Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks
When and Where: Friday, April 26, SAP Center, San Jose, Calif., 10:08 p.m. EDT.
After a dramatic Game 7 comeback among the best in NHL playoff history that completed a reversal from down 3-1 in the first round, the San Jose Sharks hope they have sufficiently recharged ahead of their Western Conference semifinal opener versus the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
Avs in second round for first time in 11 years
The Avalanche will have had a week off since their 5-1 Game 5 victory at Calgary that eliminated the top-seeded Flames by the time the puck drops in San Jose on Friday night. This is the first time Colorado is in the conference semifinals since 2008 when Joel Quenneville was behind the bench.
There’s still plenty of room…
— x- Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) April 20, 2019
The Avalanche have not won a second-round game since Game 5 of their 2004 series versus San Jose, which they lost in six games. They were swept by Anaheim in 2006 and Detroit in 2008.
The week off, though, hopefully helped Colorado figure out a game plan on slowing down San Jose, which totaled 14 goals — 11 at even strength — in sweeping the three games between the teams in the regular season.
“They are a real good team, 100-point team,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said of the Sharks at his Thursday press conference. “Big, strong, fast, lots of shooters, mobile D-corps, they are getting the goaltending now, they are a tough team, no question. They have given us trouble all year.
“Playoffs is a different scenario, right? You start over from scratch, and its best of seven. There are adjustments to be made in the middle of the series. Our goal will be to go in there and have a real good start and pick up where we left off against Calgary.”
A very large X-factor will be the play of goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was chased in the second period of Colorado’s 5-4 home loss to San Jose on Jan. 2 after getting beat four times on 14 shots.
That was his only appearance versus the Sharks this season, but Grubauer looked just fine in the first round — he posted a 1.90 goals-against average and .939 save percentage against the Flames as he allowed just six even-strength goals.
— x- Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) April 18, 2019
Offensively, the Avs’ “Big 3” of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog delivered on the high expectations set for the trio, accounting for nine of Colorado’s 17 first-round goals. Rantanen finished with team highs of five goals and nine points and carries a four-game multipoint streak into this contest after his second straight two-goal game in the series clincher.
The trio were limited to three goals in the three losses to the Sharks, with fourth-line center Tyson Jost proving the most effective by matching that output himself.
First-pairing defenseman Samuel Girard and veteran forward Derick Brassard could be available for the series opener, though Bednar has yet to commit publicly to their availability. The 20-year-old Girard missed the final three games of the first round with an upper-body injury, but rookie Cale Makar — making his NHL debut — proved a more than adequate replacement with a plus-4 rating while chipping in a goal and an assist in Games 3 through 5.
Brassard missed the final three games of the Calgary series with an illness and failed to register a point in Games 1 and 2.
Sharks likely without Pavelski for series opener
While Colorado handled Calgary with relative ease, San Jose endured a nasty seven-game war of attrition with defending conference champion and Pacific Division rival Vegas.
The controversial five-minute power play awarded San Jose after Cody Eakin’s cross-check to the chest of Joe Pavelski contributed to the Sharks veteran awkwardly landing on his head completely turned the game — and the series — in San Jose’s favor. The Sharks became just the second team to score four goals on a single power play in NHL playoff history to erase a 3-0 deficit before eventually winning 5-4 in overtime on Barclay Goodrow’s goal.
— x – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 24, 2019
The debate continues to rage over whether it should have been a major penalty — especially after the league apologized to Vegas on Thursday — but the Sharks are simply moving on to Game 1 after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit, with coach Pete DeBoer all but ruling out Pavelski for this contest while not definitively saying the 38-goal scorer had a concussion.
“It could have been worse It could have been something like a fractured skull or something like that, so thankfully it wasn’t. He’s definitely feeling the effects of it,” said DeBoer, whose vagueness about Pavelski on Thursday included saying, “I said he was feeling the effects. You can put 2-and-2 together on that.”
The Sharks, though, do have the offensive depth to compensate for Pavelski’s absence in the short term. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl each scored six goals in the first round, tying Las Vegas’ Mark Stone for the postseason lead, and Kevin Labanc scored four of his five points in the series on that third-period power play Wednesday night.
San Jose, though, will need more from Timo Meier, veteran Joe Thornton, trade deadline acquisition Gustav Nyquist, and Evander Kane as the quartet accounted for only three goals in the seven games. Though he was a minus-3 for the series, defenseman Erik Karlsson had nine assists, including three with the man advantage.
Pavelski’s absence will be felt as he had a pair of power-play goals and four assists in the three wins over Colorado. Defenseman Brent Burns had two goals and five assists in those games, while Kane and Marcus Sorensen had two goals apiece.
Overlooked in the stunning nature of the Game 7 win was DeBoer’s decision to stick with embattled goaltender Martin Jones after pulling him in the Games 2 and 4 losses. Jones finished with 34 saves Wednesday night after making a career-high and playoff franchise-record 58 stops in the double-overtime Game 6 victory.
He won all three games versus Colorado this season, turning aside 81 of 90 shots, and is 10-3-1 with a 2.85 GAA lifetime against the Avalanche.
“Jonesy coming up big time,” Hertl told NHL.com after Game 7. “He helped us win the last three games and he was unbelievable again tonight. I’m so happy for him … He stepped it up and helped us win the next three games.”
The Avalanche are:
- 1-4 in their last five playoff games as underdogs between +110 to +150.
- 2-11 in their last 13 games as underdogs between +110 to +150.
- 16-35 in their last 51 road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home record.
The Sharks are:
- 24-4 in their last 28 home games vs. the Avalanche.
- 5-1 in their last six games as favorites between -110 to -150.
- 8-2 in their last 10 games vs. Central Division teams.