The Colorado Avalanche continue to get better at precisely the right time, blasting the Calgary Flames 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.
The game had a little of everything from Colorado Avalanche special teams, Nathan MacKinnon netted two power play .goals, the first on a 5-on-3 mid-way through the first. Matt Nieto added a shorthanded tally to round out a spectacular night for Colorado’s PP and PK units.
For those that feel devastated by the Avs falling to the fourth pick in the upcoming NHL draft, take heart. The #4 pick from the 2017 draft, Cale Makar won the Hobey Baker Award on Friday, given annually to the best collegiate player in the country, made his Avalanche debut on Monday and scored a first-period goal. Makar adds more punch to an already offensively talented blueline group and his character and commitment are already being lauded as strengths for the young defenseman.
Mikko Rantanen and Erik Johnson also added their first goals of the playoffs for the Colorado Avalanche in the rout. It showed a deep, balanced attack for most of the game, something the Avalanche have struggled with for most of the season.
The Avalanche managed a stunning 56 shots on overmatched Calgary netminder Mike Smith
Phillipp Grubauer backstopped the effort with 27 saves, continuing his stellar play over the last month. Colorado played stout defense in front of the hot goalie, limiting the Conference-leading Flames to 29 shots. More importantly, they kept Calgary on their heels, forcing the Flames into an uncharacteristic 50 penalty minutes, none bigger than the too-man-men violation that gave Colorado the 5-on-3 that allowed MacKinnon to open the scoring for Colorado.
The win says more about where Colorado is than where they’ve been. The team has pulled together into a tight-knit unit and the second-half swoon they endured proved a valuable tool in the creation of the team we are seeing unfold now. We talked early in the season of these Avs as contenders, they were near the top of the league in most categories at the All-Star break. It’s almost like they needed the adversity of the second-half to draw them together.
Hockey can be weird like that.
What we’ve seen over the last two playoff games is an Avs team that is dominating the top seed. That could falter at any moment but it doesn’t look likely, considering how this team is playing. This isn’t a flare-up, Grubi has been solid for the better part of six weeks now, this isn’t a team that’s looking to be in danger of a backslide. So, what is the ceiling for this team?
A Cup may be an unreasonable expectation but only slightly so. The Lightning are going to be tough for anyone to beat and one big injury can take any team down but to borrow a phrase from the Avs NBA counterparts across the hall:
Why not us?