Goalie Pavel Francouz says he must improve for Avalanche to take back series against Stars

Pavel Francouz made the leap from Czech and Russian professional hockey leagues to the NHL in 2018 with visions of someday leading a team deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Welcome to the show, Frankie.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed about, so it’s a huge chance for me,” the Avalanche goaltender said. “It depends on me how I take this responsibility and help the team to win four more games.”

Following Colorado’s 5-2 loss Monday night, Francouz’s room for error shrunk as the Dallas Stars took a 2-0 series lead against the Avs. The 30-year-old netminder has now lost his last three starts inside the Edmonton bubble with Avs starting goalie Philipp Grubauer out indefinitely (lower-body injury).

“Frankie is going to have to get the job done,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Francouz earned the trust of teammates and coaches over 31 starts during the regular season in either rest or injury relief of Grubauer. Francouz’s 21 wins were a team-high and he finished tied for fifth in the NHL in save percentage (.923) and seventh for goals-against average (2.41) — becoming the first Avs goalie to finish to crack the top-10 in both marks in the same year since David Aebischer (2003-04).

Francouz made his NHL postseason debut in brilliant fashion Aug. 5 with 27 saves in Colorado’s 4-0 seeding game victory over the Stars. Francouz told reporters afterword: “Honestly, I wasn’t (very) nervous today, and that kind of scared me, because usually, I’m pretty nervous. I was a little bit afraid of that, but it didn’t affect my performance.”

On Monday night, though, it seemed like the Stars brought back Francouz’s nerves. Dallas scored four times within the final 10 minutes of the second period.

Two goals came on the power-play with heavy traffic in front of the net. The next two were more painful. First, a pass ricocheted off the chest of Stars defender Alexander Radulov near the crease, and somehow, the puck sailed above Francouz’s head into the net. Then, defenseman Esa Lindell hammered home a rebound against Francouz’s left leg pad as he laid across the crease in front of the net.

A video review of the play followed, but without conclusive evidence to overturn the initial call on the ice, the goal stood for a 4-2 Dallas lead.

“That 4-2 goal, I don’t know how they’re going to explain this one. We’re still waiting for an explanation on this one,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said.

Colorado has added goaltender Hunter Miska to the Edmonton bubble as the team’s new backup. But it appears the Avs’ confidence in Francouz remains strong.

“Frankie has played really well for us this year and he’s kind of split the season with some of the injuries that we’ve had,” Bednar said after Game 1. “His play has dictated that he should stay in the net at times and we’re a confident team in front of him, too.”

Francouz was good, not great, in Game 2. Fulfilling his dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup means taking his focus to the next level.

“I know I have to help the team more,” Francouz said.