You can take away any number of top players from the Colorado Avalanche but they still have the type of depth that makes them one of the NHL’s elite teams.
That has been on display throughout the Western Conference Finals.
Even though they were without their starting goalie, Darcy Kuemper, for the second game in a row, and a top defenseman in Samuel Girard, and then lost one of their top players in Nazem Kadri early in the first period of Game 3, the Colorado Avalanche were still able to pick up a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
They are now just one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since the 2000-01 season.
Pavel Francouz stopped 27 out of 29 shots to earn another win, while Valeri Nichushkin scored two goals to help drive the Avalanche offense.
Colorado has been the superior team all season and this entire series and has now taken complete control as they go for the second sweep of the playoffs.
Things looked good for Edmonton early as Connor McDavid struck for an early goal, but the Oilers were unable to build on that lead.
Oilers goalie Mike Smith played well for the most part, and even kept them in the game for much of the night, but there were a couple of tough goals that he would absolutely love to have another shot at.
Nichushkin’s second goal was a weird knuckle puck goal, and then J.T. Compher managed to sneak the game winning goal through after an incredible individual effort to win a puck battle and gain a step on the Edmonton defense.
The big story though continues to be Colorado’s ability to limit Edmonton’s dominant offensive duo of McDavid and Draisaitl. Colorado has one of the NHL’s best defensive groups even without Girard and they are doing a number on the Oilers the past two games.
Now they are just one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
The other big subplot to this game will be Kadri’s availability for Game 4 after he was injured on a hit from behind by Evander Kane, and whether or not Kane will be suspended for the hit.
We will certainly find out more on Sunday.
Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night in Edmonton.
2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final
EDMONTON OILERS v. COLORADO AVALANCHE (COL leads 3-0)
Game 1 – Avalanche 8, Oilers 6
Game 2 – Avalanche 4, Oilers 0
Game 3 – Avalanche 4, Oilers 2
Game 4 – June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
* If necessary
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.