I remember discussing the March schedule and this week specifically on the Burgundy Radio Pod back in January, concluding it was death and in the unlikely situation that the Avs still had a chance at making a wild card spot those hopes would be gone after. The guys had other plans. Big wins in Minnesota and St Louis to the tune of a 9-2 combined score have the Avs in the 1st wild card and only a point behind the Wilds for 3rd in the Central.
Goal differential puts them in 3rd by quite a bit, even though that’s driven by shooting percentage and lately by Varly playing out of his mind. The “can’t win/produce on the road” narrative is slowly fading with some good wins/OTLs lately and Mack doesn’t seem to care where he plays anymore. He’s just rolling.
Last night’s win pretty much killed the hopes of the Blues, who had come back from a hideous losing streak to go 3-1-1 in their last stretch. Four points out with 12 games to go sounds doable but it’s much tougher that it sounds to gain ground here. LA has the 3rd Pacific spot and should hold on to it. The Ducks and Flames don’t have the juice of the teams ahead and have identical 5-4-1 records in their last 10. All that aside, this year has been different from the past several. Scoring is up, and along with that chaos is too. Short of Chicago re-entering the playoff picture with a 11-0-0 run, nothing would surprise me in the Central over the next 3 weeks.
The Avs threw the process out the window and got smoked everywhere but on the scoreboard. The game flow went outshot +11/-19 in the first but with Mack working his magic twice. The 2nd was even and both teams left with a goal. The 3rd was non-stop calamity with the Avs going +8/-29 and +4/-16 in scoring chances.
FWIW, final tally was +36/-66, scoring chances were +16/-31. PK was 2/2 and PP was 0/1 but special teams didn’t figure in this one. The refs were practicing not calling anything for the playoffs which is fine by me.
The defensive regime went Barrie, Big Z (despite missing shifts with a mystery ailment), Nemeth, Girard, Warsofsky, Siemens at 5v5 and same overall with Nemo passing Z thanks to PK time. Duncan was low man at 11:48 but still had his role as #2 penalty kill D.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Landy, Mikko, Jost, Andrighetto, Compher at 5v5 and in all situations Comeau, Soderberg and Nieto took the 4/5/6 spots with PK time. Kerf and Toninato tied for low man at 6:40 overall but Kerf only had 8 shifts and 5:54 at 5v5. The 4th line really isn’t getting used on the road these days.
– Let’s start with Mikko for a change. He had 2G/2A and 10 points in the last 4 games. 25 goals and 49 assists would be a banner season for any 2nd year player and it’s put him in 15th for NHL scoring. He’s on pace for an 87 point season and 90 wouldn’t be a surprise.
– Mack’s 2 goals in the 1st period were all the Avs would need and given the way the game was flowing they needed them bad. He later added an assist on Mikko’s ENG at the end, his 50th of the season. A 40-goal season seems very likely, as does 100 points, things Avs fans haven’t seen in many years.
– Gabe Landeskog might not have stood out like Mikko and Mack last night but he had 3 assists including an incredible individual effort on a backcheck which turned into a 100′ outlet pass on Mikko’s 1st goal. That put the Cap over 50 points for the season and 60 isn’t out of the question by the end.
– Whatever happened to Nikita Zadorov’s hand/arm/shoulder in the 2nd period put a shudder through Avs fans. Living life without EJ is hard enough, losing Z at the same time would be devastating. The best we can hope for is that it’s something he can play through for the time being.
– Varly had another amazing performance stopping 44/45 and 77/79 in the Minny/St Looey double. Tonight’s b2b vs Nashville might be too much to ask and the staff have to weigh his energy level and health against starting Spencer Martin. This is a really tough decision.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) should be 10 +’s
– Corsi gets a (-) for the worst show of the season
– Power Play gets an (even) the streak was stopped but they did no harm
– Turtle gets a (-) -21 in shots attempts in the 3rd OMG
– Varly% gets a (+) and was amazing
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Playoff atmosphere, playoff officiating. Nice job gents.
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Everyone’s calling tonight’s Avs/Preds game a throwaway but I don’t think so. NSH was in Arizona until late last night and has little to play for. Add to that the Avs almost beat them last time at the Pepsi Center. The surprises keep coming, maybe we get another tonight.