The Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche kicked off their postseason series up in the Edmonton bubble tonight. The Coyotes are a young team with some key vets that are looking to surprise the NHL and attempt to make a deep run in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 when they made the Western Conference Final. The Colorado Avalanche are Stanley Cup favorites and leading them is their superstar center in Nathan MacKinnon and their young star on the blueline, Cale Makar. Let’s jump into game one!
Period one felt very much like a feeling out period between the two teams. These teams don’t have a huge playoff history with one another so the animosity wasn’t at the level say the Islanders-Capitals series or the Hurricanes – Bruins series. The first period didn’t have any goal scoring but the Avalanche poured it on and made Coyotes’ starting goalie Darcy Kuemper really work to keep his team in it. The Avalanche had a multitude of chances and looked good on their one power play chance despite not scoring. The Avalanche also dominated in the shot department outshooting the Avalanche 13-3 in the opening frame. Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar were very noticeable as was Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky.
The Coyotes, in the first period showed that they may be a little outclassed but they hung in there due to the great play of the aforementioned Kuemper. Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall each looked good in the first. Head Coach Rick Tocchet also showed his hand in that he wanted Niklas Hjalmarsson out on the ice as much as possible against the Avalanche’s top line. Matt Nieto had the period’s best chance when he got a great shot off that Kuemper barely had time to react and save.
The second period was a lot of the same. The Avalanche jumped all over the Coyotes and really looked like the Stanley Cup contending team everyone had pegged them for. If not for the heroics of Darcy Kuemper, this game would look entirely different as the Avalanche raised their shot total to 28 while halting at Coyotes at a mere seven for the first two periods. The Avalanche just looked faster, tougher and stronger and the Coyotes just didn’t seem to have an answer. Nazem Kadri was up to six shots in the game in just the second period and the Avs looked primed to take game one in the third.
After going 53 minutes without a goal, the Avalanche would finally break through in a big way in the 3rd. First, Nazem Kadri would slam one through the legs of Darcy Kuemper on the power play to make it 1-0. 10 seconds later, J.T. Compher would score to put the Avalanche up 2-0! The onslaught wouldn’t end there as a third goal would be scored by Mikko Rantanen to make it 3-0 within just a 1:23 seconds and on a span of five shots. The Avalanche dominated this game and the dam finally burst in the third. Kuemper was superhuman but the team in front of him just couldn’t produce any offense against Avalanche goaltender Phillipp Grubauer. The Avalanche now lead the series 1-0 and here are my three stars of the game:
1) Nazem Kadri – One Goal, seven shots
2) Phillipp Grubauer – Shutout, 14 saves, Win
3) Darcy Kuemper – 37 saves, loss
Game two is Friday at 2:00 PM EST
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