Pressing Makar and Avalanche to regroup against the Blues heading into Game Three

Pressing Makar and Avalanche to regroup against the Blues heading into Game Three

Simple as a bump in the road or is this misstep a scenario in which there could be real cause for concern?

Those appear to be the burning questions surrounding the Colorado Avalanche after earning an on-ice split at home against the St. Louis Blues with the Central League Final moving to Missouri in the next two games, including Game 3 on Saturday night at Enterprise Arena.

Drop Puck at 8 PM EST / 7 PM ET. The game can be watched on Sportsnet and SN NOW.

Given how dominant the series opener avalanche was – despite needing to secure a 3-2 win in overtime – some observers thought this would be another one-sided affair, but the Blues had other ideas and responded accordingly.

In shapes with all the ingredients of a heavyweight bout, this left hook grabbed the avalanche right on the button and left them feeling a little dizzy.

But what are they going to do about it?

For a team that went 5-1 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, one would expect Avalanche to attempt a similar response to that of the Blues in Game 2.

“You haven’t lost yet, so you can’t expect to not get punched in the face in the playoffs, which kind of happened to us,” Avalanche defender Cal Makar told reporters in Denver before the team flew to St. John’s. Louis. “At the end of the day, it (relates to) regrouping.”

If Avalanche is able to regroup on Saturday, you can expect Makar to be among the group of players coming in with a determined effort.

After leading his team in scoring in the opening round against the Nashville Predators with three goals and 10 points, it was a quiet start to the series for McCar.

Makar was notable in the first game, but didn’t seem to start on Thursday, still looking for his first point in the series.

For a man with such a dynamic driver to play, it was strange to see Makar struggling to move forward, but he has a good handle on what he needs to do to turn things around.

“It’s playoff time, you have to find a way,” said Makar, who led all defenders with 28 goals and finished with 86 points in 77 games during the regular season. “For me, I just haven’t had my legs in yet. I just have to get back into the groove. I feel like there are a lot of times I can work myself out of those situations, but I haven’t been able to play the previous two games due to the lack of all that He — juice or otherwise. A lot of it goes to me, but I still give them credit. They’ve done a good job and you definitely can’t take that away from them.”

Makar is one of those players that rival coaches have to plan the game specifically for and you can be sure the Blues will keep trying to make it difficult for the Avalanche D-man to get started. But history has shown that it is extremely difficult to contain it for any length of time.

“Every team will try to get rid of time and space at Cal. They’re going to get up and try to get up in his face,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “But he wasn’t moving like he normally would. He wasn’t doing the way he (does) normally.

“I don’t know there’s anything specific other than that, they do. They check him the same way they check every other D player, they play with him more tightly in the attack zone because they know how dangerous he is there. So, they quickly get out on them. So, if We were going to use it as an option, we had to give it to him earlier.”

This isn’t about a single elite player not playing at the incredibly high level he’s created for himself.

Avalanche center Nathan McKinnon has one assist in strong play and teammate Mikko Rantanen is still searching for his first goal in this qualifier – despite having provided seven assists in six matches (including two assists in two games against the Blues).

“Do you think Miko plays the best hockey game you’ve seen him play?” Bednar said. “There are things we show him and talk to him about. He needs to reach the net and shoot the ball more. But, again, it comes down to you having to play the best hockey game at the most important time and it is now.

“He has to go a little bit, you know. We want him to be an impact player. That’s what you need from your players in the playoffs. There are a lot of things he can do a little bit better. You get incremental increases in play in a bunch of different areas and it turns out to be a game.” Really good for him. We know he can and will come. We have two guys here who have to go. This is going to be a tough streak.”

This wasn’t Bednar reaching out to his bag of motivational gadgets, and he didn’t feel like the time was right to air one of his co-stars in public.

He was asked a straightforward question about an important player and he answered honestly, part of the reason being that he expects Rantanen – and others – to find another level sooner rather than later.

As annoying as it is to have an avalanche under the microscope despite the rumble of five straight wins before Thursday’s setback, the best way to silence these skeptics is to go back to the way they played in Game 1 – when they set the tone and hoped the pace of play for a good part of the game .

“We did a good job after responding to losses throughout the year,” Bednar said. “So, overall when we took things up as a team our guys responded and played well and played hard. It doesn’t always guarantee a win, but our players have done a good job raising their game after a loss and understanding what we did right, what we did wrong, and where we need to improve. And what we need to keep doing is they are in tune with it.

“Our philosophy is that you’re not going to win the playoffs if you don’t play your best game. Well everyone we’ve watched play all year, (Thursday) was nowhere near[his best game]. So, you can’t expect to go in and play a team like St. Louis, Who finished with 100 points and whatever and you think you’ll win if you don’t give your best. That’s how you progress. You play the best hockey game of the series and you hope your best is better than your best. That’s to simplify it.”

This four-win race is about to intensify and it won’t take long to see which team will be ready to go.

“I feel it is beautiful in black and white. We have outdone them in one match and they have outdone us in one,” said Avalanche defender Bo Berom. “There is no reason to panic. You won’t win every game in the playoffs. They are a good team. They know how to win. They have won before.

“It’s about a readjustment and obviously we have to go back to our horses for the next game.”

2022-05-21 12:55:00

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