DENVER – In Thursday’s Game 1, the Colorado Avalanche tried to set a physical tone, especially against the Wild’s more diminutive players, Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin.
Both survived, but coach Mike Yeo urged both to better protect themselves and the puck in Saturday’s rematch “not only so you’re not getting run through the boards and running the risk of getting hurt, but also because that’s the right play to give you a chance to execute.”
“If you’re not protecting the puck and not protecting yourself,” Yeo continued, “it’s probably going to lead to a turnover.”
That’s what occurred before Colorado’s first goal in Game 1. Gabriel Landeskog pasted Brodin against the glass and moments later he scored.
“We want to finish our checks. Yes, there’s no doubt about it,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said when asked if his team’s game plan was to target such players as Granlund and Brodin. “We don’t try to [hurt them], but we want to finish our check. I think it’s fair and I think it’s the way the game should be played. And if these guys play big minutes, we want them to play big minutes.
“The more tired they’re going to be, I think it benefits of us.”
The point of finishing checks is not simply to create loose pucks. It’s to create wear and tear, and not just late in games.
“You finish checks hard because you want players on both teams to feel it the next day,” Avs defenseman Erik Johnson said.
Granlund, who returned to the lineup for Game 1 after missing the final six games of the regular season because of a head injury, said the hard hits “didn’t affect my game. That’s just hockey. You need to take hits. That’s playoff hockey. It always is.”
Added Brodin: “We knew it’s going to be a tough series. … You have to see which line you’re playing against. You have to read it. Sometimes you have to protect yourself, sometimes you have to take a hit to make a play.”
Kuemper replaces Bryzgalov in second
Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was cleared to return during Saturday’s morning skate, ended up replacing starter Ilya Bryzgalov with 8:01 left in the second period after Colorado took a 3-1 lead in Game 2.
Bryzgalov gave up three goals on 14 shots. Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced, including eight in the third period.
Before the game, Kuemper said, “I feel on top of my game. All the rust I’d say is gone.”
Kuemper, who left a pregame skate injured March 31 at Los Angeles, said he actually got hurt a few days before but it got progressively worse. He wasn’t physically ready for Thursday’s series opener, even in a backup role.
“I think if I had gone in for Game 1 as a backup, if something would have happened I don’t think I would have been in the spot I needed to be to help the team,” Kuemper said. “These extra two days have helped me get back to where I need to be. … You don’t want to put the team in a tough spot by coming before you’re ready.”
The Wild hasn’t specifically said what happened to Kuemper. Asked if it was an upper-, mid- or lower-body injury, Kuemper joked that he suffered “a body injury.”
Fletcher makes his case to officials’ supervisor