The Avs have pulled out of their collapse somewhat and stabilized at .500 hockey instead of .300 hockey, so a massive improvement. The staff keep trying things that end up working, the question we all have is why did it take so long.
The only personnel change to the lineup was Andrew Agozzino installed at 4C in place of Dom Toninato but every line was mixed up thoroughly. Mark Barberio was taken off IR but did not dress. Colin Wilson skated the other day but didn’t practice with the team. He could be an option tomorrow. Vlad Kamenev was spotted at the Avs Charity Brunch on Sunday but no word on his recovery progress.
Scratch: Barberio, Bourque
Injured: Wilson (???), Cole (face), Kamenev (shoulder)
The Knights got the jump right away and it looked like it could be another long evening but the Avs wrestled control back somehow and went on a nice run that began with a great solo play by Tyson Jost for the first goal. Vegas came back a bit but near the end of the period the Avs once again exerted control with a 5-0 run. That run continued in the beginning of the 2nd, ultimately ending up at 9-1 before a dumb penalty by Compher threw water on the fire. A good kill finished off by Landy/Aggz moved into the offensive zone and Gabe’s 400th point ended up an assist on Agozzino’s first NHL goal to make it 2-0. From there we had a penalty parade for a while, with Matt Calvert getting some insurance to make it 3-0, then score effects took over for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +46/-48 but that had mounds of score effects. Shots on goal in all situations were 40-38 Vegas. Other than shot attempts, the Avs controlled unblocked shots, shots on goal, scoring chances and most importantly goals at 5v5 very well. Shot pace at 5v5 was a solid 124 per hour.
PP had some big changes along with the lines but still couldn’t produce and haven’t had a goal since last month. They went 0-3 and the PK killed all 4 chances they had. In the month of February the Avs power play is 0-for-26 and last in the NHL. The PK is surging since the staff made some changes after getting destroyed by Toronto, a perfect 11-for-11 in the last 3 games.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Sven, Kerf, Calvert, Nieto, Soderberg. Funny how Coach Bednar’s favorite line still makes it into the top 6 even though they didn’t play together. In all situations it was Mack, Carl, Sven, Calvert, Kerf, Nieto. AJ Greer played only 4 minutes as the 4th line was completely abandoned by midway through the game.
The defensive regime at 5v5 went Sam, Z, EJ, Barrie, then a big gap to Nemeth and Graves. In all situations it was Sam (22), EJ (20), Nemeth (20), Barrie (19+), Z (19) and Graves (14+).
The staff made some big changes and for the most part they were positive. Where was this 2 months ago? I like that Coach Bednar doesn’t panic and start mixing everything up constantly but they’ve thrown a third of the season away by inaction. So many of the problems that were ameliorated last night are things that even casual fans have been rooting for since December. Spread talent around if you aren’t scoring. Don’t play the frat line together, ever. Don’t handcuff Carl Soderberg’s offense by playing him with two grinders. Get MacKinnon away from Barrie on the power play. None of these things required acquiring a new player or even calling someone up from the Eagles, this was all possible at any point during the collapse. Nobody believes these are long-term changes but developing some chemistry between players that don’t often see the ice together has some good benefits and produces in-game options when needed. So many of the scoring issues can be attributed from getting stale and rolling a top-heavy lineup night after night.
I’ve been a fan of Andrew Agozzino’s since his rookie year with Lake Erie 6 years ago. There have been a couple of less than stellar seasons in there but he’s exactly what you want as an AHL veteran right now. Top 4 in AHL scoring despite playing a reduced schedule, solid penalty killer on a good unit, he’s been about the only scoring constant in Loveland this year. That takes pressure off of rookies, which is perfect. It was great to see him get his first NHL goal last night. Players like Aggz are hard to attract when you have the worst AHL program in recent history so producing one like him in house is about the only way. The callup was a reward for a solid job this year and he even paid them back with 2 points in his first game.
Varly’s getting hot. Other than the disaster vs Toronto where he was absolutely not at fault, he’s been throwing out solid numbers in his last 7 games and the Avs have become competitive again. For me this is a function of both he regaining confidence in the guys in front of him and they in him. Some problems have been fixed systemically and now he can do his job. Like with the line shuffle, it causes one to wonder why it took so long for the staff to adjust.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (-) it was a night for depth
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) adequate on both fronts
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) new 1st unit ok, Barrie’s unit sucked
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (-) a couple of shell stages but nothing extended
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Varly was flat out awesome
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) I realize that Calvert’s goal was difficult to determine but speed this process up, eh?
Rematch at home vs Winnipeg on Wednesday night and note the early start time at 6:30 local.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals