I think we were all hopeful that the late-game heroics by Compher & MacKinnon in Calgary might have opened the floodgates but nothing could have prepared us for what happened Monday evening. The Pepsi Center was reminiscent of the whiteouts during the dynasty years as the Avs put up 3 goals in 8 minutes during a dominant opening frame and went on to trounce Calgary 6-2. Cale Makar’s debut wasn’t just solid, it was electric. Adding a rookie that scores a game-winning goal on his first NHL shot to a team already on a roll gives reason to be rationally exuberant.
Cale Makar signed his ELC on Sunday and headed to Denver, where he met his teammates for the first time yesterday morning and made his debut last night. Derick Brassard got a much needed night off which has been publicly attributed to illness. Sven Andrighetto took his place. Dominic Toninato was recalled from the Eagles late in the afternoon for reasons unknown. Sam Girard was out with UBI and has been designated as day-to-day for now. Joe Cannata was returned to the Eagles after Saturday’s game but Pavel Francouz was in the stands enjoying the show and ready if all hell broke loose.
Scratch: Graves, Barbs, Toninato, Brassard (sick), Girard (UBI),
Injured: Kamenev (shoulder)
The Avs started off fast and dangerous. After killing off a penalty they drew several of their own, capitalizing on a 5v3 then going up 2-0 on a pair of Nathan MacKinnon goals. Nate wasn’t done, he left a drop pass for Cale Makar who knifed through the Calgary defense and popped his first NHL shot past Mike Smith for a 3-0 lead. The rest of the game was basically score effects and shenanigans. Matt Nieto added insurance with his 2nd shortie in the series then Mikko added a back-breaker to give Colorado a 5-1 lead. After that it was a procession of frustration penalties by the Flames for the last 25 minutes of the game.
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +52/-46 and the score effect algorithm is woefully inadequate at showing how dominant the Avs really were. Shots in all situations favored the Avs 56-29 so Mike Smith made over 50 saves and lost by 4. That doesn’t happen every day. Shot pace at 5v5, which was only for 2/3rds of the game, was a hurricane-force 146 per hour.
The power play was resurrected from the dead and scored a pair of goals on 8 chances, nice to see you again. The PK killed off 5 of 6 but got a shortie so they were a net neutral on the night. Special teams were a big part of this playoff win for the first time in the Bednar era.
Top 6 forwards were Mack, Landy, Kerf, Nieto, Compher and Mikko. In all situations it was Mack (20:51), Landy, Kerfoot, Carl, Compher and Mikko (16:24). Sven was low man at 7:50 and he and Bourque both played just under 7 minutes at 5v5. Calvert is reportedly banged up and only played 10:44 with just 2 shifts in the 3rd.
The defensive regime went Cole, Barrie, EJ, Big Z then a gap down to Nemeth and Makar. Overall it was Barrie (22+), EJ (21), Cole (21), Big Z (17), Nemeth (15+) and Makar (14+). Z got a misconduct with a flourish late in the game and missed a few shifts.
– Watching Mack progress in this series has been fantastic. Every time he has the puck on the north side of the red line the Calgary defenders don’t know whether to cry or wind their watches. He has taken over and it’s hard to make a case against him being the best player in the NHL this post-season. The numbers keep rising: 3 goals, an assist, 17 shots on goal, 33 shot attempts. That would be a magnificent 7 game series for anyone and we’re not even halfway to that. I loved his post-game interview. Said he felt great and could have played all night. Also said that it’s just one game and the next one is just as important. He’s hyper-focused and terrifying right now.
– The media is caught up in the “whirlwind” narrative for Cale Makar but it doesn’t look like he is. The guy is extremely grounded and focused on the job at hand. Seven shifts into his NHL career he scored a playoff game-winning goal on his first shot. Holy cow.
I think the staff did a good job easing him into the lineup. He got o-zone/on-the-fly starts exclusively but did fine defensively for the most part. Like any rookie there were a few moments where it looked like some more system study would have helped but solid instincts hid that well. If this is what he looks like at age 20 with zero professional practices under his belt then imagining him in three years becomes extremely exciting. I wish NBC had a camera on Joe Sakic during the first period because Makar’s performance along with the rest of the team probably gave him a smile like Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the first Batman movie.
– Matt Nieto backed up his shortie from game 2 with another that turned out to be an important insurance goal. Ray Ferraro keeps harping on the fact he only scored 4 goals this year but he did have 22 assists, was a solid roleplayer and obviously missed when he went out with a broken foot. By the way he also picked up an assist on EJ’s goal to open the 3rd so he’s 3rd in points and 2nd in goals on the squad right now. He and Tyson Jost have been the stars of the bottom 6 for me so far. Jost hasn’t gotten on the board yet but he’s generating shots at a good rate and giving Calgary fits with his play in the o-zone. He’s also tops on the team in CF% and xGF%. That’s hot.
– The way Mack was shooting the puck last night was amazing but guess what? Mikko, Landy and Barrie had 6 shots on goal each to his 5. All three put up assists and Mikko of course had the wonderful goal to make it 5-1. Gabe’s been a little snakebit, he leads the team in individual expected goals (fancy shot quality) but hasn’t put one in the net yet. Barrie has quietly led the team in TOI overall and 5v5 as he and Zadorov have been the de facto top pair like they were against Nashville last year. He, like Gabe, has yet to score a point despite leading the team in shot attempts 5v5. Yes, there’s excess capacity to be realized still which should be scary news for the red team.
– I’ve tooled on the power play enough that they deserve some due for finally doing their jobs. Mack’s first goal was at 5v3, a good thing but doesn’t have much to do with their chronic issues. The second, however, was at 5v4 and broke somewhat of a streak. The last 5v4 goal the Avs scored in the playoffs was in the early minutes of game 7 vs Minnesota in 2014. Our good friend Nick Holden had the honors. That’s 9 games and over 550 minutes without scoring on a normal power play. The sadist in me wants to mention that the new streak is now 46 minutes and 5 opportunities long but I probably shouldn’t. Let’s hope it’s far shorter.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) WOW
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) tons of quantity and decent quality too
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) took a 5v3 to break the spell but it happened
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) if this is the kind of turtle we get now I like it a lot
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) Didn’t have a lot of work and needed saves by Gabe and Cole to hold the lead, but plenty to like
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) Once again did not care for the game management here but in all fairness this was a tough game to control. The usual suspects in red needed a quick hook but there’s no way to do that in a playoff game.
Game 4 looms tomorrow night.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals