San Jose will be rocking tonight for Game 5, as one team is going to get closer to a trip to the Western Conference Finals. The Avalanche tied the series on Thursday but now must attempt to win two games in a row for the first time in the series. It will be tough, especially since the Sharks will be back at home with a rowdy home crowd behind them.
Here is a brief recap of Game 4, as well as some keys to tonight’s game and a prediction.
Game 4 Recap
After a disappointing loss on home ice, the Avalanche got their revenge in Game 4. After a scoreless first, Nathan MacKinnon scored his sixth goal of the postseason to break the tie in the second period. In the final period, Colin Wilson scored on the power play to extend the lead, before Erik Johnson put the game away to give the Avs a 3-0 win. Philipp Grubauer was perfect, stopping all 32 shots he faced and bringing the Avalanche even in the series.
Keys for Colorado
One of the difficulties Colorado has had this series is on special teams. But Game 4 saw major improvements, as the Avs scored a power-play goal and also went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. They also stayed out of the box, committing just two penalties that led to Sharks power plays. This newfound success on special teams will need to travel with them to San Jose.
Colorado will also need to continue limiting neutral-zone turnovers and creating a sustained offensive attack. Their defense and goaltending have been strong all season, but having clean offensive-zone entries and a sustained attack have been hit or miss. They will need to hit on both of those to steal another game on the road and take a series lead.
Keys for San Jose
San Jose had a dynamic power play all season, but it has gone cold this series. Through four games, the Sharks have scored just once out of 10 attempts with the extra man. A big part of that has been due to the absence of Pavelski, but if he continues to sit out, other players will have to step up.
Of course, power-play numbers may not matter as much if the Sharks can’t figure out a way to stop MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Each of them enters the game with a playoff-leading 13 points. Couple those two with Gabriel Landeskog, and you have a first line that is tough to stop. The pressure will be on Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and the rest of the Sharks’ blue line to stifle Colorado’s top scorers and force their secondary scorers to beat them instead.
This series has gone back-and-forth from the beginning, which is a testament to how evenly matched the two teams have been. But I think that ends tonight, as the Avalanche are healthier and getting more production from their top guys. I’m going with the upset and taking the Avalanche +115 to take a 3-2 series lead.