While the Western Conference finals were expected to feature plenty of goals, a revival of 1980s-style NHL scoring outbursts was not quite expected.
The Colorado Avalanche had to sweat out an 8-6 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 on Tuesday after they led 7-3 at one point. A total of 25 of the 36 skaters recorded at least a point in a game that even left Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky calling for more defense on the TNT broadcast.
The goals might not dry up for Thursday’s Game 2 in Denver. Colorado is turning to Pavel Francouz to start in net in place of Darcy Kuemper, who sustained an upper-body injury during the second period of Tuesday’s game.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar confirmed the news earlier on Thursday and noted that Kuemper will be unavailable for the contest.
Francouz stepped in for Kuemper in the first round against the Nashville Predators as well, finishing off a Game 3 victory before closing out the Predators in Game 4.
The goaltending situation notwithstanding, the Avalanche know they need to do a better job of slowing down Edmonton’s skaters.
“I think we can do a much better job defensively,” said J.T. Compher, who had two goals in Game 1. “Lots to clean up. Throughout our lineup we can be much better defensively and make it harder on their forwards. We don’t want to play the game that we played (Tuesday). We want to be tighter defensively.”
The Oilers feel the same way after getting blitzed in Game 1 for the second straight series. Starting goaltender Mike Smith left in the second period after allowing six goals on 26 shots. Mikko Koskinen came on and turned away 20 shots.
On Wednesday, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft would not say who would start in goal in Game 2.
Edmonton has dropped the first game of all three playoff series before recovering. Tuesday’s loss was similar to Game 1 against the Calgary Flames in the second round when they dropped a 9-6 decision. Koskinen and Smith combined for 39 saves in that one, the same as Tuesday night’s total against the Avalanche.
“Obviously when you’re giving up touchdowns in the (opener of the) last two series, it’s not a good sign,” Smith said. “But I think it shows a lot of our team that when we’re down we’re not out of the fight.”
The Oilers will cling to the positives heading into Thursday night but also know things have to improve.
“We scored six goals on their goaltending tandem in their building; that should be enough to win the game,” Woodcroft said. “Colorado is a different animal. The bottom line is we’re going to have to elevate our game a little bit, and it’s on the defensive side of things. But we’re a confident group.”
–Field Level Media