Next man up.
With the indefinite loss of Samuel Giard following Game 3, the Colorado Avalanche will have to rely on their extensive lineup depth as they continue their Second Round series against the St. Louis Blues.
Girard exited Saturday night’s game – an eventual 5-2 Colorado victory to take a 2-1 series lead – two minutes into the game and on his first and only shift of 56 second in St. Louis following a high hit along the boards from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. The severity of the injury was announced postgame and after Girard was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar confirmed that the 24-year-old blueliner broke his sternum and will be out for the rest of the postseason.
Video: Jared Bednar on the compete level in Game 3
The loss of Girard vacates a substantial role on Colorado’s blueline where the left shot was consistently paired with Josh Manson, averaged 17:59 minutes in the postseason and anchored one of the Avalanche’s power play units. Bednar wouldn’t confirm who will join the lineup in place of Girard, but the Avalanche have strong options – and all left shots – in Jack Johnson, Ryan Murray and Kurtis MacDermid, none of whom have made their respective postseason debuts yet.
“All of these guys have done a lot of hard work here,” Bednar said on Sunday morning. “[They’ve been] skating extra to try and make sure they’re ready to go if and when the time comes usually with how it works out. I haven’t seen any change in attitude. It can be long and grueling. We’re already three or four weeks into this thing now. Some of those guys haven’t played in a game, but they’ve got to stay ready. They have to put in the extra work because obviously on a game night everyone else is getting an extra three hours of hard work.”
Johnson, a 35-year-old with 1,024-career regular season games under his belt, dressed in 30 regular season games for the Avalanche. Murray, 28, played in 37 regular season games, but hasn’t played since March 21 after sustaining an upper-body injury which he has now recovered from. MacDermid, 28, suited up in 58 games for the Avalanche during the regular season.
All three blueliners have been diligently preparing and maintaining their sharpness and compete levels despite not being in the lineup for the postseason and prior.
“They’re all pros,” Devon Toews said. “They’re true pros and are ready to go. Whoever fills that spot is going to be ready. We’ve had to do it all year with injuries and such. We have so many good guys sitting, who haven’t played at all or played in a really long time. Most of those guys were regulars for us at certain times of the year. I think whoever steps in for us is going to be ready.”
While Girard’s absence is unfortunate, the circumstance of losing a regular is a familiar one for the Avalanche. During the regular season, the team utilized their depth and “next man up” mentality all season long as injuries continuously plagued them. And while this loss comes at the most important time of the year, the team has confidence in their abilities to raise their own levels and that of their extensive depth as they did so in Game 3. The tight-checking contest was highly competitive and emotionally driven as both sides suffered losses to the lineups; St. Louis netminder Jordan Binnington did not return after 6:45 minutes as a result of a collision with Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen and was confirmed by Blues Head Coach Craig Berube on Sunday morning to be sidelined for the remainder of the series.
Video: Toyota Game Recap: Bounce Back
And even after dropping a 1-0 deficit, the Avalanche rallied with three-straight strikes to claim the eventual 5-2 win. They did so playing virtually the entirety of the game with just five defenseman; as Toews logged a whopping 30:56 minutes and Cale Makar skated 28:49 minutes.
“You loose a guy like Girard right away who plays 20-plus minutes for you, other guys have to step up,” Bednar said. “You’ve got Manson, [Erik Johnson] and [Bo Byram] did a great job. It’s a tough team to play against, they’ve got a lot of firepower and I thought they did a nice job shutting them down.”
With Game 4 on Monday night, the Avalanche look to extend their lead series lead to 3-1 and poise themselves for a possibility to clinch on home ice in Game 5 on Wednesday night. But they’re not letting themselves get too far ahead and are focused on the task at hand – and expecting a push from the Blues – in a pivotal Game 4.
“If they’re going to be more physical then we’ll be quicker and more connected,” Toews said. “Whatever they bring, we’ll match it.
“If we’re able to take two [wins] in their building that would be huge for us,” Toews continued. “Obviously, if we go back [to Denver for Game 5] 3-1 or 2-2, it’s a big difference in the series. Our focus has already moved on to the next game.”