Surprise! Round 2 begins tomorrow.
The NHL bucked tradition Friday and announced the start of the series between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars was Saturday night even though there were no assurances Round 1 would have wrapped up by then.
Avalanche Jared Bednar said he found out in the early morning that they’d be playing the next day.
“I like starting as soon as possible,” Bednar said. “Time generally seems to move pretty slowly here in the bubble.”
Saturday’s schedule was left bare for about 12 hours with the New York Islanders and Stars eliminating the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames, respectively, on Thursday.
Meanwhile the Avalanche enjoyed a day off of golf and rest after closing out the Arizona Coyotes in five games.
The usual side effect of a dominant performance is preventing rust during a long layoff. Colorado wasn’t expecting to go again this soon but Bednar said he supports it.
“Obviously there’s a focus there on what you need to do. The days in between games give you plenty of time to get some rest and get prepared to play the next night,” Bednar said.
“It’s what we’re all here to do, play hockey games and not necessarily practice and have days off.”
The team had a quick meeting to refocus after the date was announced. Friday’s practice included everyone except former Dallas Star Valeri Nichushkin, whom Bednar described as having “bumps and bruises.”
The Stars wound up in what was essentially the losers' bracket of the Western Conference round robin after a 4-0 loss at the hands of Colorado on Aug. 5. They’re the third seed.
Both the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks, set to play in the late game Friday, are assured of a second-round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights. So during a wild Game 6 in which the Stars erased a 3-0 deficit and scored seven unanswered goals, the Avalanche learned their next opponent.
“They had a little bit of a slow start coming into the bubble, but certainly it looks like now here recently ...they’re firing on all cylinders again and starting to look like the team we’re expecting them to be,” Bednar said.
Denis Gurianov scored four times for the Stars in Game 6. Miro Heiskanen’s 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) leads the team and trails only Nathan MacKinnon’s 13 among active playoff players. Anton Khudobin started in net for the Colorado round-robin game and five of six in the Calgary series with a 2.49 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
“They’ve gotten better as this qualifier and playoff has gone on,” Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson said.
“It’s going to be probably a heavier series, probably some more physicality than we had in the last one. We’re looking forward to it.”
The 6 p.m. game will be broadcast on NBC.