We got a bit of a look at the Avs 5v5 play at the beginning of this game but like the Flames on Thursday the Wild decided that chopping up the flow with special teams was the only route to survival. I have suspected all summer that this is going to be strategy choice for all but a handful of opponents. Anyone scouting this team is going to be terrified of long even-strength runs, the Avs can skate anyone to death. Also like the Flames, the Wild’s ploy didn’t pay off and the good guys came away with a 4-2 win.
No changes to personnel but Joonas Donskoi bumped Burakovsky off the 2nd line like we saw for a good part of training camp.
Landy – Mack – Mikko
Jost – Kadri – Donskoi
Nieto – Compher – Burakovsky
Calvert – Bellemare – Nichushkin
Sam – EJ
Big Z – Makar
Graves – Timmins
Scratch: Kamenev, Wilson, Barberio
The Avs blew past Minnesota in the opening 6 minutes with a 12-2 shot run and two goals. From there they eased off the gas a bit and the Wilds were able to implement their neutral zone clog and slow the game to the point where they could actually hit people. In one stretch from 16:02 of P1 to 17:18 of P2 there was only 8 minutes of 5v5 play and only once was there a stretch longer than 70 seconds without the refs making a call. A lot of this was ticky-tack stuff and only served to ruin the game, the officials did a very poor job of managing. Despite all that, the 3HM got a powerful shift late in the 2nd and won the game on a beautiful pass from Mikko to Captain Gabe. The 3rd was a lot of garbage and some weird usage with Ryan Graves finally clinching it with a 190 footer.
The Avs squeaked out the shot attempt victory +39/-36 and shots in all situations victory 32-31. It’s not obvious from the chart but they were +12/-4 in the 2nd. Where they fell short was in the quality metrics, Minnesota held them to a +1.27/-1.55 or around 45%. It’s a subtle point but the Avs quality generation has been a little disappointing so far. Game pace at 5v5 was a plodding 111 per hour, which tells the story of the Wilds dictating play for most of the game.
The power play went 1-for-6 and was generally ineffective again. Everyone will point to the 25% conversion rate and beam about it but it’s really been a drag to watch. Their attempt and xG rates are in the bottom 3rd of the league already and SOG rate is 27th. As long as they score it’s going to be all smiles but the 3 goals came from just 13 shots on goal in 20 minutes of PP time. That’s one shot every 92 seconds and when the shooting percentages return to earth (23% and 1.7 G/xGF) there’s going to be trouble. The PK killed off 3 out of 4 and their shot rates against are much better than the opponent conversion rates say.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Landy, Mikko, Jost, Nieto and Bellemare. Wut. In all situations it was Mack, Landy, Mikko again then a big gap down to just about everyone else in the 13-14 minute range. Very even usage on paper. Burakovsky was low man 5v5 at 7:19 and overall at 10:06.
The defensive regime went Sam, EJ, Z then a gap down to Graves and Makar and another to Timmins. Overall it was EJ (22+), Sam (22), Zadorov (21+), Makar (18+), Graves (15) and Timmy (11).
There were a bunch of TOI anomalies in the middle of the game during the penalty parade that were purely role-driven. Tyson Jost missed shifts in P1 because of a couple of penalties but he ended up taking spot shifts with Compher’s line a bunch. Makar only had 4 shifts in P2 but 3 were very long (1;14, 1:42, 2:21) mainly due to special teams. Donskoi and Kadri took some damage on a PP at the end of the 2nd and had gaps while they received attention from the trainers. Towards the end of the game we saw some others that were probably more coach’s decision oriented. Burakovsky’s last shift was with 7:50 to go and his TOI decreased through the game. Timmins was used sparingly in the 3rd with only 2 full shifts including the final 40 seconds after Graves put it away.
– Mikko continued his solid production with a goal and assist. Mack now has 3 assists, no goals and a heap of frustration. Captain Gabe added his first goal of the season. 3HM upped their season pace to 369 points, which is nice.
– Big Z played another solid game and gave us this treasure which is an instant classic:
I think he and young Cale are still developing the chemistry needed but with Z’s track record alongside Tyson Barrie I’m looking for good things down the road.
– I’ll eat some crow on Val Nichushkin. I hated the signing right up until opening night. He’s got a structured role and has fit in really well with Calvert and Bellemare. Part of this is the Avs don’t have the stigma Dallas did with Nuke being a top 10 pick and needing to justify that. He’s just a big guy that can skate and play solid bottom 6 hockey with some skill. He’s a really big guy actually, his bear hug on Bellemare (who’s not small) after the goal made him disappear. Shoutout to Val for his first Avs point last night.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) big surprise!
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) both not too good but quality was very low
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) still awful
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) hello darkness my old friend pt 2
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) much better than game 1, he was on it
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) hated this crew. if the refs are just going to even the game out with ticky-tacks on the Avs it’s going to be a long season. Avs need a game with some old-schoolers who only call one per period. If they ever get a streak of some 45-48 minute 5v5 games they’re going to kill opponents.
Four days off then the Avs take on the Bruins Thursday night.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals