage in total shots on goal.
The Golden Knights actually led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 10-7, while Vegas also held the advantage in blocked shots (24-12).
The Avs dominated in just about everything else, including takeaways (18-12), giveaways (11-5) and hits (40-31), as both teams went, 50-50, in faceoff win% entering the extra frame.
As there were no penalties called in overtime, both clubs finished 0/1 on the night on the power play.
Less than a minute into the extra period, as some fans were probably just getting back to their seats from the long line at the bathroom during the 15-minute intermission, Stone (5) notched his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs overtime game-winning goal– top shelf, right in the corner on Grubauer’s far glove side.
Max Pacioretty (3) and Alex Pietrangelo (6) had the assists on Stone’s goal 50 seconds into overtime as the pair of Golden Knights teammates worked a quick break after blocking a shot in their own end.
Vegas won Game 5, 3-2, and taken a 3-2 series lead as a result, despite finishing the night trialing in shots on goal, 30-25, including a, 2-1, advantage in overtime alone for the Avalanche.
The Golden Knights wrapped up Tuesday night’s effort leading in blocked shots (26-11), while the Avs led in giveaways (11-5) and hits (41-31).
The two teams finished the night, 50-50, in faceoff win%.
Vegas can eliminate Colorado on home ice at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night in Game 6 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.
Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.
Mikko Rantanen drew a penalty less than a minute into the extra frame before scoring on the ensuing power play to give the Colorado Avalanche a, 3-2, win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of their 2021 Second Round matchup at Ball Arena on Wednesday.
Philipp Grubauer (6-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Avs while becoming just the 10th goaltender in National Hockey League history to earn 10 consecutive postseason victories.
In addition, the Avalanche took command of a 2-0 series lead over the Golden Knights in light of Wednesday night’s win.
Meanwhile, Vegas netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury (4-4, 1.86 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in eight games played), stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.
With the start in Game 2, Fleury joined Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders in league history to face 20 different postseason opponents.
Logan Thompson suited up as Vegas’ backup, while Robin Lehner (undisclosed) was given the night off and did not dress– not even for warmup.
Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri continued to serve his eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 of Colorado’s First Round matchup with St. Louis.
Kadri has four games remaining in his suspension.
Ryan Reaves was out of the lineup for the Golden Knights– serving the first half of his two-game suspension for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct against Ryan Graves in Game 1 against the Avs.
Brandon Saad (5) kicked off the night’s scoring after fanning on a shot that ended up trickling over the goal line through Fleury’s five-hole to give Colorado a, 1-0, lead early in the opening frame.
Samuel Girard (4) and Graves (5) notched the assists on Saad’s goal at 3:39 of the first period as No. 20 in burgundy and blue extended his goal scoring streak to five games.
Moments later, Nicolas Hague cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 6:13, presenting the game’s first power play to the Avalanche, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Shortly after killing off Hague’s minor, Vegas exchanged their penalty kill unit for their power play unit as Alex Newhook was assessed a holding minor at 8:36 of the first period.
It didn’t take the Golden Knights long to score on the power play as Alec Martinez (2) sent a one-timer past Grubauer’s glove side— tying the game, 1-1, at 9:32.
Max Pacioretty (2) and Shea Theodore (3) had the assists on Martinez’s power-play goal as Vegas looked much more competitive than they had been in Game 1.
Pacioretty cut a rut to the box for holding at 11:45, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.
Minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault slashed Nathan MacKinnon and took a seat in the sin bin at 15:38 of the first period as a result.
The Avs nearly used up the entire length of the ensuing skater advantage, but pulled ahead, 2-1, on a power-play goal from Tyson Jost (2) at 17:08.
Girard (5) and Devon Toews (4) notched the assists on Jost’s tally.
The Avalanche got another chance on the power play at 17:50 when Theodore cleared the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game infraction, but Colorado struggled to get anything else on the scoreboard as the advantage expired and— shortly thereafter— the first period itself.
After 20 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Wednesday, the Avs were in command, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 11-9, in shots on goal.
Vegas led in blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (1-0), hits (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (74-26), while both teams amassed one takeaway each.
The Golden Knights were 1/1 on the power play, while Colorado was 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Midway through the middle frame, Reilly Smith (2) broke through Girard and Graves after Vegas forced a turnover before deking and elevating a backhand shot over Grubauer’s glove to tie the game, 2-2.
Marchessault (2) and Theodore (4) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal for the Golden Knights at 10:28 of the second period.
About a few minutes later, Patrik Nemeth caught Marchessault with a slash at 13:05, but Vegas was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.
The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission, with the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal, 25-17, including an impressive, 16-6, advantage in the second period alone.
Vegas managed to dominate in blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (4-2), hits (19-18) and faceoff win% (63-38), while Colorado led in giveaways (5-1) after two periods.
The Golden Knights were 1/2 and the Avs were 1/4 on the power play through 40 minutes of play.
Alex Tuch slashed MacKinnon midway through the final frame of regulation, but the Avalanche were powerless on the power play at 10:08 of the third period.
Toews tripped Alex Pietrangelo at 16:39, but Vegas couldn’t get another one last Grubauer as their skater advantage came and went late in the period— despite using their timeout with 3:21 remaining to draw up a potentially game-winning play.
At the horn, the Avalanche and Golden Knights were heading for overtime in Denver as Wednesday night drifted into Thursday morning on the East Coast.
Vegas continued to lead in shots on goal, 40-23, through 60 minutes, including a, 15-6, advantage in the third period alone.
Meanwhile, Colorado led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (22-21) after three periods and the Golden Knights held the advantage in blocked shots (27-17) and faceoff win% (58-42).
Both teams managed to have five takeaways aside heading into the extra frame.
Vegas was 1/3 and Colorado was 1/5 on the power play after regulation.
44 seconds into overtime, Smith slashed Rantanen with a soft one-handed chop that might otherwise be seen as a “soft” call, depending on your vantage point as a fan.
Nevertheless, Colorado went on the power play less than a minute into overtime.
A little more than a minute later, after working the puck around the attacking zone and ringing the iron, Cale Makar sent the puck to MacKinnon for a spin move to throw off William Karlsson from making a defensive play in his own zone.
The Avalanche phenom then sent the puck across the slot to Rantanen (3) for the catch and release past Fleury’s short side— over the left shoulder of the Golden Knights goaltender and into the twine— to secure the victory for Colorado.
MacKinnon (5) and Makar (6) had the assists on Rantanen’s game-winning power-play goal in overtime at 2:07 of the extra frame.
The goal lifted Colorado over Vegas, 3-2, and marked the second career overtime winner for Rantanen in the playoffs, as well as his fourth career postseason game-winning goal.
Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-25, despite trailing Colorado, 2-1, in overtime alone.
The Golden Knights also exited Ball Arena with the advantage in blocked shots (28-17) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Avs led in giveaways (8-3) and hits (22-21).
Vegas went 1/3, while Colorado went 2/6 on the power play in Game 2.
The Avalanche improved to 6-0 in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and matched a franchise record for the longest winning streak at any point in the postseason, a club record previously set by the 1987 Québec Nordiques.
The Avs also became the third Presidents’ Trophy winner to start the postseason at least 6-0, joining the 1994 New York Rangers and 1999 Dallas Stars in doing so.
The Rangers went 7-0 to begin their quest for the Cup in 1994, while the Stars went 6-0 en route to winning their first Stanley Cup ring in 1999.
Colorado is in good company if they are to continue the trend, leading their Second Round series 2-0 heading into Vegas for Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.
Viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBCSN, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS with puck drop expected a little after 10 p.m. ET.
A little bit of everything in both the good and bad sense happened in Sunday night’s, 7-1, victory at Ball Arena for the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of their Second Round series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Colorado’s first line scored five goals, Cale Makar (one goal, three assists) had a four-point night and Philipp Grubauer (5-0, 1.60 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in five games played) made 24 saves on 25 shots against in the win.
The Avalanche were battered, but every player was able to make their way back to the game by the end of the night.
Vegas opted to start Robin Lehner (0-1, 7.00 goals-against average, .811 save percentage in one game played) over Marc-Andre Fleury with two days off in between Games 1 and 2 from Sunday to Wednesday– giving Fleury more time to rest between a Game 7 victory against the Minnesota Wild and the now ongoing Second Round.
Lehner, meanwhile, stopped 30 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.
The Golden Knights also wracked up penalty minutes, including a nine-minute power play for the Avalanche in the third period.
We’ll get there. Keep reading.
Nazem Kadri remains suspended for the Avalanche with five games remaining in his eight-game suspension for a blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, back in Game 2 of the First Round.
There may be another suspension before Colorado is even involved in another Game 2 this postseason– only this time around, it might not be one of their players on the receiving end.
Mikko Rantanen (2) beat Lehner with a backhand shot off the post and in on the glove side to give the Avalanche a, 1-0, lead at 4:55 of the first period.
Devon Toews (3) and Makar (3) tallied the assists on the night’s first goal.
Moments later, Brandon Saad caught Zach Whitecloud with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 7:26, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Instead, Gabriel Landeskog (3) scored on a catch and release goal from the low slot over Lehner’s blocker side to make it, 2-0, Colorado at 10:13 of the first period.
Makar (4) and Samuel Girard (3) had the assists on Landeskog’s goal as the Avs extended their lead to two-goals.
Heading into the first intermission, Colorado led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-8, in shots on goal.
Vegas dominated in just about everything else, leading in blocked shots (5-4), giveaways (2-1) and hits (12-9), while the Avalanche led in faceoff win percentage (56-44).
Both teams had a pair of takeaways after one period, while only the Golden Knights had seen time on the skater advantage and were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.
Valeri Nichushkin fanned on a shot, then dished the puck to Saad (4) for a goal underneath Lehner’s blocker to give Colorado a, 3-0, lead at 1:04 of the second period.
Nichushkin (2) and Makar (5) tallied the assists on Saad’s goal.
A few minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon (7) sent a catch and release shot through Lehner’s five-hole to make it, 4-0, for the Avalanche at 4:03, while Ryan Graves (4) had the only assist on the tally.
Shortly thereafter, Graves hit Mattias Janmark up high, causing Janmark to whack the back of his head off the glass from the force of the check and take a few minutes to get up and off the ice on his own power.
Graves received a two-minute minor for interference on the late hit, while Tyson Jost and Nicolas Roy picked up matching roughing minors at 8:26 of the second period.
The Golden Knights couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing 5-on-4 advantage and wound up taking the next penalty at 10:49, as William Carrier received a roughing minor.
Almost as soon as Carrier was released, he went right back to the sin bin for roughing while trying to get back at Graves at 13:15.
This time, however, Colorado made the Golden Knights pay on the scoreboard as Landeskog (4) notched his second goal of the night on a doorstep redirection to make it, 5-0, for the Avalanche.
Rantanen (7) and MacKinnon (4) had the assists on Landeskog’s power-play goal at 14:23 of the second period.
Less than a minute later, though, Vegas ended Grubauer’s bid for a shutout as William Karlsson (2) knocked down Girard to clear some space for his own doorstep redirection goal– low on the far side.
Max Pacioretty (1) and Jonathan Marchessault (1) had the assists as Vegas trailed, 5-1, at 14:59.
Meanwhile, Andre Burakovsky took a high hit behind the play and was left with a cut on his face and bleeding.
If ever there was a moment for on-ice officials to read the temperature of the game and be proactive, well, it was soon to come.
Almost two minutes later, MacKinnon (8) created his own breakaway with his incredible speed, utilized his stickhandling skills and elevated a shot over the glove side to give Colorado another five-goal lead, 6-1, at 17:05 of the second period.
Joonas Donskoi (2) and Landeskog (7) had the assists on MacKinnon’s cheat code goal as the clock ticked down on the middle frame.
Through 40 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Sunday night, the Avs led, 6-1, on the scoreboard and, 27-17, in shots on goal, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.
Vegas led in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (5-2), hits (17-15) and faceoff win% (54-46), while both teams had four takeaways each.
The Golden Knights were 0/2 on the power play, while the Avalanche were 1/2 on the skater advantage after two periods.
Early in the final frame, Pacioretty caught Girard up high with what looked like a cross check at first.
A crowd gathered and a scrum ensued while Girard took a moment to get off the ice, but upon official review, Pacioretty’s double minor for cross checking was rescinded.
The Golden Knights winger hadn’t actually made contact with the Avalanche defender– with his stick in an illegal manner, at least.
Meanwhile, Pacioretty, Nicolas Hague, J.T. Compher and Burakovsky all received roughing minors of their own volition at 3:47 of the third period.
Each infraction canceled another as they were all deemed “matching minors”, thus rendering the game to remain at full strength while the penalties were being served.
Then, moments later, it happened.
After a Grubauer covered the puck and got a whistle, Ryan Reaves delivered a quick shot to the head of the Colorado netminder.
Whether it was a sucker punch or a cross check, it did not matter to Grubauer, who returned with a quick chop at Reaves’ leg while Graves and other skaters on the ice crowded around Reaves and a scrum developed.
Reaves got a couple jabs at Graves before tugging him to the ice, whereupon Reaves had the high ground in that he was literally on top of Graves’ head– pushing down on the Avalanche defender’s helmet and driving his head into the ice.
Graves ended up laying motionless for a minute or two while an on-ice official worked to get Reaves off of the defenseless player as the two teams became entangled with another.
Reaves was assessed two roughing minor penalties, an attempt to injure minor infraction, as well as a match penalty for his actions against Graves at 8:04 of the third period.
The match penalty immediate considers Reaves to be suspended until a decision is made by the league commissioner, Gary Bettman, himself.
To repeat, Reaves is not available to suit up in Game 2 for the Golden Knights until and unless Bettman intervenes, reviews the reason for the match penalty and makes an assessment as to whether enough was done in ending Reaves’ night early on Sunday or whether Reaves should face further discipline for his actions in Game 1.
Meanwhile, Alex Pietrangelo, Whitecloud, Nichushkin and Saad all received ten-minute misconducts at 8:04 of the third period.
As a result of Reaves’ minors and major penalty, Colorado ended up with a rare nine-minute power play.
Despite being shorthanded for almost half of a period, Vegas’ penalty kill did pretty well until Makar (2) buried a one-timer from the point over Lehner’s glove and just under the bar while Compher acted as a screen in the slot.
Jost (2) and Burakovsky (2) had the assists on Makar’s power-play goal as the Avalanche took a, 7-1, lead at 15:49 of the third period.
At the final horn, the Avs had won, 7-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 37-25.
Colorado held the advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone, 10-8, while wrapping up Sunday night’s action leading in blocked shots (11-10).
Vegas finished Game 1 leading in giveaways (7-3), hits (26-17) and faceoff win% (57-43).
The Golden Knights went 0/2, while the Avalanche went 2/5 on the power play on Sunday.
The Avs take a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Wednesday night. Puck drop in Denver is set for 10 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.
The Colorado Avalanche are one win away from sweeping the St. Louis Blues and advancing to the 2021 Second Round after winning, 5-1, in Game 3 at Enterprise Center on the road Friday night.
Philipp Grubauer (3-0, 1.67 goals-against average, .944 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 31 out of 32 shots faced in the win for Colorado.
St. Louis netminder, Jordan Binnington (0-3, 4.11 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in three games played), made 21 saves on 25 shots against in the loss.
David Perron (COVID protocol) remained out of the lineup for the Blues, while Mitch Reinke and Steven Santini made their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts for St. Louis in Game 3.
Meanwhile, Colorado forward, Nazem Kadri, was given an eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 shortly after puck drop, as the NHL Department of Player Safety announced late Friday night.
Carl Soderberg entered the lineup for the Avalanche, as Kadri was already removed from Jared Bednar’s plans heading into Game 3.
Brayden Schenn was penalized for interference at 6:49 of the first period and presented the game’s first skater advantage to the Avalanche as a result.
Colorado’s ensuing power play didn’t go well and came to an end before Schenn’s minor was fully served as Samuel Girard tripped up Ivan Barbashev at 8:41 of the opening frame.
After eight seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Blues had an abbreviated power play.
St. Louis was powerless on the resulting skater advantage.
Late in the period, Barbashev got tangled up with Ryan Graves and the two skaters each received roughing minors at 19:49.
The score was still tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with St. Louis outshooting Colorado, 9-5, and both clubs slated to begin the middle frame at 4-on-4 for less than two minutes.
The Blues held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3) and hits (21-7), while the Avalanche led in giveaways (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (54-46) after one period.
Both teams had one takeaway each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle period.
As Graves and Barbashev exited the box, a wayward pass made its way to Colorado’s attacking zone where Graves met Binnington as the Blues goaltender played aggressive.
Graves (1) sent the rubber biscuit off of Binnington’s paddle and into the empty twine behind the St. Louis goalie for an unassisted goal at 1:57 of the second period.
Just like that, Colorado led, 1-0.
Midway through the second period, Sammy Blais was penalized for interference at 9:53.
Though the Avs didn’t score on the ensuing power play, they did take advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams action– pouncing on a rebound and extending their lead to two-goals as Alex Newhook (1) scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
Graves (2) and Valeri Nichushkin (1) tallied the assists on Newhook’s goal as the Avalanche pulled ahead, 2-0, at 12:37 of the second period.
Minutes later, Tyson Jost (1) notched his first of the postseason after St. Louis sustained pressure in the attacking zone before Colorado turned things around with a fast breakout prior to Gabriel Landeskog giving Jost the puck on a rush.
Jost scored on his own rebound from almost at the goal line while Landeskog skated near Binnington– never coming in contact with the goaltender, but nevertheless, Blues head coach, Craig Berube, challenged the call on the ice.
Video review confirmed that Landeskog never made contact with the goaltender and thus, Landeskog (5) and Girard (2) each had an assist on Jost’s goal and the Blue Notes received a bench minor for delay of game, having lost the coach’s challenge at 16:08.
Colorado had a, 3-0, lead as Vladimir Tarasenko served Berube’s blunder.
While digging the puck out of his own zone, Cale Makar, turned the vulcanized piece of rubber over to Ryan O’Reilly, whereby the Blues captain dished it back to Tyler Bozak (1) as Bozak was entering the zone for a one-timer goal that cut Colorado’s lead to two-goals.
O’Reilly (1) and Colton Parayko (1) had the assists on Bozak’s shorthanded goal as the Blues trailed the Avs, 3-1, at 16:17.
Heading into the second intermission, the Avalanche led, 3-1, on the scoreboard despite St. Louis leading in shots on goal, 26-17, including a, 17-12, advantage for the Blue Notes in the second period alone.
Colorado led in blocked shots (9-7), but St. Louis dominated in just about everything else including takeaways (2-1), giveaways (8-6) and hits (34-14).
Both teams had split faceoff win%, 50-50, while the Blues were 0/1 and the Avalanche were 0/3 on the power play entering the final frame.
Schenn hooked Nathan MacKinnon to kickoff the third period at 3:13, presenting Colorado with another power play that went untouched.
Midway through the third, MacKinnon cut a rut to the box for interference at 10:06, but St. Louis was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.
A few minutes later, Brandon Saad (2) snuck behind Schenn into the slot, received a pass from Andre Burakovsky and buried the puck in the net on a backhand shot.
Burakovsky (1) and Soderberg (1) recorded the assists as Saad’s goal put Colorado ahead, 4-1, at 13:42 of the third period.
Landeskog was guilty of holding at 17:36, but the Avs’ penalty kill stood tall and didn’t budge in the face of St. Louis’ power play units.
With about one minute left in the game, Berube pulled Binnington for an extra attacker, but his plans to rally a comeback were quickly ignored as J.T. Compher (1) delivered the final blow.
Compher sent a billiard shot off the boards in the neutral zone from his own zone all the way into the empty net.
Graves (3) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1) notched the assists as the Avalanche went ahead, 5-1, at 19:06 of the third period.
At the final horn, Colorado secured the 3-0 series lead with a, 5-1, road victory at Enterprise Center on Friday.
The Blues finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-26, despite being outshot by the Avalanche in the third period alone, 9-6.
The Avs exited the building with the advantage in blocked shots (17-10) and faceoff win% (52-48), while St. Louis led in giveaways (16-9) and hits (46-20).
St. Louis finished 0/3 and Colorado went 0/4 on the power play in Game 3.
The Avalanche have a chance to sweep the Blues while in St. Louis and punch their ticket to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanely Cup Playoffs on Sunday.
Puck drop for Game 4 is expected around 5 p.m. ET and fans looking for national coverage of the game in the United States can tune their television sets and more to NBCSN, while those in Canada can view the game on SN360 or TVAS.