Jared Bednar flummoxed by Avalanche’s effort in Game 4 — ‘We looked frozen’

The Avalanche are on the brink.

Jared Bednar in middle looking stern, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar on either side looking stern, COL Avalanche logo, hockey rink in background

The Colorado Avalanche are on the verge of elimination for the first time in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs after the team played maybe the worst game of its Western Conference second-round series against the Dallas Stars at Ball Arena on Monday night.

The Stars beat the Avalanche 5-1, continuing their road dominance and setting up a chance to eliminate the 2022 Stanley Cup champions at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night.

“We looked frozen in the first period,” admitted Avs head coach Jared Bednar afterwards, per NHL.com’s Tracey Myers. “We were not moving, we were not skating. It looked like we were exhausted, and we should be the rested team.”

He added: “I thought we got better in the second, but it was still a struggle. Slow pace, slow to thinking, lack of execution. I didn’t feel like it was the guys weren’t trying, but everything felt like it was a struggle tonight.”

The Avalanche found themselves down 2-0 before the end of the first period after sophomore Wyatt Johnston continued his dominant postseason with two goals. A 3-0 lead was eventually cut to two by Casey Mittelstadt in the second frame — assisted by Jonathan Drouin in his return to the lineup — but that’s as close as Colorado would come.

“That was a bad first period by us. Couldn’t generate anything and they were generating chances and ‘Georgy’ came up huge for the first period, and the whole game,” said Drouin. “He gave us a chance to win, and we didn’t play well enough.”

Colorado just looked lethargic throughout the first 30 minutes, and it certainly didn’t help to lose Valeri Nichushkin and Devon Toews. The latter’s illness will hopefully not keep him out of a crucial Game 5 on Wednesday, but the same can’t be said of the former.

Nichushkin was suspended without pay for six months and placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHL Players Association player assistance program just hours before the game. That’s an absolutely monumental blow to the squad; Nichushkin’s nine goals are tied for the most in the postseason with Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman.

“I mean, it’s definitely tough,” superstar defenseman Cale Makar said of losing two of the team’s most important players, per Myers. “Obviously, you go home expecting both to play. It’s unfortunate the way that it ended up. At the same time, we have a deep group, we get (forward Jonathan Drouin) back, so there was a lot of confidence in the room.”

Colorado didn’t look like a confident team in Game 4, being outshot 16-2 in the first period and never being able to fully recover from the brutal start. And now the hill gets even steeper against the Western Conference’s top regular-season team.

Avalanche need to find a win on the road in Game 5

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) with defenseman Samuel Girard (49) and right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) in the third period against the Dallas Stars in game four of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena.Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The Avalanche will need to find three consecutive wins to advance to their second Western Conference Final in three seasons. But the Stars, who have been much better in the series, have a prime opportunity to close out their Central Division rivals in front of the home crowd.

“Just got to find ways to start better,” said Makar ahead of Game 5. “Just seemed like we were kind of sitting back at times early on, and definitely fighting it, almost like we were a little bit nervous. Obviously, season is on the line now, so we’ve got to give them everything we have.”

Regardless of who is in the lineup for the contest, it’s win or go home for Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and his Avalanche in Texas on Wednesday.


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