With the quick turnaround there’s not a lot to gather out of yesterday’s game. Chicago struggles defensively, the Avs score a lot and that’s basically what we saw. Colorado blew this one out of the water early and score effects set in. I think tonight’s game will be more telling for many reasons.
Andre Burakovsky is the newest member of the “out for who knows how long” club. AJ Greer traveled with the team but was returned to the Eagles mid-game. The hope is that indicates Mikko Rantanen is all set to come back from his LBI tonight. Frankie got the start on the road portion of the home & home.
Nieto – Mack – Donskoi
Jost – Kadri – Compher
Nuke – PEB – O’Connor
Dries – Kamenev – Tynan
Big Z – Sam
Graves – Makar
Cole – Rosen
Scratch: Barbs, Greer (sort of), Burakovsky (UBI)
Injured: Mikko, Landy, Willie (all LBI), Calvert (concussion), EJ (LBI)
The Hawks didn’t start this one on time, especially Corey Crawford. Before you knew it the Avs had a 2-0 lead on a Compher shot that grazed Mack and then a goal from Ryan Graves who the Hawks completely lost track of on the weak side. Soon after that Chicago started to control the puck, which they did for about the next 35 minutes. They drew within one midway through the first but Cale Makar answered quickly. P2 was much the same with the Hawks controlling play but the Avs finishing the few chances they generated. The 3rd period had every right to be a boring turtle with the teams playing it out so they could hotfoot it to the airport but it was fairly entertaining instead.
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was a +40/-59, heavily score effected of course. SOGs in all situations also favored Chicago 36-23. It’s easy to look at this and say the Avs got lucky then got their asses handed to them on the shot board but there’s not a lot else they could do. At 5v5 they scored 2 goals on 6 shots (and a scant 0.30 xGF) in the first period and 2 goals on 7 shots (0.56 xGF) in the 2nd. This is where I have to argue with people that say Colorado is riding a shooting percentage bubble. What are they supposed to do, take a whole bunch of wild shots so their numbers don’t look so crazy? It’s not their fault they score so easily. Like I always say, shooting percentage doesn’t cause goals. It’s the other way around. Shot pace at 5v5 was a casual 109 per hour, mainly because the Avs turned off the volume 5 minutes into the game.
Makar’s PPG gave them a solid 1/3 night. The Hawks only drew one call, basically because De Haan fell down near PEB, and the PK killed it off.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were… really interesting and further proof that the staff checked out of this one early in prep for the rematch. Nichushkin led followed by Mack, O’Connor, Kadri, Pebbles and Donskoi. In all situations it was Mack (18+), Nuke (17+), Compher (17), Kadri (17), Donskoi (17) and O’Connor (16+). Sheldon Dries was low man in his season debut at just over 10 minutes.
The defensive regime went Big Z, Sam, Makar, Cole then a gap down to Rosen and Graves. Overall it was Z (23), Sam (22+), Makar (19+), Cole (19), Graves (16+) and Rosen (16). Very even usage for the most part and everyone should be well rested this evening.
– The conversations about MacKinnon winning the Hart Trophy are heating up and with good reason. With all the injuries this Fall he has regularly put the team on his back and dragged them to seemingly improbable wins. It felt like a fairly quiet night for Mack, only 2 shots on goal in 18 minutes, then you look at the scoresheet and he had a goal and 3 assists. Just another ho-hum 4-point evening. He’s 5th in the league in points, goals and assists and 2nd only to Ovie in shots on goal, averaging nearly 5 per game. That’s hot.
– The narrative on Valery Nichushkin this year has been that he was a gold mine just waiting to be discovered. Freed from the expectations of being a 10th overall pick in Dallas, the skill would eventually shine through and the Avs would finally get that reclamation project success they’ve chased for over a decade. I didn’t buy in and I’m still very skeptical but the last few games have given me pause. He’s a good forechecker, skates well, reasonably solid defensively. The skill has started to show through over the last few games though. After an assist in game 2 of the season he went through a long drought that lasted until the Calgary game last week. Since then he’s had 2G/2A in 5 games. The nice thing is it’s not from a real role change. He’s not scoring because he’s been thrown on the top line (like the staff tried last month for a minute), he’s just been grinding it out on the 3rd line like he has most of the season. Now he’s scoring too. Last night’s breakaway was quick, skilled and made Duncan Keith’s lower body explode. I doubt he’s got another 40 points in him this season but if he can throw down like that once in a while and get to 30+ it’s a big win.
– The Avs defense crafted a masterpiece vs Edmonton on Wednesday. The pairs & roles the staff put on the ice were effective in ways we haven’t seen all year. What I don’t understand is why they went away from what worked there and back to some things that didn’t help. Z and Makar together shut McDavid and Draisaitl right down. Yesterday they were split apart with Z having an ok night with Sam and Makar dealing with Ryan Graves’ flaws. I get that the staff have trust issues with Rosen in his 2nd game for the team but he and Cole were tragic. Nobody plays well with Cole for the most part but making a rookie deal with that is unfortunate. Sam Girard has looked revitalized since EJ’s injury. I hate it because I’ve always been a big fan of EJ’s but it’s pretty clear that his effects on Sam over the last couple months were non-positive. It’s a pipe dream but when he returns I’d love to see the staff keep them apart. Bench Cole, put EJ with Graves and keep the top 4 like it was vs Edmonton. There’s a good chance that’s the most effective defensive lineup they can put out there.
– Backup goalies tend to get slightly easier matchups and their stat lines sometimes shine a bit brighter than the starters. Pavel Francouz tends to face more shots than Grubi does but not as much in the quality department. He does very well against volume, not as much against quality. That’s fine, that’s why Grubi is the #1. This is a really good tandem, perhaps the best the Avs have had since Varly and JSG in the miracle year. Frankie made some pretty incredible saves last night to keep the game from getting interesting again and his proficiency vs volume was just what the team needed while giving up 36 shots on goal to the Hawks. Well done.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) sure, but mainly a team effort night
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) neither
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) it was ok again
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) they sort of turtled for most of the first two periods but came on strong in P3
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) great game for Frankie
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) I loved the way this game was called, very lassaiz faire. The only issue they had to mitigate was Shaw’s shitbirdiness and it was taken care of.
A sea of red shirts at the Pepsi Center to-nite.
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals