Avalanche has options to combat chippy play from Nashville, the NHL’s most penalized team – The Denver Post
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar scratched a great deal of grit and size from his lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs. His moves proved prescient in a 7-2 blowout win over Nashville on Tuesday night at Ball Arena.
Heavyweight enforcer Kurtis MacDermid, who can play forward or defense, watched in street clothes along with shutdown defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Logan O’Connor.
Might Bednar add toughness to his lineup for Game 2 or beyond in this series?
“Yep. Absolutely,” he said.
The question was important because Game 1 became chippy after Colorado took a 5-0 lead in the first period.
To nobody’s surprise, Nashville had 34 penalty minutes, including two 10-minute misconducts (forwards Philip Tomasino and Mathieu Olivier). The Predators led the NHL with 1,035 penalty minutes during the 82-game regular season.
Ten of the Avalanche’s 22 penalty minutes stemmed from forward Artturi Lehkonen’s misconduct. During the regular season, Colorado had just 742 penalty minutes.
But, the Avs can play a “heavy” game if needed.
They can bring in MacDermid, who likes to protect teammates and settle scores. With the 6-foot-5, 235-pound MacDermid on the ice, the Preds’ Ryan Johansen would be far less likely to pick a fight with superstar Avs defenseman Cale Makar, as Johansen attempted to do late in the third period in Game 1.
But perhaps Johansen was just frustrated his team was getting walloped.
“No team wants to get blown out, whether it’s at home or on the road, and if you don’t get the results, if it’s not going your way, then you try to impact the game in a different way. That’s just the way it is,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said. “I thought we responded (to Nashville’s chippy play). We did a good job of it.”
Bednar has options, though.
He has the deepest and toughest team in his six-year tenure. And now that the Avs lost fourth-line forward Andrew Cogliano to an upper-body injury in Game 1, MacDermid or O’Connor — who played in 81-of-82 regular-season games — could be inserted for Game 2. They were bound to play in this series against the NHL’s most penalized team.
“It’s expected,” Bednar said of the Preds’ style. “You watch them play, they’re a big, physical team. That’s part of their DNA. We have a little bit of a different makeup, in my opinion. So we played to our strengths tonight. They did the same.
“You play with the physicality that’s required to win the game,” Bednar added. “A team pushes, you got to push back, I thought our guys did that tonight. We were physical. We played through physicality. We went to the net hard — all the things that you have to do to win the hockey game.”
Landeskog, who returned for Game 1 after missing the last 22 games of the regular season after undergoing knee surgery, said the Avs will try to continue to stick to their identity — speed, skill and enough toughness to get the job done.
“We’re smart enough to stay away from that. We never backed down, but at the same time, we’re trying to play between the whistles and trying to stay disciplined, stay out of the box. That’s our focus,” he said.
Footnotes. Avalanche goals by Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews just 2:42 into the first period were the fastest two goals to start a playoff game in club history. The previous mark was 2:54 in Game 2 of the 1998 conference quarterfinals (Valeri Kamensky and Peter Forsberg). … Avalanche rookie defenseman Bo Byram logged 16:16 and was plus-2 in his NHL playoff debut. … The Avs played so well in Game 1, Bednar canceled Wednesday’s practice and will only have a morning skate ahead of Thursday’s Game 2.
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