The Colorado Avalanche will try to extend their winning streak to seven games when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.
Colorado can set the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques record for a winning streak at any point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Nordiques, who relocated to Denver for the 1995-96 season, won six straight games in 1987.
The Avalanche also can become the 12th team in NHL history to win at least seven in a row from the start of a postseason and the first since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.
Since NHL expansion in 1967-68, eight teams have won at least seven games in a row from the start of the postseason. Each went on to make the Stanley Cup Final.
“Game 3 is always an important game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re up 2-0, down 2-0 or tied 1-1. It’s a big game in a series. We’ve played pretty well in here at times this year (2-2-0 in regular season), and our guys are confident we can come in and play our game.”
The Golden Knights have lost four of their past five games including a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2 and a 7-1 loss in Game 1 but are expecting energy from their crowd, which will be at full capacity for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Vegas is 2-2 at home in the playoffs after going 21-5-2 there in the regular season. They are 114-48-13 at home in the regular season and playoffs combined since entering the NHL in 2017-18, including 5-4-0 against the Avalanche.
“There’s no place on earth we’d rather be playing Game 3, I can tell you that,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “Should be a huge advantage for us.”
Teams that take a 3-0 lead are 194-4 (98.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 playoff series, including 2-0 this season.
Here are 3 keys for Game 3:
1. Battle of Vezina finalists
Philipp Grubauer is 6-0 for Colorado, tying the Avalanche/Nordiques record for consecutive wins in a postseason set by Mario Gosselin in 1987.
The goalie has won his last 10 playoff decisions dating to last year, a team record, the eighth-longest streak in NHL history and the longest since Patrick Roy’s 11-game streak with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.
A Vezina Trophy finalist as the NHL’s top goalie, Grubauer leads the playoffs in goals-against average (1.66) and save percentage (.943) among goalies with more than one game played.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who is also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, is 4-4 with a 1.86 GAA and .924 save percentage for Vegas in the playoffs.
2. Early gap position
The Avalanche are the No. 1 offensive team (five goals per game) and have the leading goal-scorer in center Nathan MacKinnon (eight) in the playoffs. They attack with speed.
The Golden Knights, the best defensive team in the regular season (2.18 goals against per game), did a better job in Game 2 of taking away the Avalanche’s time and space; Colorado’s top players didn’t make the scoresheet in regulation.
“If you give them room to build speed, they’re going to blow by you; they’re that fast,” DeBoer said. “So early gap position, early position before they can build that speed, [is important]. And it’s not just our defensemen. As a five-man unit, it’s critical against a team like that.”
3. Penalties, penalty killing
Vegas has to slow Colorado without taking penalties. A big reason the Avalanche have the No. 1 offense is that they have the No. 1 power play in the playoffs (43.5 percent) and are 4-for-11 in the series.
In Game 2, the Golden Knights took three penalties for slashing, two for holding and one for delay of game, when defenseman Shea Theodore was pressured by MacKinnon in the defensive zone and cleared the puck over the glass. The Colorado power play went 2-for-6 and scored in overtime.
“I think their speed obviously puts you sometimes in some vulnerable places to take some penalties where some other teams don’t have that,” DeBoer said, “so you’ve got to keep your stick on the ice, check with your legs.”
Vegas is missing three penalty killers: defenseman Brayden McNabb because of COVID-19 protocol, and forwards Mattias Janmark and Tomas Nosek because of injury.
“The guys that are getting some of those minutes in place of those guys have got to get the job done for us when they get in there,” DeBoer said.
Avalanche projected lineup
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Brandon Saad — Tyson Jost — Valeri Nichushkin
Andre Burakovsky — J.T. Compher — Joonas Donskoi
Alex Newhook — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Sampo Ranta
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Ryan Graves — Samuel Girard
Patrik Nemeth — Conor Timmins
Scratched: Bowen Byram, Jonas Johansson, Jacob MacDonald, Liam O’Brien, Dan Renouf, Kiefer Sherwood, Carl Soderberg
Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body), Logan O’Connor (lower body)
Suspended: Nazem Kadri
COVID-19 protocol: Jayson Megna
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Dylan Sikura — Nicolas Roy — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Patrick Brown — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Nick Holden — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Scratched: Cody Glass, Jimmy Schuldt, Jack Dugan, Jonas Rondbjerg, Carl Dahlstrom, Kaedan Korczak
Injured: Robin Lehner (undisclosed), Tomas Nosek (undisclosed), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Peyton Krebs (fractured jaw)
Suspended: Ryan Reaves
COVID-19 protocol: Brayden McNabb
O’Connor, a forward, skated Friday but will not play. … Tuch did not participate in the morning skate and is a game-time decision. … Lehner, a goalie, did not practice and is a game-time decision.