Avalanche vs. Stars playoff preview

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas StarsAvalanche: 4-1 to win Western Conference First Round against No. 7 Arizona Coyotes; 2-1-0 (four points) in Qualifiers round-robin; 42-20-8, .657 points percentage in regular seasonStars: 4-2 to win Western Conference First Round against No. 6 Calgary Flames; 1-2-0 (two points) in Qualifiers round-robin; 37-24-8, .594 points percentage in regular seasonSeason series: COL 0-2-2; DAL 4-0-0Game 1 is Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN)The Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars will meet for the fifth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they open the Western Conference Second Round.Dallas last played on Thursday, a 7-3 victory against the Calgary Flames; Colorado on Wednesday, a 7-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes.”I like starting as soon as possible, to be honest with you,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “I think time generally seems to move pretty slowly here in the bubble, which we found out for the first couple weeks when we were playing every third day and had some time before our first game. And then once we kind of got into the series with Arizona, time seemed to go a little quicker. No travel. The convenience of getting to the rink. It’s just like game day is great.”Obviously there’s a focus there on what you need to do, and then the days in between games, there’s plenty of time to get some rest and get prepared to play the next night. We’re liking the fact we don’t have too much time off in between games. I’m sure Dallas is kind of the same way. Just keep playing. It’s what we’re all here to do, is play hockey games and not necessarily practice and have days off.”The Stars and Avalanche have split their four playoff series; Dallas won in the 1999 and 2000 Western Conference Final, each in seven games. Colorado won in the 2004 and 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals, each in five games.Defenseman Miro Heiskanen leads the Stars with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in the postseason. Anton Khudobin, normally the backup to Ben Bishop, is 4-3-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Bishop (1-1-0, 4.04, .862) was unfit to play in the last four games of the series against Calgary.Video: DAL@CGY, Gm6: Heiskanen one-times PPG past TalbotForward Nathan MacKinnon leads all NHL players with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in the postseason. He is one of three Avalanche players to have reached double digits in points, joined by forwards Nazem Kadri (11 points; six goals, five assists), and Mikko Rantanen (10 points; three goals, seven assists). Philipp Grubauer (5-0-1,1.49 GAA, .937 save percentage) has started six of the eight postseason games. “I think we’re going to do like we did in the first round and focus on us, and we’re going to have to use everybody on the ice to make sure that we’re ready for the second round,” Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard said. “We know that’s going to be harder and harder, so we’re going to have to be ready for the second round and make sure we’re on the same page.”The Stars won all four regular-season games against the Avalanche, but the Avalanche won 4-0 against the Stars on Aug. 5 in the round-robin portion Stanley Cup Qualifiers.The Stars and Avalanche each advanced to the second round for the second straight season.Game breakersAvalanche: MacKinnon, a finalist in the voting for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the player voted the NHL’s most valuable player, is on an eight-game point streak. It is tied for the second-longest streak to begin a postseason in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history with Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk (both 2000-01), Joe Sakic (1996-97) and Michel Goulet (1984-85). Sakic had a 10-game streak in 1995-96. MacKinnon had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in five games against Arizona. He has 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 33 NHL playoff games.Stars: Center Joe Pavelski has delivered what the Stars hoped when they signed him to a three-year free agent contract July 1, 2019. In nine postseason games, he has six goals to share the NHL lead with four players. Seven of Pavelski’s eight points (six goals, two assists) have come at even strength.Video: ARI@COL, Gm5: Rantanen, MacKinnon connect twiceGoaltendingAvalanche: Philipp Grubauer established himself as the No. 1 option ahead of Pavel Francouz by winning his four starts against the Coyotes; he had a shutout, a 1.00 GAA and a .953 save percentage. Grubauer went 0-2-2 against Dallas in the regular season with a 2.45 GAA and a .927 save percentage. He has played in 22 NHL postseason games, going 13-6-1. “[Grubauer] was phenomenal,” Bednar said. “He was right there for us all the way, almost perfect in the series. I liked everything he did for us in the series. We’ve come to expect it from him.”Stars: Anton Khudobin has taken over after Bishop was ruled unfit to play after his one playoff start, a 5-4 win in Game 2 in which he made 22 saves. The 34-year-old is 4-3 in the postseason with a 2.49 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Khudobin has played 11 NHL seasons but his seven starts this season are the first of his postseason career. Before this season, he had played in two playoff games, one in 2018 for the Boston Bruins and one last season with the Stars, each as a midgame replacement.Numbers to knowAvalanche: Colorado scored seven goals in each of the final two games of the series against Arizona, its most in a playoff game since an 8-2 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round in 2002.Stars: Dallas has been outscored 11-5 in the first period in the postseason, allowing the most opening-period goals. The Stars have allowed the first goal seven times in nine games and are 3-4 in those games.X-factorsAvalanche: Kadri, the second-line center, has taken the scoring burden off MacKinnon. His 11 points (six goals, five assists) are tied with Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks for fourth in postseason scoring. His five power-play goals lead the NHL. He had seven points (five goals, two assists) in five games in the first round. Kadri had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and 58 penalty minutes in 19 playoff games with the Toronto Maple Leafs; he hasn’t been penalized this postseason. Stars: Forward Denis Gurianov had a breakout game with four goals and an assist in Game 6 against Calgary, and had seven points (six goals, one assist) in the series. This is the 23-year-old’s first time playing in the playoffs. After he made a major impact against Calgary, Gurianov’s his soft hands and quickness could make him a big factor against the swift Avalanche.Video: DAL@CGY, Gm6: Gurianov records four-goal gameThey said it”I most definitely think we’re ready to make that next step, no doubt. We’ve been a group for the most part that’s been together for the last three, four years. We’ve grown together and been through the bad and we still have work to do. But the group that we have in our locker room has a lot of character and obviously we’ve seen the product that we can put on the ice when we do our job and work together as a group and work for another. We can do some really good things. We have a lot of work to do, though.” — Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog “There’s ups and downs. That’s playoffs. It’s a series. [Calgary was] a team that plays hard and were coming out of the play-in round where they played good hockey and it was going to be a big test for us. Just confidence in understanding our game works. It’s a big commitment to play a certain way, but it’s the playoffs right now and guys are battling for each other right now and came up with some huge plays along the way.” — Stars forward Joe PavelskiWill win if …Avalanche: MacKinnon and Kadri continue to lead a balanced attack that has gotten a goal from 14 players and a point from 17 players in eight postseason games.Stars: If they get more from their top line. The Stars need help from Tyler Seguin (three assists in eight postseason games), Jamie Benn (four points; two goals, two assists in nine games) and Alexander Radulov (three points; two goals, one assist in nine games). The three players have combined for seven even-strength points in the postseason (Benn three, Radulov three, Seguin one).Avalanche projected lineupGabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko RantanenAndre Burakovsky — Nazem Kadri — Joonas DonskoiTyson Jost — J.T. Compher – Valeri NichushkinMatt Nieto — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Matt CalvertRyan Graves — Cale MakarSamuel Girard – Ian ColeNikita Zadorov – Erik JohnsonPhilipp GrubauerPavel FrancouzScratched: Mark Barberio, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram, Kevin Connauton, Sheldon Dries, Michael Hutchinson, Tyson Jost, Anton Lindholm, Logan O’Connor, Conor Timmins, T.J. Tynan Unfit to play: Vladislav Namestnikov, Colin Wilson Stars projected lineupJamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Alexander RadulovMattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Denis GurianovRoope Hintz — Jason Dickinson — Corey PerryAndrew Cogliano — Radek Faksa — Blake ComeauEsa Lindell — John KlingbergJamie Oleksiak — Miro HeiskanenAndrej Sekera — Taylor FedunAnton KhudobinJake OettingerScratched: Nick Caamano, Ty Dellandrea, Justin Dowling, Joel Kiviranta, Jason Robertson, Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, Thomas Harley, Landon Bow, Jake OettingerUnfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop
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