1. Sam Girard’s nightmare
Talk about picking the wrong time — a must-win playoff game — to be fighting the puck and his game. But that was the plight Avalanche defenseman Sam Girard created for himself in Game 6. At the point Vegas had five goals Girard was a minus-4. On the Knights’ second goal, he fumbled an easy feed from Gabe Landeskog. On the Knights’ fourth goal, with 18 seconds left in the second period, his feeble clearing attempt up the boards led to a score. His initial mistake led to a goal and a 4-3 deficit entering the third. And on the back-breaking fifth goal, Girard was on the ice and didn’t have good body position on William Carrier, who scored on the deflection. At a listed 170 pounds, did Girard (minus-7 in the series) get worn down to the point he was first- and second-guessing himself? Absolutely.
2. Alarm bell too late
Landeskog and center Nathan MacKinnon re-introduced themselves to the series after laboring offensively in Games 2-5. But it was too late. MacKinnon assisted on defenseman Devon Toews’ goal to start the scoring (just 23 seconds into the game). Landeskog and MacKinnon assisted on winger Mikko Rantanen’s power-play goal to tie the score at 2 early in the second. Heck, there was even a signing of winger Andre Burakovsky, who scored his first — and only — goal of the postseason to tie it 3-all. But in the third period, when everything was on the line, the Avalanche’s best players couldn’t will their team to a tying goal. MacKinnon now has all summer to figure out what went wrong. The Avalanche needed more performances like they got from winger Brandon Saad, who was opportunistic the entire series (four goals).
3. This was a collapse
Teams with Stanley Cup aspirations don’t lose four consecutive playoff games after leading the series 2-0. Teams that believe they have championship mettle don’t blow a two-goal lead in a critical Game 5 on home ice. And teams confident they are built for any situation don’t lose three games after scoring the first goal. Let’s face it, Avalanche fans, this is a collapse and will leave a mark on MacKinnon, on Landeskog, on Girard, on coach Jared Bednar, on general manager Joe Sakic and the entire organizational ethos. The Avs aren’t at the depths of the early-era Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals, who failed to make it past the second round until his 10th postseason (won the Cup), but the Avs need to get bigger on defense and deeper at center to beat Vegas next year.
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