Stars' top line dominant in 5-3 win over Avs in Game 1

Colorado Avalanche's Erik Johnson heads off the ice with an injury during the first period against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of an NHL hockey playoff second-round series, in Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.

It was less wear than tear.

What an unexpected benefit, many said in July, to have the full lineup back for the postseason. The Colorado Avalanche had battled injuries but a four-month pause due to COVID-19 gave players time to heal. 

Coach Jared Bednar said after Game 7 against the Dallas Stars that during the playoffs, one expects to “lose a guy or two, here and there.”

Erik Johnson and Philipp Grubauer, the top defenseman and starting goaltender, left the series and didn't return. And that was just Game 1.

Matt Calvert, Joonas Donskoi, Pavel Francouz, Conor Timmins, and captain Gabriel Landeskog, all were unavailable Friday.

“It’s a lot. It’s a lot to overcome,” Bednar said. “I was proud of the guys that stepped up and elevated their game and filled in for them. We dig and scratch and claw our way back into the series.”

From the net out, Colorado was patched up for Game 7, a 5-4 loss in overtime. Would Landeskog have set up Nathan MacKinnon? Would Johnson have made a better play on any of the five goals against?

Injuries are a factor in any series. The second-seeded Avalanche had to rely on fill-ins with little playoff experience, like many before them.

Denver Pioneers product Logan O’Connor occupied Calvert’s spot well. Goaltender Michael Hutchinson, making his playoff debut at 30, was the third Avalanche starter of the series and fought off elimination twice.

However one of the team’s most referenced attributes, its depth, was drying up quickly.

“I would have liked to see our team fully healthy, that’s for sure. We lost a lot of key guys. That’s just the way it is. We caught the injury bug again,” MacKinnon said passionately. “We’ve had it all year.”

“Our motivation, too, was win this game, get guys back, keep making our run, keep pushing. It’s unfortunate.”

Bednar said no one on the list was on the verge of returning. They were days or weeks away.

“I don’t know that there was a return for a bunch of guys to help make a difference in the near future,” Bednar said.

MacKinnon said he didn't see the need to change the roster in the months ahead. He thought the Avalanche were good enough to win.

“We’ve gotta find a way to stay healthy,” he said.

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