Surging power play, timely goals, high intensity level — listing the things going right for the Colorado Avalanche in the round robin is like going down a hockey coach’s dearest wish list.
Because of this, they’re in contention for the top seed in the Western Conference. Thanks to a last-ditch effort to finish off St. Louis in regulation and a full-team step up Wednesday against Dallas, the Avalanche can secure it Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“I’d like to see our team get rewarded for all their hard work through the regular season and get the top seed,” coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday.
“Then we reset and we’re starting over for a seven-game series.”
The power play connected three times officially and once a second after a power play expired.
“Our team is following their lead. Those guys are dialed up right now,” Bednar said of the players on his top power-play unit.
Adjustments are paying off. Andre Burakovsky played on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen against St. Louis. His “intensity level” wasn’t quite where Bednar said it should be at this point, so he moved him down to the third line and brought Vladislav Namestnikov up against Dallas. Both scored, and Bednar said it was Burakovsky’s best postseason game performance to date.
“It’s an honor to play with those guys and it’s really, really fun,” Namestnikov said of his linemates Wednesday.
They’ve gotten a strong performance out of each goaltender. Philipp Grubauer had little chance on the only goal he allowed in a 31-save effort Sunday, and Pavel Francouz posted a 27-save shutout Wednesday.
Perhaps most importantly, the team is playing well in front of them. Bednar pointed to good skating, hanging onto pucks to make smart plays, and discipline in Wednesday’s game.
He said he didn’t see the “excitement and fire” in the Avalanche’s exhibition game, but it's back.
“Our guys are playing like they want it,” he said of the top seed. “I like the focus and the intensity from our group at this point. Hopefully it takes even another step here for Vegas so we know we’re good to go coming out of it.”