Who’s driving this bus?
Is his job as coach of the Avalanche nothing more than to look as handsome as Ken doll on the team bench? Or should Jared Bednar be held responsible for Colorado being asleep at the wheel?
“It’s one loss. The series isn’t over,” Bednar said Thursday, after the Avs gave away the home-ice advantage they labored all season to earn with a lackadaisical 4-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 2 of their best-of-seven playoff series. “It’s not close to being over. Not for us and not for them.”
Is this series over? Far from it.
But am I calling out Bednar for not having his team ready to play, allowing the Avs to whiff at the chance to grab this series by the throat?
Bednar is blessed with by far the most talented roster of any professional team in Denver. But the Avs couldn’t have played with less passion or less sense of purpose if they were coached by Uncle Vic Fangio. If the Broncos came out flat for a big game, the uproar in this town might cause Mt. Evans to crumble.
Is Bednar, who has never found a way to win more than one playoff series in any of his previous five seasons on the Colorado bench, coated in Teflon?
From the jump of Game 2, Colorado had none. When the most star-studded team in the NHL is so uninspired that center Nathan MacKinnon and the fellas looked as if they were skating in a Slurpee, whose fault is that?
The Blues wanted it more. The Avs worked less. That’s lame for a group that has yet to do anything but talk about winning the Stanley Cup.
Sound familiar? Or was I the only one who reacted to this mess of a performance with flashbacks to the way Las Vegas humbled, then eliminated Colorado from the 2021 playoffs in the second round?
“Years past, we might dwell on it and get down on ourselves and each other,” said MacKinnon, admirably level-headed in refusing to point a finger of blame after the loss. “We’ve just got to pick each other up and move on. Stay positive. We’ve got a great team.”
This first bout with adversity for the Avs in this season’s playoffs is trouble they brought on themselves. When the going gets tough, where does this team’s killer instinct go to hide?
The forwards that comprise the Avalanche’s top scoring line – MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Val Nichushkin – were a combined minus-4 in Game 2.
That’s dozing in the back of the bus, not driving it.
“We were really bad,” MacKinnon admitted.
Hey, stink happens. But maybe Bednar needs to do more than light a fragranced candle and pray for better effort as the series shifts to St. Louis.
Should he consider elevating captain Gabe Landeskog to the No. 1 line?
Yes, it’s early in the series. But the Avs aren’t putting the biscuit in the basket.
Although St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington has a tendency to cough up juicy rebounds, Colorado is making him look like Ken Dryden.
Depth of talent has bailed the Avs out of trouble often this season. Maybe it’s time for Bednar to take Logan O’Connor or Alex Newhook off the healthy scratch list and put them in the lineup.
“There’s definitely some tactical things we can look at,” Bednar said.
Back in November, Bednar was given a two-year contract extension through 2024 by Joe Sakic, a boss who values patience and continuity.
From the earliest minutes of the opening period, when Blues tough guy Brayden Schenn refused to pay respect to the vaunted speed of MacKinnon and popped Colorado’s superstar center before he could pick up a head of steam with the puck entering the neutral zone, it was clear St. Louis coach Craig Berube was intent on changing tactics as well as giving his lines a good shake-up.
Bednar, a stoic as a mannequin on the Colorado bench, seemed blindsided by it all.
St. Louis, Bednar said, “answered back after a bad game in Game 1. Now the onus is on us. We have to do the exact same thing. We’ll make a couple adjustments and get back to work.”
It’s way too early to panic.
It’s not too soon to question whether Bednar has what it takes to turn down the heat when the pressure is on.
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