LAS VEGAS — So how’s trashing the Avalanche working out for you, Jared Bednar?
Not to suggest he doesn’t have a clue, but Bednar might want to buy a vowel. Instead of throwing his team under the bus, maybe he should get his brain in gear, because Colorado could certainly use something that resembles a coach that knows how to respond to adversity under the pressure of the NHL playoffs.
Faced with the grim reality of being thoroughly embarrassed Sunday night in front of 18,081 screaming fans in the T-Mobile Center during a 5-1 loss to Vegas, the Avs coach might want to consider making a meaningful lineup change, replacing defenseman Patrik Nemeth with Bo Byram.
Hey, I’m nothing more than a knucklehead that has been along for every mile of those long, glorious rides the Avalanche took to championships in 1996 and 2001. But you don’t have to be Scotty Bowman to see Colorado cannot survive and advance against Vegas this way.
It’s now on Bednar to come up with a more novel approach than pointing a finger of blame at Nathan MacKinnon and the top line for getting flustered by the Golden Knights. During the last three games, the shots favor Vegas 119-63.
During this dismal road trip to the Nevada desert, MacKinnon and linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog produced one, solitary, power-play goal. “I think they’re frustarted, for sure,” Bednar said.
Maybe brow-beating your players worked as a motivational tactic in the locker room of an old hockey barn about 50 years ago. But this is real life in 2021, not “Miracle” the movie. You’re not being portrayed by Kurt Russell as a grizzly bear on the bench, Mr. Bednar.
So quit your growling. Stop complaining about “compete” level. And start coaching.
Success in playoff hockey is a tenuous thing. Momentum rises, falls and dips. At this point, Bednar needs to do more than scream like a kid in the lead car of the roller coaster.
“Coaches can say what they want … but we’ve got to stop the bleeding and get back on track,” Avalanche forward Brandon Saad said.
This best-of-seven series is tied two victories apiece. But, at this point, it feels as if the only thing Colorado has going for it is home ice in two of the three remaining games.
After being called out by Bednar for failure to fight for every inch of ice after Game 3, the Avs took a 1-0 lead one minute and 50 seconds into Game 4, on a sweet goal by Saad.
And then things quickly turned more painfully cheesy than a Wayne Newton ballad for Colorado. I don’t speak German, but the Avs are in deep danke shoen.
When it’s 102 degress out on the Vegas strip, it’s hard to suffer from brain freeze. But somehow Nemeth committed a knucklehead turnover that destroyed any confidence the Avalanche brought to the rink. I’ve seen more prudent life decisions made in Sin City at 2 a.m. by a tourist that has chugged a foot-long frozen daiquiri.
The Golden Knights bring the forecheck like Thor wields a hammer. That can be an intimidating thing, as the mere threat of a big hit can weigh heavily on a player’s mind.
With the puck on his stick as he sashayed behind Philipp Grubauer and the Colorado goal, the focus of Nemeth faded to black. He unnecessarily panicked under the pressure of no physical contact and fired an unforced turnover into the lap of the hard-charging Knights. The ensuing chaos resulted in a score by Jonathan Marchessault at 7:07 of the first period.
“That turnover hurt … We’ve got to be cleaner than that with the puck,” Bednar said.
Game 4 was all Viva Las Vegas after Nemeth set the shaky tone for an Avalanche team that’s lost its swagger.
Byram is only 19 years old. He hasn’t played a game since suffering a concussion from a hit by Golden Knights winger Keegan Kolesar way back during the last week of March.
Byram, however, knows how to keep the puck glued to his stick in a way Nemeth does not. It might be noted that solid puck-handling could be a nice skill to have under the pressure of the Vegas forecheck.
Over the din of 18,081 fans going Vegas wild in the arena, Bednar screamed line changes until his vocal chords frayed into big chunks of gravel. But shouting won’t beat the Golden Knights. What the Avs need now from their coach is leadership born of lucid thought rather than a loud mouth.
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