Through the first two games of the Colorado-Minnesota series, most of the focus was on the Avs’ top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog — a trio that combined for seven goals and 13 points.
But is it worth mentioning all of that production came against Ilya Bryzgalov?
Since taking over for Bryz 11:59 into the second period of Game 2, Darcy Kuemper has faced 36 Avalanche shots over the span of 91 minutes — and stopped all 36 shots over those 91 minutes. He recorded the Wild’s first-ever playoff shutout in Game 3 and seems to be a different goalie from the one that struggled at times during the regular season.
“[Kuemper’s] in a different place now,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo said, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “The difference is when we put him into this game tonight, we knew he was ready.”
Now this isn’t to say Kuemper’s been a world-beater. The guys in front of him played a very solid game on Monday, outshooting the Avs by more than 2-to-1 (46-to-22, to be specific) while killing all four Colorado power play opportunities with aplomb.
This does make you wonder, though — how much of Colorado’s early offensive success came from the fact Bryzgalov was the one trying to prevent it?
Do consider what Avs head coach Patrick Roy said prior to the series…
Roy made clear before the series started that the Avs have “a lot of info” on Bryzgalov. Avs goalie coach Francois Allaire was Bryzgalov’s goalie coach once upon a time in Anaheim, and Avs backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the Ducks’ No. 1 at the time.
On this narrative, it’s worth noting that despite being Central Division rivals and playing each other five times, the Avs didn’t see Kuemper once this season. Josh Harding was in goal for the first three games, Niklas Backstrom for the final two.
Finally, there’s how Yeo has handled the switch. While he never openly criticized Bryzgalov’s play — even backing the Russian ‘tender following a rough Game 1 loss — he’s been very vocal about how confident and sound Kuemper looks.
“It’s not just the saves he’s making, but the way he’s making saves,” Yeo said prior to Game 3. “[Kuemper] looked really confident in practice.”
More confident than this, perhaps?