The best words in hockey — unless, of course, you’re a fan of either team and you’ll be sweating out every second of every play. There will be three Game 7s before the conference finals can get underway, and the first one features the Avalanche and Stars.
For the Stars, this shouldn’t have even gotten to this point; they led 2-0 and 3-1 and looked poised to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2008.
They also didn’t want to bring up the ghosts of 2019, when this squad was up 3-2 in their best-of-seven series with the Blues before losing 2-1 in overtime in Game 7. The Avalanche are also looking to leave last year in the past. Last year against the Sharks in the second round, they won Game 6 before faltering in Game 7.
As for this series, there has been plenty of drama — especially between the pipes.
No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop has been “unfit to play” for the majority of the series and postseason. Anton Khudobin, who posted a .930 save percentage during the regular season, started five of the six games against Colorado but was on the bench to start Game 5 (with the Stars up 3-1).
“Yesterday, he looked really sharp,” said head coach Rick Bowness after the 6-3 loss as to why he started Bishop. “He felt good. He felt he was ready to go.”
Khudobin was back in net for Game 6 and is expected to get the nod in Game 7.
On the opposite end of the ice, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has also had to deal with not one but two top goalies going down. Philipp Grubauer got hurt in Game 1, then Pavel Francouz was deemed unavailable for Game 5. So in comes third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson, who if you remember was basically run out of Toronto and dealt in February to the Avs.
“I love it, not just for Hutch, but for all the guys that don’t have an easy path, but they wanted it and they stuck to it, they invest in themselves, and they continue to try to battle to play at the highest level they possibly can, and eventually get a chance,” said Bednar, regarding the goalie who came in and backstopped his team to wins in not one but two elimination games. “I think there’s value in those players, because they appreciate what they have in playing in the best league in the world and playing this game for a living.”
So, in all likelihood, it’ll be Khudobin vs. Hutchinson — just as everyone expected.
Oh, and this game will also have Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin going up against Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon, Calder Trophy finalist Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Gabe Landeskog (although the Avs captain’s status is unknown after he got cut by a skate in Game 6).
Sporting News has all the action as the Stars and Avalanche battle it out for a spot in the Western Conference finals.
Stars vs. Avalanche scores, updates from 2020 Western Conference second round’s Game 7
(All times Eastern.)
More to come …
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