The Denver Post


No. 1 goalie steps up vs. Vegas

- By Mike Chambers Mike Chambers: or @mikechambe­rs

If this was a playoff game, folks would declare Philipp Grubauer’s performanc­e Monday night in Las Vegas Conn Smythe Trophy-worthy. Winning the trophy as NHL playoff MVP is about work in the postseason, but the Avalanche was reminded that its No. 1 goalie is definitely capable of stepping up in a big game.

Grubauer stood on his proverbial head against the mighty Vegas Golden Knights, making 36 saves in a 2-1 victory to keep the Avs in contention to surpass Vegas and win the West Division title and Presidents’ Trophy with the NHL’s best record.

Five takeaways from what was the Avs’ biggest regular-season game of the season:

Trophy in sight. Vegas could have clinched the division and Presidents’ Trophy with a victory Monday night. Instead, the Avs climbed to within two points of the Knights with a game in hand, and if Colorado sweeps its final two games against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday and Thursday, it will win the division and the trophy.

The Avs, who are 6-1 in their last seven games, have won the Presidents’ Trophy twice, but not since 2001 when they went on to win their Stanley Cup.

Vezina-worthy. Grubauer is now 29-9-1 on the season, the second-most wins in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevski­y (31), who took the 4-0 loss to Florida on Monday night. Grubauer, a possible Vezina Trophy finalist as the league’s best goalie, has 11 more wins than his previous high of 18 in each of the last two seasons.

Grubauer’s 2.00 goals-against average is also second in the NHL, behind Carolina’s Alex Nedeljkovi­c (1.90).

If Grubauer remains healthy throughout the playoffs, the Avs are seemingly set in net.

Best of the West. Colorado finished 4-3-1 in the eight-game season series against Vegas and will finish with winning records against all seven West Division opponents.

The Avs are 5-1-0 against the Kings heading in the upcoming final two games. They finished 6-1-1 against the Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes, 62-0 against the San Jose Sharks, 5-2-1 against Minnesota and 53-0 vs. the St. Louis Blues.

Colorado will open the playoffs against the Wild or Blues. It will clinch at least the No. 2 seed with a point in its last two games.

Newhook. Avs rookie forward Alex Newhook had two assists, including the primary helper on J.T. Compher’s game-winning goal at 11:33 of the third period. It wasn’t pretty, but Newhook threw the puck on net, and Compher banged it in from the crease. It worked.

Newhook, 20, is now plus-1 in each of his four NHL games, along with three assists. Beginning his big-league career at plus-4 and nearly a point-pergame is a great start for the youngster who was playing for Boston College in March.

Middle frame matters. Despite being outshot 15-4 in the second period, the Avs outscored the Knights 1-0. The goal came from white-hot winger Andre Burakovsky and served as the 71st second-period goal for Colorado — the league’s second-most behind the Washington Capitals (77).

The Avs, who have allowed a league-low 35 goals in the second period, are a league-best plus-36 in the middle frame.

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