A lot has been said all season long about the Avalanche’s forward depth. Colorado has benefitted from this suddenly deep forward core ever since last summer when general manager Joe Sakic acquired Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri before signing Joonas Donskoi and Valeri Nichushkin — eventually adding Vladislav Namestnikov at the deadline.
Against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, that depth paid off, scoring three goals to help the Avs and goaltender Pavel Francouz to a 4-0 shutout and an opportunity to clinch first place in the Western Conference on Saturday against Vegas.
“Coming out of last year’s playoffs, we felt like it would’ve been nice to play that Game 7 on home ice,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We didn’t earn that right last year and we’re certainly trying to give ourselves every advantage we possibly can going into the playoffs and home-ice is one of them. We’re playing in Edmonton, all of our games, but there are advantages to having home-ice and we want to use them.”
Colorado scored twice on the power play, including the opening goal and eventual game-winner from defenseman Cale Makar. The power-play was 19th in the league in the regular season but has now scored on 3-of-10 opportunities in the two round-robin games. Donskoi’s goal that made it 2-0 was also scored just as another power play was expiring.
“I look at our leaders that are on that number one unit,” Bednar said. “Our team is following their lead. And those guys are dialed up right now. They’re focused, they want to win and every night they’re pushing it. When you play an 82-game season you’re going to have ups and downs. Right now there’s a raised urgency in our power play.”
Francouz stopped all 27 shots he faced in his first career postseason appearance. Along with starting goalie Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche’s goaltending has combined to surrender just one goal on 59 shots in two games.
After taking a 2-0 lead into the second period, Colorado added to its lead late in the middle frame after Vladislav Namestnikov potted home his first of the postseason. Since his acquisition from Ottawa, Namestnikov has scored five goals in 11 appearances. The Avs eventually added a fourth goal from Burakovsky, who was playing on the third line.
Burakovsky skated alongside All-Stars Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen for a majority of training camp and the game against St. Louis on Sunday. But after having what Bednar called an “okay” performance, Burakovsky was bumped to the third line, swapping spots with Namestnikov. He finished with two points on three shots in 11:34.
Namestnikov – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Landeskog – Kadri – Nichushkin
Donskoi – Compher – Burakovsky
Nieto – Bellemare – Calvert
Graves – Makar
Girard – Johnson
Zadorov – Cole