The Avs played a decent game on Thursday but this was 100% better. Despite dominating the game all night long the Avs needed heroics from two players, JT Compher to send the game to OT and Nathan MacKinnon to send the series home to Denver tied at 1. We now have a 5-game series with Colorado holding the home ice advantage.
No personnel changes from game 1, although the lines were slightly adjusted. There really wasn’t a 4th line, just a few extra players. Grubi starting of course.
Scratch: Andrighetto, Graves, Barberio
Inactive: Kamenev (shoulder), Cannata
The Flames had control of this game for maybe a shift or two but overall they got smoked all night. The Avs had the start we’ve been looking for all year, abandoning their normal passive/reactive style and putting Calgary immediately on their heels. The Avs held the Flames to 7 shot attempts in the first and never gave them a chance at extended zone time. The 2nd started with a bad power play which gave the Flames momentum and their first of only two shot runs of the evening. One of several phantom calls on the Avs gave Calgary a PP but Matt Nieto broke the Avs scoring drought with a shortie. Derick Brassard’s third penalty of the game allowed the bad guys to tie it midway through. This seemed to aggravate Colorado and they proceeded to go on a 25-0 shot run over the next 12 minutes or so. While it was great to see strict control of game play the fact that they couldn’t build a lead was concerning. The Flames were able to move into the lead with less than 8 minutes to go on a defensive breakdown and things were looking grim. JT Compher was quite fresh when he stepped on the ice with less than 3 to go and immediately became a hero, scoring 9 seconds into his 17th shift of the night. To overtime we went. The Flames had their 2nd and final run of the night to open the extra frame capped off by a soft call on Ian Cole and a strong PK. The Avs got it together from there and finally Mikko found Mack breaking towards the net for the glorious game-winner. Exhale.
Tale of the tape was +58/-37, which is impressive. Even more impressive was +56/-27 in regulation. Shots in all situations were even with Colorado having a 39-37 advantage, expected goals also close at 2.68 to 2.29. Shot pace at 5v5 was very similar to game one at 121 per hour.
Both teams power plays have looked horrible but the Flames manage to score on theirs and the Avs don’t. The Avs had 4 power plays, scoring on none. The Flames had 5 power plays, scored on one and gave up a shortie. It’s going to be very tough for the Avs to overcome their poor special teams play but this game shows it’s possible at least.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Landy then a gap down to Mikko, Kerf, Carl then another to a gaggle of players I wouldn’t put in that category. In all situations it was Mack (26:26), Landy, Mikko, Carl and Kerfoot (20:19) then again a whole bunch of guys nowhere close. So there’s really a top 5 not a top 6. Gabe Bourque played just over 3 minutes at 5v5, he and Jost were both in the 6 minute range overall.
The defensive regime went Barrie, Sam, Big Z, EJ, Cole and Nemeth. Overall it was Barrie (28), EJ (22+), Sam (22), Cole (21), Z (20) and Nemeth (16). Girard left the ice early in overtime after taking an uncalled charge from Sam Bennett and did not return. Status unknown.
– Mack has continued to impress through two playoff games. He leads the team in shot attempts (24), shots on goal (12), ixG (0.94) and most importantly game-winning goals (1). Mikael Backlund is the Flames most productive dude with 10 shot attempts and 5 SOG (but no points) so advantage Avs here bigtime. Mack is a weapon.
– Captain Gabe set up the series-saving goal by Compher but maybe more impressive than that was his shot differential in regulation which was a massive +30/-4. On-ice for 32 attempts total in 18:46, that works out to a 102 shot rate for per hour at 5v5. Stunning. Mikko looked far less rusty, maybe up to 70-75%. He had 2 assists, one of which set Mack free on the GWG of course and the other was the secondary on the JTC’s goal. Big night for both guys.
– Compher was banished to the 4th line for most of the game because of Coach Bednar’s trust issues which continue to plague the lineup. His bizarre usage scheme has had some positive effects as long as you’re playing each game as if it was the last one of the season but there’s no long-term plan here. There is a top 5 group of forwards, then a bunch of lightly used roleplayers and finally the persona non grata. If the Avs play like they did last night then they could make a fairly deep run but they can’t if the staff keep grinding the top handful of guys into the ground. Teams that make long runs always find some way to chew up minutes with their roleplayers and that’s been a chronic weakness with the Avs staff.
– There could be some changes to the defense on Monday. We’re waiting on word if Sam Girard’s injury is serious or not. Losing him would be a massive blow. Cale Makar’s college career is over and the word on the street is that he should be joining the Avs “immediately”. Makar would be a fantastic add but losing your 2nd best defenseman in Girard is something that can’t be made up. If Sam is fine then adding Makar makes this team scary.
– The Colorado Eagles beat the San Jose Barracuda last night in Loveland, then an hour later the San Diego Gulls eliminated the Tucson Roadrunners which gave the Eagles a playoff spot. This is the first time the Avs AHL affiliate has made the playoffs in 8 years and only the second time since they took over day-to-day operations in 2007. Due to the weird nature of the AHL 1st round, Colorado will start at home as the 4th seed next Friday and Saturday nights vs Bakersfield.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) Yesss
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) mucho quantity, poquito quality
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) decline
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) no time to turtle
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) This guy is growing into something special
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) This crew was a joke. Phantom calls, missed calls, the whole 9 yards. I get that both teams play dirty but 9 calls per game is ridiculous. Manage the game, don’t write the narrative.
Monday. The Pepsi Center. Be there or be square.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals