Avalanche Coach Jared Bednar met with the media at the Ball Arena on Thursday morning, a day off for the players. The club is scheduled to practice against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday before Game 2 of Saturday’s Stanley Cup Finals.
“We watched the game last night, we liked big parts of it, didn’t like parts of it,” Bednar said. “Some things… we can fix. Regardless of how Tampa plays, we have a specific identity that we must play in order to be successful. We just learned that over the course of this season.
“And then for me it’s like I’m managing those swing swings and we’ve broken the game down into five-minute increments all year and it’s something our guys on the bench talk about and they understand and they realize when the other team makes a push and we lose a five-minute chunk of a period where we have to hit back and turn it in the right direction. And we also talk about specific things that can help us with that.”
Avalanche Star center Nathan MacKinnon had five shots and a Plus 1 rating. His only point in Game 1 was an assist for Valeri Nichushkin’s goal that gave Colorado a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
MacKinnon played mostly against Tampa Bay’s second line, led by center Anthony Cirelli and wingers Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn. This is the Lightning’s best line of defense.
Bednar isn’t overly keen on avoiding MacKinnon and wingers Gabe Landeskog and Valeri Nishushkin playing against the Cirelli line. Avs switched last at home, so Bednar has a say in the matchups at Ball Arena.
“I think it’s inevitable that he’s going to play Cirelli if that’s what the encounter[Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper]wants,” Bednar said of MacKinnon. “And I wanted to start with our appetizers. You know Nate; he is not afraid or intimidated to take action against anyone. In fact, he accepts some of these matchups. There are a few other matchups that I like just as much or better. But certainly I won’t interrupt our game flow to avoid something until I see that it doesn’t work.
“If it works and our team is comfortable with it, we will use it a little and not run away. If I want Nate to be there in certain situations and they take out Cirelli, I’ll take out Nate.
MacKinnon joins Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabe Landeskog in the Avs trio of long-serving veteran leaders. They both had a hand in Colorado’s early 2-0 lead goals and at times played on the same line.
“It’s huge. We talk about it all the time, your best players have to take the lead in a way,” Bednar said. and – you know, that’s kind of why I threw Mikko on that line a little bit, too, early in the game and sometimes after, just to watch these guys play and see what they can achieve.
“I thought they had a great night. All three boys played well. They were together and apart. But we definitely need that. You need it to advance. These guys have to make the difference in the series.”