It certainly wasn’t pretty, but when you’re chasing down the Presidents’ Trophy in a playoff style hockey game, it doesn’t need to be. The Avs recorded a 2-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night to leave things poised with two games to go.
The remainder of the regular season is simple. Regardless of what happens elsewhere, if the team closes out with two wins over the LA Kings, they take home both the West Division title and the Presidents’ Trophy. This guarantees home ice advantage for the full Stanley Cup run, however long that may be.
Grubauer is back
A look at the stat lines from the game and you will see that Vegas did to the Avs what we usually see Colorado doing to others. The shot count was 37-21 in favor of the Golden Knights, but an outstanding performance from Philipp Grubauer kept his team in the game.
Philipp Grubauer made 11 (eleven) saves while the Avs were on the penalty kill. He saved 36 of 37 in total.
Yee haw. pic.twitter.com/Xtjor9vArh
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) May 11, 2021
It was a timely reminder of his ability, because let’s be honest, over the past couple of weeks he has been no better than average. On many occasions, being average behind a team of this quality is good enough, last night it wouldn’t have been, and if this team is to go all the way, there will be other instances where they will need to ride the German.
Expect to see Grubauer once more in the regular season, another solid performance will give him a huge confidence boost ahead of the playoffs.
A two-point night for Alex Newhook
The 20-year-old rookie had played three games prior to this one, all against teams with nothing to play for, and he has slotted in well. Last night was his biggest test, and the outcome? A two-point night for Newhook.
First multi-point game for Alex Newhook 👏🔥 pic.twitter.com/9MDwYNf1IG
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 11, 2021
He was sheltered towards the end of the game, ending with just over 10 minutes of ice time in the game but there was enough to get you excited about his future, whether that be in the playoffs, or next season.
I’ve loved how the team has used Newhook so far, essentially as a replacement for Brandon Saad, giving him offensive chances to shine. He’s kept his play fairly simple, and if he continues to play well, he will certainly give Jared Bednar a headache when Saad is ready to return.
A taste of things to come?
Unless we have a first round shock in the playoffs, we are heading towards a clash between Colorado and Vegas in the second round. Both teams have had their fair share of positives from the games so far and both probably know what they have to do to win.
In terms of the regular season, eight games were played and the teams won four each. Technically, the Avs took the series with a 4-3-1 record and an additional point for an overtime loss. However, as we have seen both last night and at other moments in the series matchup, there is almost nothing to separate these two.
If they meet, don’t be surprised if the series goes the full seven, don’t be surprised to see some incredibly close games and certainly don’t be surprised if it is the best series of the entire playoffs.
Forward lines set for the playoffs?
In their biggest test for some time, I think we saw Jared Bednar give us an indication of what his forward lines will be for the playoffs.
One problem we have seen recently, due to injuries, has been the lack of a settled third line. We’ve seen this unit really shine earlier in the season, but recently not so much, with numerous changes being made to it.
#Avs vs. Vegas:
A not-quite-but-pretty-healthy Avs lineup will go against a Vegas team with only 15 skaters.
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) May 11, 2021
The line of Nichushkin, Jost & Donskoi looked very good last night, and looks set to be the third unit from here until injuries force a change, or Newhook demands a playoff place after the return of Saad.
Below those three, the fourth line seems to be set as Soderberg, Bellemare & Compher, a line that doesn’t have the energy it would with a Logan O’Connor or Matt Calvert on it, but one that would certainly have the full defensive trust of coach Bednar.