The Avs played a solid 45 minutes against the VGKs then either ran out of gas or sat back aiming for the guaranteed point in the 3rd. It worked somehow and they ended up with a notROW thanks to Captain Gabe in the shootout. This was a classic as far as atmosphere and excitement, reminding fans what playoff hockey can be like for the first time in 4 years. Bookmark this one on NHLtv and revisit in the summer doldrums, I know I will.
As of this morning the Avs sit in the 1st Wild Card slot, 1 point ahead of St Louis and LA. Also one point ahead of Anaheim in the Pac3 slot, which for me is the key. If they stay ahead of Pac3 then they have little to worry about. Minnesota continues to hold the 3rd spot in the Central by 2 points with a game in hand on Colorado.
After a dead even first 9 minutes the Avs took over the 1st, drawing a couple of penalties and going on a 11-0 run to end the period. The second also featured a nice 11-1 run in the middle but the Avs flat out couldn’t finish anything. Vegas had a couple strong shifts at the end, foreshadowing what we would see in the 3rd. The 3rd opened with the tying goal and closed with a 21-5 run by the Knights while the Avs did their best “bend but don’t break” to gain the point. Overtime also went poorly for the home team but they managed to force the shootout.
The narrative above sounds a little negative but that doesn’t do justice to how the team actually played yesterday. After getting their doors blown off by the Kings on Thursday this was a fantastic response against another good team. Call it another step in the right direction and another great learning experience. Moving forward they have a rematch in Vegas tomorrow night and how they perform there will be another indicator of how both the team and the coaching staff can deal with a playoff-style mini series.
Another thing that really impressed me was how the Avs adjusted their style to match how the Knights played. In the first 10 minutes they gradually went from their normal opportunistic bent to overcoming the sticky man on man tactics that Gerard Gallant has installed and looked great doing it. That’s not something I’ve seen from the Avs much this year and by the 2nd period they were actually mirroring those tactics and beating them at their own game. Versatile.
Final tally was +49/-47 despite Vegas winning overall shot share 40-30. The PK did fine, killing their only chance. The power play was inconsistent as usual, PP2 scored the only goal of the game with Carl Soderberg roofing one on a sick pass from Alex Kerfoot. Later in the 3rd the PP had a chance right after the Knights goal and gave up one SOG while creating none for themselves. Oh well.
The defensive regime went Big Z (by 2 minutes), Barrie, Johnson, Nemeth, Girard, Alt, Siemens at 5v5 and with EJ/Z swapping spots overall. Duncan Siemens played 3:42 total with one short PK shift and 6 at evens. Mark Alt made his Avalanche debut and seemed to take over Duncan’s job in the 2nd period.
Top 6 forwards were Comeau, Nieto, Mack, Mikko, Big Carl, Landy at 5v5 and Mack, Mikko, Landy, Carl, Comeau, Nieto overall. The 4th “line” was Bourque at 6:21 and Toninato at 4:21
Usually a 11F/7D lineup makes for chaotic usage and seems to hurt more than help but it worked fine in this case. Duncan didn’t play much but there was only one PK and if something went wrong he could step in if needed. Going with 3 lines and using Toninato and Bourque to rotate some rest in paid off in the end. If you have no intention of using a 4th line then having spot relief is a smart strategy. With Sven and Willie out I’m fine with doing the same going forward.
– Carl Soderberg returned to the lineup after missing a couple games with the sick and scored the only Avs goal. Who could have guessed a year ago how valuable he would be right now?
– Mark Alt made his Avalanche debut and played a solid game. He ended up at 11 minutes, all 5v5, and got a few pucks at the net. No glaring mistakes and skated a lot better than I would have guessed considering his 6’4 220# frame.
– Landy had a very frustrating game, 8 SOG and some high-profile misses. He made up for it by winning the shootout but if he buries one of those the game’s over a half hour earlier. That goes for Comeau, Compher, Barrie and a few others too.
– Both Varly and MAF were fabulous (and lucky at times). This was an excellent goalie duel with Varly saving 39/40 and Flower matching him in 10 fewer SOG. Varly’s now 9-0-1 after a loss this season. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) A win without Mack scoring? Yay!
– Corsi gets a (+) although it took a circuitous route to get there
– Power Play gets a (+) but choked bigtime in the 3rd
– Turtle gets a (-) another massive one, throw it on the pile
– Varly% gets a (+) and thanks
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) For whatever reason the VGKs kept getting called on stuff and the Avs didn’t. I’ll take it.
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The Avs are off to Vegas to finish the home-and-home
Burgundy Rainbow Post-Game from the Pepsi Center
Vlad gives his instant review from the seats. Also check out the catalogue of fine prospect vids at our YouTube channel