Nathan MacKinnon was level-headed after his team’s Game 2 loss to the Blues. Disappointed? Yes. Frustrated? Probably. But he also expressed confidence that the Avalanche can get back on track.
“We’re not going to sweep every round,” he said after St. Louis evened the Round 2 series 1-1. “We have a lot better and we were still in it tonight.”
“There’s no panic in our room,” Bowen Byram added the next morning. “It’s just readjusting, and we have to get back on our horses for next game.”
Blues coach Craig Berube made adjustments after the Avalanche dominated play in Game 1, tweaking his line combinations significantly, and the St. Louis players did a much better job limiting the Avalanche’s space and mitigating their speed.
Now it’s coach Jared Bednar’s and Colorado’s turn to respond. Here are 10 keys to regaining the series lead as the round shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday:
1. Play better
Yes, it’s a bit simplistic, and yes, this is easier said than done, but Bednar’s first words in his postgame press conference say a lot: “Number one we got outworked and outskated.” That’s a little alarming given the teams are in the playoffs, but as MacKinnon said, “It happens.”
“We tried our best, got prepared, (did) everything we could,” MacKinnon said. “Just everyone was a little off. Really off.”
MacKinnon and the top line have the speed advantage, especially when going against Ryan O’Reilly’s line, which they’ll most likely face again in Game 3. They’ll need to find a way to get through the neutral zone easier and dictate the pace of play, not the other way around. And though the top players’ struggles were most important, they were far from alone.
“We looked sluggish and slow,” Bednar said Friday morning. “We were not quick and not skating, No. 1. That’s where it all starts for us — our skating and the pace and tempo we play at. We were not assertive enough in our defending and also a lot of self-induced turnovers.
If the Avalanche are playing to their capabilities, they likely will win this series. Re-establishing their work ethic and correcting their Game 2 kinks is the place to start.
2. Make life harder on Binnington
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has been excellent this series, and he has a .953 save percentage through the first two games. But he’s also allowed juicy rebounds at points, something Bednar believes his team can exploit, and the Avalanche likely would’ve scored more than three goals against him in Game 1 had they buried more chances and avoided hitting five posts. And while the Avalanche can’t control how Binnington is playing, they do have a say inß how challenging his life in net is.
“We’ve got to take away his eyes,” MacKinnon said after Game 2. “He definitely saw a lot of pucks tonight. … Their D are doing a good job boxing us out, but we’ve got to play a little harder and get in his eyes.”
“Breaking the goalie’s eyesight, even if it’s a moving screen, is uber important,” Bednar echoed Friday. “You’ve got to make him lose sight of the puck at some point or he’s going to stop it. Last night, we were horrible at it.”