Avalanche vs. Kraken: Three keys to Game 3 victory for Colorado

The Avalanche are Seattle’s hottest ticket in town.

Game 3 between the Avs and Kraken on Saturday (8 p.m. MT) will be the first home playoff game in the expansion franchise’s history. Nosebleeds are going for $300. And the stakes are heightened with a deadlocked series after Colorado’s 3-2 comeback win Thursday in Game 2.

Here are three keys to taking the series lead.

1. Playoff verve and lineup flexibility depends on Darren Helm. This was the last series to turn chippy. It wasn’t until Colorado’s comeback push in the second period of Game 2 that the hits grew harsher and scrums became common. With Darren Helm back in the lineup, the Avs had a relentless skater and checker on the fourth line to contribute to the intensity. “Good jump in his game. Physical. Responsible,” coach Jared Bednar said. “All the things that we know him for. He looked like he hadn’t missed a beat for me tonight in a tough game.” Helm has had a difficult time staying healthy for more than a handful of games this season, but he was a menace in the playoffs last year. If he can be a mainstay the remainder of this series, his ability to combat Seattle’s depth will be resounding. Having another center available also allows Bednar the flexibility to place Alex Newhook on the wing, where Newhook created solid opportunities for himself in Game 2.

2. Break through in the special teams battle. The Kraken are 0 for 5 on the power play through two games. The Avs are 0 for 4 with a short-handed goal allowed. Colorado entered this matchup with better numbers on both sides of the special teams coin, but Brandon Tanev’s shorty remains the only goal of the series not at 5-on-5. “Our penalty kill was kind of what our 5-on-5 game needs to emulate,” Erik Johnson said after Game 1. “We were really on our toes pressuring. Our gaps were good.” Now after an impressive comeback completed entirely at even strength, the Avs need to emulate their 5-on-5 game while on the power play. Bodies in front of Philipp Grubauer. Chasing rebounds. Forechecking on the wall. Colorado has averaged 2.5 shots on goal per power play opportunity so far. The chances are there, but they’re not dangerous enough. Will Bednar stick with Artturi Lehkonen on the top unit after switching him in for Valeri Nichushkin?

3. Give Georgiev a break. At this rate, he might be known to Coloradans as Alexandar the Great before long. But the Avs need to quit it with this strategy of letting their goalie bail them out. Even in Game 2 victory, untimely turnovers and defensive breakdowns were still an occasional issue. Just not as pronounced, thanks to Georgiev. He made dazzling saves in the last minute of the first period and the second period to provide sparks at the intermissions. Either of those — a breakaway and a 3-on-1 — could have ended with the momentum in the opposite locker room, though. Add the flurry of high-danger shots he stopped during a penalty kill, and there’s a case for him as the first star of Game 2. The Avalanche should be nicer to him.

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