2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Five reasons the Colorado Avalanche were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks

The Colorado Avalanche are out.

After a stunning series win over the Calgary Flames in round one, the Avalanche came one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final as an eight-seed, falling to the Sharks in seven games. 
So, how did it happen?

The top line didn't take over

Colorado's top trio of Nathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog is maybe the best and most explosive in hockey. This isn't a one-line team anymore, but the Avs are still largely carried by the MacKinnon line and were likely always only going to go as far as that top unit could take them. 
They didn't have a bad series by any means -- MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog combined for six goals and eight assists over the seven-game series. They were instrumental in Colorado's wins, with four of those goals and five of those assists coming in the three victories.
But they weren't nearly as consistently dominant as they proved to be in the opening round, when they accounted for nine goals and 12 assists in five games. While it's almost impossible to completely shut down a line as dynamic and talented as this one, the Sharks found a way to limit their damage. 
Here's how the goal share broke down at 5-on-5, via Natural Stat Trick:
  • MacKinnon: 6 GF, 9 GA
  • Rantanen: 5 GF, 7 GA
  • Landeskog: 5 GF, 10 GA

  • It certainly didn't help Colorado that the line seemed to be banged up by the end of the series, either. Rantanen appeared to suffer a lower body or hip injury that hobbled him in Game 6, and MacKinnon missed about half of the first period of Game 7 after suffering what looked to be a significant upper body injury.
  • The Couture line

    Logan Couture continues to be a playoff monster for San Jose and he had another great series on both ends of the ice against Colorado. He had three goals in the series -- all of them coming in a 4-2 Sharks win in Game 3 -- and added three assists.
    Couture's linemate Timo Meier also had an extremely strong series, adding six points of his own (two goals and four assists). The 22-year-old Meier is rapidly emerging as a dominant force in this league. Gustav Nyquist also had a solid series, recording a goal and four assists.
    While on the ice at 5-on-5 in this series, Couture's line controlled about 53 percent of shot attempts while going up against some of Colorado's top players. Couture and Meier each had a 78 percent goal share (seven for, two against) at 5-on-5, while Nyquist had a 71-percent goal share (five for, two against). 

    Strong play from Burns-Vlasic

    It's not exactly a secret that the Sharks are capable of beating you from the back end. They've got two former Norris-winning defensemen in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.
    Burns was the better of the two in this series and he was a difference-maker for San Jose. The Avs gave him too much breathing room in this series.
    As a result, Burns led all players in points with 10 (four goals and six assists) over the seven games. He bookended the series pretty strongly, putting up four points in Game 1 and two points in Game 7. 
  • Burns received some serious support and protection from Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, who also made some surprising contributions offensively in the series (two goals and an assist). At 5-on-5, Burns was on the ice for 12 goals for, eight against. Vlasic had 10 goals for, nine against.

    A lifeless power play

    Well, it's more accurate to say two lifeless power plays, as Colorado went 2-for-23 on the power play and San Jose went 2-for-19 in the series. While you can't really say that San Jose had much of an advantage, you can certainly say that Colorado's inability to seize their opportunities played into why they couldn't come out ahead in this series. They went 0-for-9 in the final three games, with their two losses in those games coming by just one goal. 
    With Colorado's front end failing to dominate the series at 5-on-5, the Avs really needed to get a boost from special teams.

    That disallowed goal in Game 7

    There, I mentioned it... are you happy? 
    In all seriousness, I think it's tough to make a definitive ruling on this one either way, but you can argue that Gabriel Landeskog could have shown a more awareness by getting to the bench quicker. 
    Truthfully, this ruling embodies pretty much everything I hate about the offside review. Landeskog was about 100 feet away from the puck and had no significant impact on the development of the play. The spirit of the offside rule is to prevent attacking teams from gaining an unfair advantage behind the defense. Landeskog did no such thing.
    It then gets extra confusing when you consider the fact that Landeskog was considered to be on the ice enough for the goal to be ruled offside, but not on the ice enough for the Avs to get whistled for "too many men." It's contradictory.
    However, it's not like this play happened in the final 10 minutes of the third period or something. The Avs had plenty of time to bounce back and get another goal. Instead, they allowed the next score -- a major swing goal off the stick of Joonas Donskoi -- and it put them in a hole they couldn't climb out from. 
    I didn't like the ruling but anyone using it as the excuse for why the Avalanche lost Game 7 is guilty of a lazy take.
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