Avalanche’s underlying goal for Game 2: Increase depth scoring
Blessed with a top line that features the NHL’s top three players in playoff points-per-game, the Avalanche entered Game 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night looking for a little more support from the other guys.
Coach Jared Bednar is certainly happy with how his team has played en route to a 5-0 start in the postseason. But he still has some proven playmakers who haven’t yet hit their strides.
Second-line winger Andre Burakovsky had 19 goals in 53 regular-season games but had none through five playoff games. J.T. Compher, the second-line center since Nazem Kadri was assessed an eight-game suspension after Game 2 of the St. Louis series, has just one point in the playoffs. Kadri also had just one point prior to his suspension two games in. Third-liners Tyson Jost and Valeri Nichushkin each have one goal, but Nichushkin’s was an empty-netter. The fourth line has contributed just one goal and three points.
“We need more depth scoring,” second-line winger Joonas Donskoi (two goals, four points in five games) said after Wednesday’s morning skate at Ball Arena. “Especially our line. Haven’t really created much. We’ve been talking about it a lot and just trying to get better here every day.”
Donskoi is the fifth member on the No. 1 power-play unit that features the Avs’ top-four playoff scorers in forwards Nathan MacKinnon (eight goals, 12 points), Gabe Landeskog (four goals, 11 points) and Mikko Rantanen (two goals, nine points) and star defenseman Cale Makar (two goals, seven points). Two of Donskoi’s four points have come on the power play.
The top line and Makar produced six goals in Sunday’s 7-1 Game 1 rout over the Knights, with third-line winger Brandon Saad also scoring — his fourth of the playoffs. MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen have the league’s top three points/game average at 2.40, 2.20 and 1.80, respectively.
“Obviously, our top line has really led the way and got us some real good starts so far here in the playoffs through five games. But I’m not disappointed in our (other) lines,” Bednar said pregame. “They played well the other night. Some good O-zone time, some good looks, we had Saad score again. I think we’re getting the contributions that we need to win hockey games and that has to continue — whether that’s every night or every second night — but we need our whole lineup.
“I liked our game throughout — all six D and 12 forwards that played (in Game 1) played well and it has to continue, especially with the game we’re going to see from Vegas.”
The Avs’ lineup for Game 2 is projected to be unchanged from the series opener; Bednar no longer reveals it pregame.