Kiszla: How Avalanche beat Vegas 3-2 in overtime can be explained in single word: Gruub! – The Denver Post

During a 3-2 overtime victory in an NHL playoff game the Avs had no business winning, one question hung heavy in the tense air of Ball Arena, where blood pressure levels spiked through the roof as the number of shots from Vegas spiked to 39 … 40 … 41:

Is there a doctor in the house?

The anxiety was unrelenting. But in the middle of the angst, one man wearing burgundy and blue calmly stood tall and firm as a brick wall, unless the moment called for him to flop on the ice like a walrus to stop the puck.

“Anxiety level: zero,” Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer said Wednesday night.

While stopping 39 shots by the Golden Knights, he never blinked. That’s a pretty mean trick with all that blood rushing to the brain as you stand on your head, eh?

On a spring night when he could have also saved Private Ryan and the Black Rhino if only anyone had asked, Grubauer chuckled at the anxiety of nervous witnesses to his greatness. No matter how much Vegas heat was thrown at him, the blood rushing through the veins of this 29-year-old native of Rosenheim, Germany, was as cool as the blue Danube.

There is no sweeter sound in all of sports than when the home arena erupts after victory in the NHL playoffs. Without Doktor Ziro in the house, that happy noise would have surely perished in  frustration.

Colorado now takes a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series to Sin City, thanks to one guy. “Grubi bailed us out,” said Mikko Rantanen, who found the time and space to rip a shot for the game winner on a power play early in overtime.

Out on the concourse, before the puck dropped for Game 2, there was an Avs fan buying a cold one, while wearing a Stanley Cup fashioned from tin foil on his head and a Colorado sweater emblazoned by the legendary No. 33.

Not since the glory days of Patrick Roy, when the arena walls shook with Avalanche faithful chanting the name of beloved Saint Patrick, have we heard such adoration for a goalie in Colorado:

Gruuub!

“It doesn’t matter if I face 40, 50 or just 10 shots, the approach is always the same. Never change anything,” said Grubauer, forced to make 16 saves in the third period alone, when Vegas’ desperation was so heavy, it tilted the ice in his face.

“Obviously, games are a little bit tougher if you get less shots, and you get into a groove if you get more. It was really good today. I get a little bit more (shots) than usual, but I won’t complain.”

It has been 20 long years since the Avalanche hoisted the Cup, in no small part because the team lacked a goalie truly capable of doing heavy lifting in the playoffs.

So it’s worth noting Grubauer outdueled Vegas counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 2. “Flower” not only has three NHL championship rings to his name, but also was named a Vezina Trophy finalist alongside Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Grubauer as the league’s best netminders.

The Avs’ were gifted a victory in the series opener when Vegas coach Peter DeBoer got cute, making the knucklehead decision to rest his Vezina finalist. DeBoer put Robin Lehner in cold between the pipes. Hey, don’t ask me to make sense of it. And, upon further review, maybe that inexusable bit of coaching brain freeze was enough to cause Vegas tough guy Ryan Reaves to lose his mind.

Never lacking for confidence, Lehner took to social media and warned the Avalanche prior to Game 1 that he was Iron Man. In a tsunami of goals that overwhelmed Vegas 7-1, however, Colorado made Lehner look more like SpongeBob SquarePants.

Well, the battle is a whole different deal now, with Fleury back on the job.

Yes, it took Fleury a hot minute to regain his edge, and the Avalanche took full advantage to take a 1-0 lead early in theh first period. Colorado forward Bandon Saad nearly fanned on a shot, taking more ice than puck with a swing of the stick. But the awkwardly off-speed shot caught Fleury off guard and it trickled through the five hole for a score.

Mark it down, because that might well be the only soft goal the Avs get past Fleury all series long.

The Avs are sizzle and flash. The Knights are masters of the dark arts. But truth be known, there’s not much to choose between these two teams. And the league champion could be decided right here, in this series, for the most fundamental of hockey reasons.

Best goalie wins.

“Stealing a win,” Rantanen said, “that’s what you need if you’re going to win the Cup.”

No worries. Doktor Ziro is in the house.

In 2021, you can search from the shores of Tampa Bay to the tunnels of Montreal, but you won’t find a goalie anywhere in the NHL capable of being more stone cold crazy in the clutch than the man all of Colorado now fondly calls:

Gruuub!

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