Avalanche solve Kuemper late, take Game 1 from the Coyotes 3-0


Following an intense round-robin finale where Colorado fell to the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in overtime, the Avs were ready to get the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs going.  As the No. 2 seed in the West, the Avs drew the No. 11 Arizona Coyotes who previously eliminated the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round.  The Yotes are a solid team with a lot of young pieces looking to take that next step to become a Stanley Cup contender.  With the recent additions of Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, Arizona wanted to bring some Stanley Cup experience in as well as some playmaking skill to help the young players develop.  The Coyotes are probably riding high since making it through the qualifying round, but the Avalanche should be able to meet their intensity.  With the other Hart Trophy nominees in Leon Draisaitl and Artemi Panarin eliminated, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs could show they belong at the top and Arizona is the first road block.

Make sure to check out our in-depth preview of this series against the Coyotes on The-Rink.com.

First period

Now that the games truly count, it was pretty obvious that the Colorado Avalanche flipped a switch and started playing playoff hockey.  They were forechecking hard and finishing all their checks on the Coyotes players.  Even skill players like Mikko Rantanen were laying the body.  The result of the physical play was that it was almost all Avs in the first period.  Arizona had the puck in their zone almost the entire period.  One player who stood out was centerman Nazem Kadri who got some quality shots on goal.  The Avs did get one powerplay from a holding minor on Jason Demers, but it was killed off by the Yotes despite several good looks by the Avs.  The period ended with no score but a lopsided shot total with the Avs leading 13-3.

Second Period

The pace picked up a little bit in the second period as both teams began to really feel each other out.  The Yotes clearly wanted more than just three shots on goal in the next period so they were noticeably more aggressive, but the story continued to be Arizona goaltender Darcy Kuemper.  Adding 15 more saves to his total, Kuemper made it look pretty easy on his side of the ice, making saves without much traffic in front of the net.  Arizona was again outshot heavily in the second and couldn’t really get their possession game going, however, Avs goaltender Philip Grubauer made a few good saves of his own. The Avs defense then locked down in the final ten minutes of the period where they didn’t allow a single shot on goal.

Third Period

Noticeably frustrated with not scoring through the first 40 minutes of play, the Avs turned it on late in the third period and broke the ice.  With seven minutes left in the game and the score still tied, Kadri cleaned up a rebound and finally got the Avalanche on the board.  The adrenaline was running through the Avs lineup as it took just 15 seconds for the Avs to score again.  This time it was forward J.T. Compher who found a loose puck again in front of Kuemper and scored on a nice backhand shot.  But the Avs weren’t even done yet!  They generated a three-on-two rush that resulted in a really nice tic-tac-toe goal scored by Rantanen.  All three goals were scored in just 1:23, putting the game out of reach for Arizona.  Grubauer got the 14-save shutout as the Avs take a 1-0 lead on the Coyotes in the series.

What’s next?

The Avs and Yotes will meet again on Friday for game two and will drop the puck at 12:00 PM MST.  Colorado will most likely see some adjustments from Arizona and will have to be prepared, but, in the meantime, it looks like Grubauer will stay in net.  Backup Pavel Francouz has been very good this season and beyond, which is great insurance in case Grubauer falters.  The game did have some physicality, especially with the star players, but it’s unclear how Arizona will find an edge against this Avs team.  With the Avalanche limiting their opponent to just 14 shots in a playoff game and exploding for three goals in under two minutes, they have to feel good going into game two.

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