Avalanche Second Round Takeaways
Western Conference Finals bound.
The Colorado Avalanche continue to find ways to win and are heading to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years. The Avalanche advanced after completing their (4-2) in the best-of-seven series over the St. Louis Blues in the Second Round 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The resilient effort from the Avalanche reflected that of an ultra-determined group.
Here are a few takeaways from the Avalanche’s Second Round:
After executing a methodical sweep in the First Round of the Nashville Predators, the Avalanche showcased resolve and maintained composure in their tenacious and hard-fought battle against the Blues.
Unlike the Nashville series – where the Avalanche scored the opening strike in all four games – Colorado had to mount comebacks in five-of-the-six games. Two of the six contests required overtime – with Game 6 coming down to the wire until Darren Helm provided the series-clinching tally with just six seconds left in regulation.
Video: COL@STL, Gm6: Helm ends it with 5.6 seconds to go
Throughout the series, the Avalanche benefitted from their extensive wealth as 17-of-21 skaters recorded at least a point. 14 of those 17 skaters recorded multi-point efforts.
Nazem Kadri (4G, 3A) and Nathan MacKinnon (3G, 4A) paced the team with seven points each in the series, but Kadri led the way in goals with four.
Heading into Game 6, Avalanche Head Coach Jared Bednar praised his team on the ability to have different guys stepping up on different nights throughout the series. That trend only continued in the Avalanche’s series-clinching victory.
To kick off the series, Josh Manson buried an overtime goal on May 17 in the Avalanche’s eventual 3-2 OT Game 1 win. Following a 4-1 loss in Game 2, the Avalanche responded with a 5-2 victory in Game 1 and a two-goal effort by Artturi Lehkonen, who produced the game-winner.
Video: COL@STL, Gm4: Kadri notches 1st NHL playoff hat trick
An emotional Game 4 – burdened by the noise of outside hatred and nonsense – featured a feel-good performance for the ages by Kadri as he record a hat trick in Colorado’s 6-3 win. And while the Avalanche lost Game 5 in overtime to the Blues, MacKinnon was electric with a hat trick and dominant individual efforts.
The decisive Game 6 win was scripted with massive contributions from the Avalanche’s third and fourth lines forward group as J.T. Compher scored twice including once on the power play and Helm sealed the series with a iconic slap shot from distance during the winding seconds of regulation to break the 2-2 tie.
Colorado’s offense averaged 4.30 goals for per game, the second-most in the NHL throughout the series. The Avalanche also averaged the second-most shots for per game (but most among teams remaining in playoffs) with a nightly average of 39.8 shots.
Video: STL@COL, Gm5: MacKinnon’s 2nd playoff hat trick
Colorado continued to benefit from defensive contributions heading into the Second Round.
After leading all teams in goals (64) and points (238) in 2021-22, Colorado’s defensemen are leading the NHL this postseason in goals (10) and points (40). The blueline’s 64 goals were the most since the 1992-93 Capitals (94) and 238 points were the most since the 1995-96 Red Wings (240).
Rookie defenseman Bowen Byram led the series with five points on as many assists against St. Louis and now has six points (0G, 6A) in the postseason.
Manson produced four points (1G, 3A), while Cale Makar (0G, 3A) and Devon Toews (1G, 2A) each tallied three points. Erik Johnson recorded two points (1G, 1A) and Samuel Girard handed out an assist.
The Avalanche finished the series 3-for-13 on the power play (23.1%) against St. Louis and 9-for-13 (69.2%) on the penalty kill. MacKinnon, Compher and Gabriel Landeskog each converted on the power play, while MacKinnon (1G, 1A) and Mikko Rantanen (2A) led the way in power play points.
Video: COL@STL, Gm6: Compher beats Husso for his 2nd goal
Darcy Kuemper played the entirety of the series against the Blues. The Avalanche netminder made a total of 140 saves on 157 shots, recorded a 2.77 GAA, and a .892 SV%. He now ranks fifth in the NHL with a total postseason record of 6-2-0, a 2.44 GAA and a .904 SV%.
The Avalanche continued to utilize their depth throughout the series and especially in the wake of injuries. The team benefitted from veteran forward Andrew Cogliano returning to the lineup after being sidelined for Game 2-4 against Nashville, but the team suffered a substantial loss to its blueline in Game 3 as Girard suffered a broken sternum in the opening minute and will miss the rest of the year due to the injury.
In his place, 35-year-old veteran defenseman Jack Johnson drew in the lineup and skated alongside Manson.
The Avalanche continued to be locked in defensively against the Blues. It was an impressive feat against one of the most well-balanced offensive teams during the regular season as St. Louis had nine different players produce 20-plus goal seasons.
Colorado only relinquished a 3.00 goals against per average in the series and held the Blues to single-digit shots in 12 periods throughout the six-games and also posted a 13-0 shot advantage over St. Louis in Game 1’s overtime frame.
Following a physical First Round series against the highest-hitting team in the regular season in the Predators, the Avalanche didn’t let up against a heavy St. Louis squad. Colorado finished the series with 199 hits and 72 blocked shots. Helm threw the most hits in the series among skaters with 28, while (Erik) Johnson laid out the second-most with 22. Makar blocked a team-high of 12 shots followed by (Erik) Johnson who recorded nine.
Video: COL@STL, Gm6: Manson keeps Colorado within one
Despite getting over the hurdle of the Second Round and reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in two decades, the Avalanche are far from satisfied and are still hunting for the ultimate prize. They’ll have a tough test ahead against the Edmonton Oilers – more on that to come – and are shifting their focus to that series.
“We’re only halfway to our goal,” Bednar said after Game 6. “We’re just getting started.”
The Avalanche will utilize a day of rest followed by some practice time before ramping right back up with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Edmonton on Tuesday night at Ball Arena.
After securing the top seed in the conference, Colorado will continue to benefit from home-ice advantage and will host the Oilers for Games 1 and 2 (5 and 7, if necessary). Puck drop for Game 1 between Colorado and Edmonton is set for 6 p.m. MT.