What a game. This was like the playoffs minus all the grinding and gooning or put another way, like a good playoff game. Someday we’ll figure out how to get truly riveting hockey back in the final two rounds and it’s going to look a lot like last night. The Avs are the top scoring team in the league 5v5 but scored on the PP, PK and empty net to seal this one. Variety is the spice of life.
Matt Calvert was activated off injured reserve and joined the lineup for the first time in 6 games. Landy and Burky are on the trip and could play in Montreal or Boston. Burky is active already, Gabe returning would require a roster move. Grubi started the front half of the b2b.
Donskoi – Mack – Mikko
Nieto – Kadri – Compher
Nichushkin – PEB – Calvert
Tynan – Jost – LOC
Big Z – Sam
Graves – Makar
Cole – Rosen
Scratch: Barbs, Kamenev (sick), Burakovsky (UBI)
Injured: Landy, EJ, Willie (all LBI)
There were mostly long stretches of momentum for each team. Colorado dominated early in both the 1st and 2nd periods with Toronto taking over late in both. The 3rd was a horrendous 4 minute power play followed by the PK that produced the winning goal. After that it was a total turtle until Donskoi finally sealed it.
Tale of the tape was a +50/-52 for the Avs and TML held the advantage in SOG in all situations 39-30. Quality was pretty much dead even at +1.75 (and no goals) with the Leafs at 1.76 (and only 1 goal). That said, the Avs developed that with just 33 unblocked shots while Toronto needed 42 to match it. Looking at expected goals per unblocked shot, the Avs had a pretty significant advantage which is a bit out of the ordinary. The much maligned play in the d-zone did a good job limiting quality against and basically one mistake was all Toronto could get past Grubauer. Shot pace at 5v5 was a reasonable 120 per hour.
The one 5v4 play the Avs know, Mikko to Mack through the royal road, worked on their first chance. The double minor early in P3 was the usual poor zone entries and standing around miasma. 1-for-3 is fine, expecting more is silly. The PK killed their single chance and produced the game-winning goal so that’s pretty strong.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Mikko, Donskoi, Nichushkin, Compher and Bellemare. In all situations it was Mack (21), Donskoi (19+), Mikko (19), Nuke (17+), Kadri (17+) and Compher (17). Tynan was low man 5v5 at 6:55 and O’Connor was 12th overall at 7:30 and no special teams time.
The defensive regime went Sam, Z, Makar, Graves then a gap to Cole and Rosen. Overall it was Makar (23+), Sam (22), Z (22), Graves (20), Cole (16+) and Rosen (12). Like O’Connor, Rosen did not participate in special teams.
– I keep wondering whether a month from now we’ll look back at Nichushkin’s play of late as just a hot streak. Something has clicked, he’s confident and quick and more skilled than a bottom 6er should be. Dallas tried several times to get this kind of play out of him and it never materialized. Maybe it’s maturity. If indeed the Avs staff has unlocked his talent by putting him in a solid role and proper instruction then good on them.
– Last night’s usage/effectiveness was eerily similar to what we saw over the past two years with the Mack line dominating then the Bellemare line being the trusty vet/grind line like when Carl Soderberg was around. The Kadri line was awful, although each player had moments away from each other. The 4th line was an afterthought and looked like it. Obviously with Gabe and Burky back that’s going to be much different but it was interesting to see that JB’s strategy still favors this sort of setup.
– Putting Cale Makar back with Ryan Graves seems forced, especially after what he and Zadorov pulled off vs Edmonton. I like Graves but he’s kind of the black sheep in the top 4 right now and it seems like he’s holding Makar back to an extent. Perhaps not supporting him in the way that best leverages his talent is a better way to put it. Either way, it’s not optimum. Given EJ’s deleterious effects on Sam Girard getting him back won’t solve this issue. Avs fans are going nuts on the prospect of trading for Taylor Hall but cleaning up some of the personnel issues on the blueline seems to be a clearer need. Like everyone else Calle Rosen looked better away from Ian Cole but he’s sort of buried now and his TOI keeps decreasing. Not a good sign. I think the Avs are probably one move away from being the Stanley Cup favorite and for my money replacing Cole with someone that can handle the puck and harder minutes better is the ticket.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) Nuke is now one of our best guys
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) quantity ok, quality better than usual
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) poquito bueno, mucho malo
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) oh yeah, this was a big one
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) great game for Grubi and the D helped him out for a change
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (+) very nice, low-event game as far as calls go and that’s what we like
A trip to Montreal to play the Habs tonight
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals