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Looking like a powerhouse

August 6, 2020, 3:37 PM ET [8 Comments]
Rick Sadowski
Colorado Avalanche Blogger •Avalanche Insider • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Pretty sure the Avalanche won’t have an easier game going forward than they did Wednesday in their 4-0 win against Dallas in the second round-robin game at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Pavel Francouz was fantastic, stopping 27 shots to become the first goalie in Colorado/Quebec Nordiques history to post a shutout in his postseason debut.

"I was just waiting for the first save in the game, and it was a real game after a while for me," he said. "I was focused more than ever and I felt better and better with every save I made and the team helped me a lot today and it was fun to watch our team playing in their zone a lot, so I enjoyed the full 60 minutes."

Here’s my NHL.com GAME STORY.

Cale Makar, Joonas Donskoi, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andre Burakovsky scored goals, Samuel Girard had two assists, the power play went 2-for-5, and the Avalanche launched 40 shots at Stars goalie Anton Khudobin.

The Avalanche will take a 2-0-0 record into Saturday’s game against Vegas in their final round-robin game with a chance to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Golden Knights took a 1-0-0 record in their game Thursday against the 0-1-0 St. Louis Blues.

“We have one game left and it is still within our grasp if we play the way we can,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I'd like to see our team get rewarded for all our hard work during the regular season and get the top seed, and then we reset and we are starting over for a seven-game series.”

The Avalanche, healthy for the first time after 4 1-2 months following the NHL pause on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, look as good as any team in the league right now.

They are so deep up front that Bednar can move players around without missing a beat.

That was the case Wednesday when he put Namestnikov at left wing on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, dropping Burakovsky to the third line with J.T. Compher and Donskoi.

Donskoi put in the rebound of Girard’s shot at 15:29 of the first period – one second after a power play expired – to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.

Burakovsky made it 4-0 with a power-play goal 1:31 into the third period with a point shot that hit the crossbar and went into the net off Khudobin’s back.

“Nothing really changes for me,” said Namestnikov, who was acquired from Ottawa at the Feb. 24 trading deadline for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. “I still have to go out there and play my game, go to those dirty areas and to the net. It’s an honor to play with those guys.”

Why the line changes?

“This isn’t a secret because I’ve talked to Burkie about it, I felt like he was playing okay, but not as good as I would like to see him play, what I think he has to offer our team,” Bednar said. “I’ve mentioned before that I consider him to be a swing player, a guy that can play a big role for us and provide us with some scoring and offense.

"But he’s got to be involved, he’s got to be playing the right way and doing the right things. For the most part, he is but not quite to the intensity level that we’re going to try and drive out of our guys this time of year.

“Namestnikov, on the other hand, it’s a bit of a reward for him because he’s been playing really well through the training camp, an impressive player for us. He comes out in the exhibition game (a 3-2 win against Minnesota), draws a couple penalties and against St. Louis (a 2-1 win) he does a nice job, looking good on the power play, breakouts, does well in his zone.

“He’s just filling a bunch of different roles for us and he’s had success with MacKinnon at the end of the year with the injuries. It was time to give him a look and see how he does. I thought he was exceptional.

“And credit to Burkie, he stepped up to the plate. That was his best game out of the three that we’ve played, and he gets rewarded on a real nice shot, a real nice play on the power play. The Compher line was really good in the offensive zone in the second period; it created some chances and I liked the structure that they played with, so it looked to be a nice fit for both lines. We’ll be open and flexible and keep an eye on it as we go.”

One other change: Matt Nieto replaced Tyson Jost on the fourth line after sitting out against the Blues.

These were the lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog -- Nazem Kadri -- Valeri Nichushkin
Andre Burakovsky -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi
Matt Nieto -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calvert

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