That lived up to the hype, didn’t it?
Game 1 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers was as advertised. Collectively, they fired 84 shots on goal, scoring 14 goals by the end of the game. There was an offside goal review. Four goalies played in the game. Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon were dynamic and impactful.
Colorado’s Relentlessness and Talent on Full Display.
At times during Game 1, the Avalanche appeared to overwhelm the Oilers. On Colorado’s fifth goal, the Av’s capitalized on a tired Oilers crew, moving the puck like they were on the power play.
It was 5 on 5.
When you play the Colorado Avalanche, it’s as if the Avs are everywhere, all-the-time. It’s overwhelming. The speed in their puck movement and their talent was on display and had the Oilers on their heels for extended stretches of the game.
Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog were excellent all game. Colorado’s talent and depth contributed as third-line centre, J.T. Compher, scored 2 goals. The Av’s depth is going to cause issues for the Oilers throughout the Western Conference Finals.
The Oilers: Their Struggles and the Comeback.
For their part, once the Oilers started to skate, they were able to strike back. The Oilers skating effort was lacking early and directly led to a Colorado goal. The Oilers third line was effective at breaking the Avs momentum.
The Oilers top stars played their parts eventually as well. Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Evander Kane continued their excellent playoff form. Kane finished the game with 2 points (1G, 1A).
Even when Zack Kassian was denied on a breakaway, the Oilers found ways to maximize momentum when the opportunities presented themselves. Kassian might not have scored, but he promptly found someone to hit. That instant pressure caused a Colorado turnover in the defensive zone and sustained Oiler pressure.
When the Oilers were skating, they had a fighting chance.
Goalies. Yeah, We gotta talk about it.
At one point, The Edmonton Oilers had scored 3 goals on 11 shots on Darcy Kuemper. The Oilers were losing 5-3 at the time. Kuemper had equipment issues to begin the second period, leaving the game 7:19 into the second period with an upper body injury. His status for game 2 is unclear. Kuemper finished game 1 with 3 GA and 13 saves.
Colorado backup Pavel Francouz was ok closing out the game, despite things getting closer by the end. The Avalanche have won playoff games with Francouz in net. This bodes well for the Avalanche, who might need to start Francouz because of Kuemper’s unclear status for game 2.
Mike Smith had a bad night in game 1. In three game 1s with the Oilers, Smith is 0-3 with a 6.77 GAA, .823 SV%, and was pulled in all three starts.
Edmonton will go back to Mike Smith for game 2. Smith will be better. He has to be, or this series will be short. Smith statistics in game ones are deplorable and were not helped by performances in 2022 against Calgary and, now, Colorado. Smith will be better, but will it be enough?
Looking forward to Game 2
The 2022 Colorado Avalanche look and play like a championship winning team. It won’t be a surprise if MacKinnon brings a third Stanley Cup to Denver in June.
But you cannot count Connor McDavid out.
If the Oilers can take advantage of Kuemper’s absence and Mike Smith can make a few key saves early and build confidence, the Oilers will have the best fighting chance to beat the Avalanche.
But can you bet against Colorado’s depth? Our Pick: Colorado (-175) wins game 2. Edmonton (+145) have a better performance than game 1, Colorado’s depth prevails.
And McDavid and MacKinnon will be awesome. Again.