On Saturday, the high-flying Colorado Avalanche were humbled by a stingy Dallas Stars top line, losing the opening game of their second round matchup with their Central Division rival 5-3. Not only did the Avs lose the game, but also their starting goaltender, which will be the cause of greater concern moving forward.
With Tyler Seguin opening the scoring just four minutes into the game, the league’s postseason point leader Nathan MacKinnon put on a show in the Stars’ end before firing a wrist shot past Anton Khudobin (who remains Dallas’ goaltender of record following Ben Bishop’s ‘unfit to play’ diagnosis), knotting the game at ones just a minute after Seguin’s first of the playoffs. Dallas came back with two more first period strikes to take a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.
But just three minutes into the second period, Avalanche starter Philipp Grubauer went down in audible pain on a non-contact injury, occurring on a push across the crease in an attempt to stop a Denis Gurianov shot. Needing help off the ice, Grubauer appeared to favour his left leg/groin region as he headed down the Avalanche tunnel.
He was replaced by Pavel Francouz, a 30-year-old rookie who has zero career playoff starts to his name. Despite turning aside 18 of 20 shots in 33 minutes of action, Francouz and Avalanche lost Game 1 5-3 to Dallas, in a game dominated by the Stars’ top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, who combined for eight points in the series-opening contest.
Jets fans may recall the Francouz name, as back on November 13 in a game against Winnipeg, Francouz was hurt just 31 seconds into the contest, and was forced out with fellow rookie Adam Werner coming in and shutting out the Jets 4-0 in a ‘shared team shutout’. With Francouz’s injury appearing rather serious and the team announcing his unavailability for Game 2, the Avalanche will most likely turn to third-string goaltender, right-handed catching Michael Hutchinson to serve as a backup moving forward.
Hutchinson, 30, spent five seasons within the Winnipeg Jets organization. Beginning his career in the AHL with Providence in 2010, the Barrie, ON. product joined the former St. John’s IceCaps in 2013-14, before landing the Jets’ backup goaltender position the following season. He held that role until the 2018-19 season, where he has since found himself suiting up for the Florida Panthers, Springfield Thunderbirds, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies and most recently the Avalanche.
Colorado is one of the 11/24 teams that entered the bubble with just three goaltenders. Should something happen to Francouz or Hutchinson moving forward, the team may be out of luck as to appropriate measures in terms of legal backstopping aid. The other 13 teams originally invited to the bubble chose to carry three netminders on their 31-man rosters.
MacKinnon is now on a nine-game point streak to start the playoff season, to which he has 16 points and leads all NHL players in that category. Stars defenceman Miro Heiskanen’s 13 points leads all blueliners and trails only MacKinnon in that regard. Heiskanen has three more points than the next highest scoring blueliner, Quinn Hughes.