The questions surrounding the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche before Game 6 of their Stanley Cup playoff series focused on the goaltending carousel.
Heading into Friday’s seventh and deciding game in their Western Conference semifinal, the main question surrounds the health of one player — Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Late in the second period of Colorado’s 4-1 win on Wednesday that forced the win-or-go-home Game 7 in Edmonton, Landeskog suffered what appeared to be a cut leg when the skate of teammate Cale Makar clipped him just above his right knee. Landeskog returned with eight minutes remaining in the game, but had just one shift. It lasted only 16 seconds.
Colorado is missing a slew of players. But the Avalanche erased a 3-1 series deficit with their top two goaltenders in Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, defenseman Erik Johnson and forwards Matt Calvert and Joonas Donskoi all shelved. Defenseman Conor Timmins was injured in the second period of Game 6 and didn’t return.
Coach Jared Bednar wouldn’t divulge on Thursday whether any of those players could suit up.
Regardless, the Game 7 showdown should be a doozy. Colorado last reached a conference final in 2002 while the Stars haven’t been that far since 2008. Both teams lost in Game 7 in the second round last year.
“Regardless of where you’re born, Game 7 is a universal language,” Colorado defenseman Ian Cole said.
This marks the third time the Avalanche and Stars have met in a Game 7, and Dallas won both the previous meetings in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. Through six games, it’s been a throwback series, with the teams having combined for 48 goals.
The Avalanche went into the series as favorites, but the pressure appears to be on the Stars, having failed twice to close out a series in big part because the top line of Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin have managed just one point in the past two defeats.
“Need them to produce, simple as that,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “That’s what we talked about after (Wednesday’s) game. Their top players are producing and our top players are not.”
The stats bear out the assessment.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon collected one goal and two points in Game 6 and extended his point streak to 14 games, while winger Mikko Rantanen has consecutive two-point games and a nine-game spree on the go. Moreover, the Avalanche have won twice with third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson between the pipes. Should the Stars lose, it will be one big missed opportunity.
“We all know what happened last year,” Seguin said. “We were in this position, a chance to win it in Game 6. … We lost last year. We have a chance to redeem ourselves.”
Then again, the disappointment for Colorado would be no less. In fact, clawing back only to fall short in a Game 7 could be even more heart breaking.
“In terms of Game 7, it’s my third one I guess. I haven’t won one yet,” MacKinnon said. “It’s going to be the toughest game for us to win. I think we have created some momentum for our team, and you know we’re learning. I think right now we are either winning or learning and that’s the key. Looking for the same effort, same responsibility as (Wednesday), a little bit better start, but we are happy with our defensive game.”
–Field Level Media