The playoffs ended with an arm tied behind the Colorado Avalanche’s collective back last season, injuries so exhausting them to the point where they left the Edmonton bubble after two rounds with a disappointed shrug.
“I would have loved to see our team in great health,” said Nathan MacKinnon, after a Game 7 second-round loss to the Dallas Stars, a game started by third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson. “You can call it an excuse or whatever you like. It’s like that. We have lost key players to our team. “
This spring, with a healthy roster and a division foe rolling to Denver after finishing Minnesota in a game seven two nights earlier, the Avalanche wasted no time in declaring its dominance in the West. They are healthy and they are good.
Colorado beat the Vegas Golden Knights as completely as a team can defeat another Sunday night, opening their Western Final in a 7-1 rout. It was a feat that was categorically stated that the Avalanche may have run out of bullets last year.
This time around, with quality players Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, they are there and they are serious.
“I love the way our team played tonight,” said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. “Right away, out of the gate, great skating, huge pressure on the puck, capitalizing on our chances… The top line set the tone, but our whole team was very good.
This first game was about “learning from the past,” Bednar continued. “We discussed the Dallas series. We wanted to make sure we were using our legs tonight and just playing on our identity. Take it up a notch in the second round. “
Rest against the rust in Game 1 of this series, with Colorado settled in for a week after sweeping the St. Louis Blues.
Didn’t Vegas manage to make the emotional leap of a frenzied 7 game at the start of a new series?
“We didn’t play well. They played a good game, ”said Vegas captain Mark Stone. “They came out ready to go.”
The Vegas lead line of MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen scored twice in the first period, then blew a tree over at home in a four-goal second period for Colorado. Makar was a magician on the blue line with three assists and one goal.
Vegas goalie Robin Lehner surely found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when Vegs head coach Peter DeBoer gave him the start, spelling out Marc-Andre Fleury, who played every minute of the first round for Vegas.
Thank you coach.
The Avs came out, as Ilya Bryzgalov famously said: “Like gorillas coming out of a cage.”
“Listen, rest is a weapon. Especially at this time of year, ”said Landeskog. “We knew they were coming off a seven game streak with a day off, and we wanted to make sure we had a quick start.”
“Flower had just played seven games in 14 days and an emotional seventh game,” said DeBoer, who you can bet will be returning to Fleury for Game 2 on Wednesday. “It was a perfect opportunity to use our other starter – it has been a strength of ours all year.
“Tonight’s game wasn’t about Robin Lehner. We didn’t play well enough in front of him.
The only play that took this from a simple rout to a dangerous play by border justice was a damaging and damaging blow from Avs defender Ryan Graves to winger Mattias Janmark, who did not return to the game. . Janmark was signed with another Colorado player and Graves took full advantage.
That the blow came with Colorado holding a 4-0 lead was gas on fire, and that fire burned throughout a third period that saw Vegas badass Ryan Reaves sent off with a penalty. match for Bloody Graves.
“(The Graves hit) is blind interference. We didn’t like the game and we lost a player. We’re trying to take those hits out of the game, ”said Stone, who had no problem with his team’s pursuit of vigilante justice the rest of the night. “Let’s be honest, you lost 4-0 halfway through the game. It’s a long way to get out of this.
The league will review the Reaves game, as they do all match penalties.
“Reaves was on a mission to hurt someone over there in the third,” Landeskog said. “And that’s what he goes out and does.”
Stay tuned. Things are heating up in the West.