Blues-Avalanche Game 1 quick hits: Philipp Grubauer shows he’s playoff ready

Sluggish, then stellar

The Avalanche didn’t have its first shot on goal until the 5:56 mark of the opening period … and then it didn’t stop shooting. The Avs ended the period with a 17-5 shots advantage (32-16 after 40 minutes), quickly waking up after a slower-than-expected start. The top line got the offense going — Gabe Landeskog shot/Nathan MacKinnon rebound shot off the rush. MacKinnon drew a penalty by the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly to set up the Avs’ first power play. They cashed in for a 1-0 lead when Mikko Rantanen won the draw back to Cale Makar, who shed Tyler Bozak with some nifty footwork. Bozak skated outside (and out of position), allowing Makar to take a few strides toward the middle and step into a wrist shot that beat Jordan Binnington to the stick side.

Rantanen’s opportunities

Rantanen had a game-high five shots through two periods and nine Avalanche players had at least two shots. A 30-goal scorer during the regular season, he’ll start cashing in quickly if he gets top-class chances at that kind of volume. In the first, he was at the top of the crease and had an open net, but rushed his shot wide to the far side. In the second, Rantanen had a 2-on-0 when he passed to Nazem Kadri, who gave it right back near the blue paint. Rantanen had to take a split second to get the puck to his forehand, which allowed Binnington to sprawl and make the save with his left toe. As expected, that was a rare rush against a Blues team intent on mucking up the neutral zone to neutralize the Avs’ skill. The top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen combined for three goals and five assists.

Grubauer’s efficiency

What stood out about goalie Philipp Grubauer’s Game 1: He never put himself in trouble. He wasn’t reckless in playing the puck. He didn’t slide out of position. And he showed good rebound control. He was a model of efficiency. After the Avs took a 2-1 lead early in the third, Grubauer calmly poke-checked the Blues’ Robert Thomas on a semi-breakaway and moments later stopped Ivan Barbashev’s back-hander in close. Midway through the third, during a penalty kill, Grubauer saw through traffic to glove a Torey Krug wrist shot from the blue line and used his blocker to turn away an attempt by Jordan Kyrou. After the kill, Landeskog scored for a 3-1 lead. Grubauer finished with 22 saves.

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