“You lose, you go home.” That’s what Jared Bednar said ahead of Game 6. It really is that simple. After a valiant Game 6 performance, the Avs returned home to Ball Arena for one last battle to decide their fate.
Earning the start in net, as he has all series, was Alexandar Georgiev. Colorado had their work cut out for them; they’d be without Val Nichushkin, Darren Helm, John Manson, and Andrew Cogliano. They also continued to be without their captain Gabriel Landeskog – but that wasn’t new. Still, Landeskog remained around the group and skated with them this morning.
Colorado continued to build upon the momentum of Game 6. They looked cohesive, passes were connecting, and defensively they were making life less difficult for Georgiev.
The Avs outshot the Kraken 16-6 in this frame. They seemed to understand the necessary demand to beat Seattle meant high-volume shots even if varied in quality.
Through that, they had 12 additional attempts blocked on top of their 16 on-net chances – two of their chances registered as dangerous. In that sense, it was a prolific period, and Colorado had the clear edge in the possession battle.
One additional reason they gained the edge in the offensive zone was through their speed. The Avs have always been a quick team, but for parts of this series, they spent much of it chasing. Being even just a step behind in races meant they got beat.
The Avs were able to execute more controlled entries rather than dump-ins, and it led to better creation.
Colorado came out with similar jump, but Seattle was not going anywhere.
At 3:24, Oliver Bjorkstrand sent the puck toward the net from behind the goal line and it took several weird bounces – first off Alex Newhook’s stick and then off Ben Meyers’ glove and into the net to put Seattle on the board first.
Less than four minutes later, Nathan MacKinnon’s shot rebounded off Philipp Grubauer and they failed to pinch. Seattle cleared the puck ahead to Bjorkstrand who rushed ahead on the breakaway.
Cale Makar made a valiant effort to get back, but Bjorkstrand picked the right corner and wristed it post and in past Georgiev.
With eight minutes to go, Eeli Tolvanen skated in on another breakaway, but Georgiev swallowed the shot with his glove.
The Avs were still creating. MacKinnon was denied by Grubauer on a close chance. The whole team pushed hard and it led to a drawn penalty. At 18:10 Vince Dunn went off for tripping, and Colorado earned the first powerplay opportunity of the game.
MacKinnon took over. He was using his teammates to move the puck to and from himself – forcing Seattle on their toes. Eventually, Devon Toews passed to MacKinnon at the left circle and one-timed it with 28 seconds left in the period. The puck went off Mikko Rantanen’s body, so he earned credit for the goal.
Shots were a lot closer in this frame, and the Kraken played a highly physical game and continued to keep most of Colorado’s play to the perimeter. Still, the Avs were pushing.
Three minutes in, MacKinnon appeared to blast the puck in from the top of the slot but it was immediately challenged for offside review. The officials made quick work of the review and deemed Artturi Lehkonen offside and the goal did not stand.
MacKinnon had to keep searching for his 100th career playoff point.
With two minutes remaining, Alexandar Georgiev went to the bench. With the extra skater on, Colorado gave everything they got but this star-crossed season ran out of runway.
The final buzzer sounded. Seattle won 2-1 and advanced to round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Colorado resuscitated this group from a December wherein they were out of a playoff spot to a division title all while losing more and more players along the way.
Their exit is an honorable one. Game 7, they outshoot, control possession, win most of their races and battles, and if not for an offside play, bouncing puck, or one failed pinch, they’d be back at Family Sports battered from the toll of it all.
Observations and Notes
Stanley Cup window – It’s fair to feel disappointment. To go back-to-back is a unique accomplishment in its own right. Beyond the scope of this season and consecutive titles, Colorado remains a powerhouse in the West.
“You feel good moving forward because you have those guys right away and the leaders that they are. You know what they’re gonna give you: the effort, leadership and determination that they play with,” Bednar said of Colorado’s core. “Then you add that to their skill level and their ability, and it’s like you gotta give yourself a chance. Now we’ll have to go and evaluate and have a big off season. Hopefully we can surround those guys with the right mix of players. Health is always a part of it too.”
Evan Rodrigues on his interest in returning next year: “I loved it here. Family loved it here. It’s an unbelievable team. It’s a team that’s set up to win Stanley Cups: elite talent, when we’re healthy [there’s] depth – forwards, D, [and] goalie – it’s an awesome group, very talented. I’d love to be here.”
Evan Rodrigues on the teams’ fight this season: “I thought we fought. Maybe didn’t play our best, but the effort was definitely there. We never packed it in no matter what. Whatever we were dealt – we had a shit streak through the middle of the year and [were] out of a playoff spot and [fought] back to win the division.” He acknowledged that they fought through injuries, but did not want to use it as an excuse.
Mikko Rantanen’s thoughts on Game 7: “Very, very disappointing, especially with the way we played. I feel like we emptied the tank, that’s for sure. We left our heart out there. It didn’t come our way. We created more chances. We played better than them, but sometimes in hockey it doesn’t matter. Their goalie played well and we couldn’t find the back of the net. Obviously disappointing to end the season like this.”
Mikko Rantanen’s evaluation of this year: “Weirdest season of my career, for sure. With all the injuries and so many guys in the lineup – probably an [all-time] NHL record. We had adversity all year. The way we battled at the end of the regular season to get home ice… but it’s tough. We get to the playoffs and you wanna win again, right? Maybe you don’t have the same team, you know. It’s disappointing, but I’m proud of every guy. I think we battled all year. There’s no quit in our team like we saw today. Just a couple of bounces and we might still be playing.”