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Las Vegas — If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the desert.
After the Avalanche wilted in the third period and lost 3-2 to Vegas, coach Jared Bednar took a blow torch to his Colorado players, putting them on full blast for failure to compete. But a hot and bothered coach didn’t stop there. Bednar scooped up the ashes and threw them under the team bus on the sizzling asphalt of the arena parking lot.
“We can dissect the game in 100 different ways in what went wrong. But it’s a waste of time, a waste of time,” Bednar said Friday night.
“The video doesn’t lie. They were the more competitive hockey team from start to finish.”
This Bednar Blast, however, had not yet reached full boil. This coach is not a screamer by nature. But if looks could kill and egos in the Colorado locker room are weak, we might as well bury any chance of the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup in 2021 right now.
On this sweltering spring day in the Nevada desert, the high temperature was 107 degrees. But that was nowhere near as hot as the straight fire Bednar spit after the Avs blew a chance to take a 3-0 stranglehold in this best-of-seven series by allowing two Vegas goals during an ugly 45-second span of the final period.
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s the way we can beat a team that tied us for first in the league,” Bednar said. “We’re going to have to compete way harder that in order to beat them. And the sooner we realize that … if we haven’t already, we’re late to the party.”
I’ve been covering the Avs since they first took the ice in 1995. But I’ve never heard a Colorado coach barbecue his players the way Bednar roasted almost everyone in the locker room on an open spit after this defeat. It was the nastiest rip job in franchise history. After hearing the rant, both my ears required gobs of aloe vera to cool the burn.
“Our hardest working player is Philipp Grubauer,” Bednar said.
The sweet agony of the NHL playoffs is how a series can be turned on its head in a mere 45 seconds.
Despite being clearly outplayed by Vegas since the second period of Game 2, a stretch of rough ice that now spans more than 100 minutes on the scoreboard clock, the Avs were nursing a 2-1 lead late in Game 3, watching clock instead of playing hockey, hoping Grubauer could save their bacon. Again.
Those prayers went poof, however, when Golden Knights Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty scored within 45 seconds of madness, inciting a capacity crowd to blow the roof off T-Mobile Arena.
“There’s no moment when you can fall asleep,” Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen said. “Grubi played amazing again. But we can’t rely on him making 50 saves every night.”
Bednar dared to go where most coaches fear to tread. He openly questioned the will of his players to win. If this was tough love, it was wrapped in barbed wire and dipped in hydrochloric acid.
He challenged captain Gabe Landeskog and the team’s leadership. “Go ahead and check the numbers on our top guys and see what they did against their top guys. It’s not close, it’s not close,” Bednar said.
It was a rip job that can’t be spewed more than a single time during a playoff run. I trust Bednar knows how Landeskog, superstar Nathan MacKinnon and the boys in the room will respond.
“It isn’t always pretty. It’s not going to be, especially when you’re a couple of the top teams in the league,” Bednar said. “You’re not going to go out and dominate a team or shouldn’t, OK? But tonight (the Knights) did. And the last 40 minutes the other night they did. So it’s too long, it’s too long.”
Make no mistake. What Bednar did was a gamble.
His rant reeked of desperation for a team that still holds a 2-1 lead in the series.
If the Avalanche goes on to beat Vegas and win the Stanley Cup, the Bednar Blast will go down in franchise lore with those championship rings in Patrick Roy’s ears as one of the great speeches in franchise history.
These harsh words, however, also have the potential to backfire on Bednar. Vegas is the heavier team, and the weight of a long series often rests heavier on the side that likes to play beautiful hockey.
Prior to Game 4, the Avs don’t need a chalk talk. It should be mandatory for the full squad to take the ice for a practice without pucks and skate until the weak of stomach ask for a bag to empty their fears.
Maybe Colorado players will respond like champs to the Bednar Blast.
If the Avs aren’t up to the task and fold, however, it will be remembered as the moment when we discovered the boys in Colorado’s locker room need a new coach who’s cooler under pressure before this team can win a championship.