Colorado Avalanche: Round One Preview

After showing how structured and dangerous they are, Colorado is on a mission. After a heartbreaking exit last year to the San Jose Sharks in game 7, redemption is on their minds. Their opponent is the Arizona Coyotes.

The Schedule:

The following is the schedule for each game of the series:

  • Game 1: Wednesday, August 12th
  • Game 2: Friday, August 14th
  • Game 3: Sunday, August 16th
  • Game 4: Tuesday, August 18th
  • Game 5: Thursday, August 20th (If Necessary)
  • Game 6: Saturday, August 22nd (If Necessary)
  • Game 7: Monday, August 24th (If Necessary)

Colorados Keys to Win:

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Colorado looks to be one of the most complete teams in the West. Nathan Mackinnon solidified himself as one of the top 5 players in the game today. Along with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, they put together one of the best lines in hockey.

The addition of Nazem Kadri has been huge for the Avalanche, and Cale Makar has emerged as arguably the best rookie defender in the league. The team is amazing at scoring at even strength, that they were ranked 4th in goals at 5 on 5. The team has a bundle of depth pieces. It almost feels like any line can strike at any time.

Colorado plays an offensive game on the forecheck, their forwards aren’t afraid to get deep into puck battles. The defense also is a dynamic offensive tactic. Defenders jumping up into the rush is a prime issue for opposing teams to solve.

Strong puck movement is what makes this team so deadly. Once they enter the offensive zone, it will be a hard time for the opposing team to breathe. Puck cycling for this squad is a huge key strength as they have multiple weapons to strike from all angles.

Who Starts in Goal?

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Colorado has a big question: Who goes between the pipes? Grubauer looks to be the definitive starting goalie, but what if he sits? Grubauer has been great for the Avs so far, but Francouz has been phenomenal. Granted Francouz has only played in one round-robin game, but it was an impressive 27 save shutout against Dallas.

For Jared Bednar, this is a good problem to have, as both goalies have stepped up when the other is injured or rotating in play. Its a great asset to have 2 good players in the same role, instead of just 1.

What Could go Wrong for Colorado?

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Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter, left, scores on Colorado Avalanche goalie Spencer Martin during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

As skilled as Colorado is upfront, the playoffs are known to have some things go wrong. Based on Colorado’s round-robin games, discipline on penalties is a must. Colorado’s penalty kill was only 13th in the league with an 81.4% rate of killing power plays.

Special teams for the Avs have been solid enough. The power-play was ranked 19th in the league, which by this team’s standards was not great. The team’s depth needs to show up in a big way and contribute on the scoresheet. Sure Rantanen, Mackinnon, Landeskog, and Makar are unreal offensively, but depth is what wins games. Players in the bottom six are going to need to show up and battle.

Goaltending can also play a factor. Colorado is going to duel one of the best goaltender tandems in Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. A strong goaltending performance can change a series on a dime.

Final Thoughts:

This series intrigues me as one to go the distance. These are two hungry franchises, each with something to prove. Both teams are going to go all out every shift. Arizona is riding a big victory over Nashville; momentum is high. Colorado has a big hurdle to climb. Many have them going all the way to the finals, and they are going to be hard to stop.

Prediction: Avalanche in 6 games.

Follow me on Twitter at @matthewspanyolo for more of my content!

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