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Varly and the Avs Handle the Senators

Varly stood tall and the Avs limited quality shot to produce a tough victory.

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Colorado vs. Ottawa

Here we go ladies and gentleman, a good ole fashioned afternoon-y game. Should be fun.

Drinking Update: Not sure yet, I’ll update later.

Period 1:

Ottawa collapsed in their game last night; I agree with McNabb that it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. And a penalty. Holden got called for Holding. HOLDEN GOT CALLED FOR HOLDING! HAHA HA. Ha. ha. ha L

The Ottawa PP is interesting and by that I mean it’s Karlsson. Just Karlsson. The first minute was pretty fully of nothingness. Ottawa had the puck in the zone but the Senators are very good at moving the puck around.

After the PP ended Barrie got buried behind his own net. HA x 2!!! Regardless, good PK by the Avs. At the 15 minute-left mark, MacKinnon stripped Karlsson twice but the puck just rolled off the Avs’ sticks. On the transition, Bobby Ryan and the Senators got a 3 on 1 and Bobby Ryan ripped a shot high and wide, thankfully. The impressive transition play from the Senators began to show.

With about 12 minutes left, MacKinnon’s line found some really jump and MacK made one of those amazing, blind passes to space where Holden found himself naturally in position. Sadly, Holden’s shot was deflected out.

Halfway through the period, and was it a slow period for both teams, the Senators had more jump and the Avs looked sluggish. Duchene, though, had a step on Phillips who clearly interfered with him, in my opinion, but no call. Duchene thought it was a call as well. Again, the refs hate me, us, and Duchene.

With 5 minutes left, the Avs got a little scramble-y and Ottawa had a dangerous chance but the Senator shot the puck just wide. The shot totals have been absurdly low in this period – a very defensive game so far.

At the 2 minute mark, Duchene’s line finally gained penetration into the zone and as Duchene was given a bad pass, Bobby Ryan was covering him like a blanket, but Duchene pulled the puck into his skates, initiated contact with Ryan behind him to keep him off, and then skated away. A very impressive play by Duchene, extremely Forsbergian.

Period over. Not the best period, but definitely not the worst.

Systems Summary: Everyone looked like their were clenching their cheek in an effort not to, well, you know. It was actually too slow and methodical to give a good systems analysis. The Avs had only a few shifts with speed through the neutral zone but their game was a bit suffocated from starting off with a penalty, but that is no excuse. The only interesting this I saw is that Ottawa runs a 1-2-2 forecheck and twice (once Guenin, once Holden) instead of having the center circle back for a forecheck, they would fire it as hard as possible from behind the net up to the natural zone. It didn’t work either time, but I wonder if this was a way to just cut the forecheck down. I want to monitor this.

Period 2:

Drinking Update: Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I need the peat to wake me up and hopefully the Avs as well!!! I am somewhat to moderately convinced that is how things work.

TANGET 1: Roy is wearing the same tie as the one during the Jets game. Dude, you are Patrick Roy. Get more ties.

20 seconds in saw Duchene skate around the defense and get a partially breakaway but on his cut in on the defenseman the shot went high.

Michalek followed that up with a breakaway of his own but Johnson made a great play to tie up Michalek without taking a penalty. Ottawa began to get some good pressure and the MacKinnon line was stuck out there too long. The Senators took advantage and got a quick change and found space into the zone. Varly ended up only needing to stop a pretty weak shot.

About 4 minutes in, the game seemed to open up a bit. The Senators came into the Avs zone with some nifty passing and as the puck was shot for a tip in the crease. The puck, Varly, the Senators and all the Kings I mean Avs men slid to the left as Spezza found the puck for a wraparound. Somehow a combination of Johnson and a sprawling Varly kept the puck out.

MacKinnon’s line took the puck in transition into the zone and after some goal line work, Landeskog fed Holden in front who just missed the net.

Did I same the game opened up? Well that means the defense opened up in the form of holes. The Avs were somewhat pinned in their own zone, just a little, on the right boards and the puck was passed out to a wide open Ceci who, guess what, missed wide.

As the Avs gained possession and passed into the zone the Avs had a weird change where the puck game to Landeskog’s skate. He played it but there was too many men. Bad communication and now the PK needed to step up.

The PK started off great with Talbot outmuscling Karlsson and feeding Cliché in front who missed wide. But it was a shorthanded miss wide! So that counts I think. The first minute and half of the Power Play was pretty dead with no real chances except for Bobby Ryan trying a behind the legs shot however as the Power Play expired Michalek walk down the left side and Varly flashed some special leather to make the save. Even Varly was energized after that.

The Power Play absolutely tipped the shot scale but my eye-test (not meant to be snarky) tells me this was a more even game than it seemed. Varly has only been tested once, maybe twice and everything else has been mostly harmless (BOOM Goldeneye reference).

However, though the game may have been even, the Senators offense seemed to gain a step. They began to cycle more, find space, and start producing shots close to the hashmarks.

Roy put out a make-sift 4th line which managed to get some good deep zone pressure. The result was a Senators icing which gave Roy a chance to get a good matchup. Duchene’s line came out but the Senators cleared away any worry, unfortunately.

TANGENT 2: Okay what? There is an Avs jersey on the screen that is number 91 with a C. Am I an idiot is this weird?

With 7 minutes left, McGinn was the odd recipient of a statue of liberty play that resulted in two great shots. However, no goals. GIMME GOALS!

On the same shift Duchene found an opening on the right side and as he cuts in and MacArthur needs to be suspended. He targets the head. That’s bullshit. He even raised his elbow. Fuck that shit. [Hyperbole alert]

Johnson had an awful, unlucky however, shift. He made great moves to deke the fore-checkers but then couldn’t get space to pass then had his pass flub and right onto a Senators stick. Fortunately the Senators shot went………….. wide.

With under 5 minutes left, the Duchene line got a little pinned on a long shift by some good Ottawa pressure in the neutral zone and transition but the Avs were clearly out of gas. Some forwards were able to change and Bordy hopped on. The puck bounced out to the left side boards and Duchene led Benoit out of the zone who led a 3 on 2 with the most unfathomable combination of players of all time to have on a 3 on 2: Benoit, Talbot, Bordeleau. Really? Anyway. Benoit passed to Bordy who gave it back to Benoit at the hashmarks and beats Lehner in the top corner. NOT A SHOT THAT MISSED WIDE!!! Great job by the Avs and a tired Duchene. 1-0 Avs.

The neutral zone seemed to open like the Red Sea after the goal, as expected, and the Senators forced Varly to make a very pretty, yet somewhat scary kick save but the rebound went to an Avs. The same thing happened again and this time the puck came right to Barrie who took the puck on the following shift into the zone. Duchene’s line had great movement but Lehner smothered the point shot.

TANGENT 3: What ungodly version of drunken sailor did the arena just play?

With under 30 second left the Duchene line found their legs and O’Reilly had a nice give and go with Duchene but Duchene couldn’t get a shot off. Period over.

Systems Summary: The Avs still looked sluggish but a lot of that I think was due to them reacting to the Senators very tight defense and neutral zone defense. Of note, they do not implore a trap at all. They attack aggressively in the zone to force either (1) a turnover or (2) a forced dump by the other team. That’s why we saw the Senators defense constantly have the puck in their own zone at the top of the circles. It has a similar effect of a trap but it’s primary goal, I think, is to allow the Ottawa defenders to get the puck and start their own mini-break out from the middle of their zone.

As well, the shot totals are scary bad but I really don’t think the game was that one-sdied. But in the end, Varly had to be huge. This is one of the games where I think the Avs ability to limit quality shots has made Varly’s life easier and make the shot differential less about the amount and more about the quality. However, I admit that 20 shots in one period is fucking terrifying, regardless. The Avs defense looks tense but not lethargic.

DISCUSSION POINT 1: The NHL calculated in the first two periods that the shots were 24 to 12 for the Senators but the scoring chances were 7 to 6 for the Avs. Discuss please.

Period 3:

20 second in the puck deflected off the boards behind Varly, off Holden and through Varly’s leg, but the puck sneaked wide.

At 17:41ish Greening managed to get a breakaway right in front of Varly and Cliché took him down but no call. Then Neil got called for delay of game for closing his hand on the puck. That was a lucky series of events but I don’t care: Power Play time.

MacArthur almost scored a shorthanded goal before the Avs even knew what was happening. Duchene then brought the puck into the zone, had to use a spin move to get away from the defender. Johnson took the puck down low and passed to O’Reilly. The entire Avs unit began moving and circling. O’Reilly passed down low to Duchene at the bottom of the circle as McGinn cut into the box at the hashmarks. This entire time Holden had snuck down to the far post uncovered. Duchene makes a deft pass to feed McGinn but Ceci was there to slide and block it. McGinn, instead of staying where he was, went to the puck and passed through the crease to an open Holden who had just pushed Michalek out of the way at the right time and Holden taps it in. 2-0 Avs.

The Avs began to use their speed to pen up the game. They had some great rushes but on defense they were solid. Ottawa was using a lot of East-West passes to spread out the Avs and it worked pretty well but the Avs’ defense was there.

Cliché’ line with Talbot had a spectacular and grinding shift in the Ottawa zone. It exhausted the 2nd paring of the Senators and resulted in a great chance for Cliché that went high.

TANGET 4: There’s that 91 Avs jersey again. What is that?

With under 10 minutes left, the Senators began to circle in the neutral zone looking for lanes. They are a patient team, I will give them that and this time it worked as Bobby Ryan was able to find a lane and get a good shot but Varly smothered it.

For about 3 minutes the Avs played a great series of shifts. They kept pressure in the Ottawa zone, they had a few chances, nothing to write home or a blog about, but nice chances. However it ticked off time and it kept the Senators tired. With under 7 left, the Senators got a break and a 3 on 2/3 on 3. They are a good odd man rush team for sure and somehow Bobby Ryan again found himself with speed on the off side but Varly got his glove on it to make the stop.

The Karlsson line came out next and I say that because he was basically the entire team. He had about three shots, stopped at least two clears, and looked like the only dangerous player. The following shift saw Landeskog make a great play, which ended up with a 2 on 1. The Senators defender was in great position to stop the pass and Mitchell had to take a shot that was deflected out of the rink.

Then, Karlsson just managed to speed around Johnson into the zone, Johnson who admittedly had to turn extremely quickly, was able to get a stick on Karlsson before he could get a shot off.

Under 4 minutes left, the Senators went into Anaheim Ducks cherry picking mode. Didn’t work. On the next shift the Senators took the puck behind their net to start a break out. Spezza swung low with speed and headed up. He cut into the neutral zone with a ton of speed but was smothered at the Avs line by Johnson and the Avs’ center. Johnson quickly moved the puck and eventually Landeskog skated into the zone on the left side. The Avs kept the puck down low and MacKinnon quickly spun it behind the net to Landy who fed a perfectly placed Mitchell who this time made the right choice to shoot. Best part of the goal? MacKinnon’s corgi hop after the goal. [GIMME .GIF NOW PLEASE!!!] What a dork. 3-0 Avs.

Ottawa pulled their goalie with fewer than 2 minutes left. We all knew what we were hoping for but no one should say it. With 40 seconds left a weird bounce put the puck in the crease but it only looked bad to us, Varly don’t care.

With 6 second left, Zbinejad, or however the fuck you spell it, was able to rip a shot over Varly’s shoulder to break up the shutout. Oh well. The win is what matters, we just all want him to get shutouts.

Summary: This was a funny game. The shot totals were disparate, 39 to 22, and Corsi looks even worse. However, I don’t feel the game was as one-sided. I think the Avs came out extremely passive, which was mirrored by the Senators. Ottawa had some jump but the Avs matched them and the 1st was slow. The 2nd saw the Avs back up a bit more than anyone wanted and Ottawa started racking up shots, like a lot. A Power Play helps that. But the Avs kept these shots to the outside as you will see below. The 3rd was very different and the Avs finally found their legs and were able to put home 2 goals. They even pushed in the final 5 minutes to keep the Senators on their heel instead of turtling.

In a game like this, the lack of quality shots for Ottawa made a difference and an easier night for Varly. Ottawa had a bunch down low but I am not sure how many of those were legitimate rebounds.  I am no suggesting this is the best way to win games, but look below. There are very few shots from the high-risk area while the Avs scored all 3 from there and that might be the difference between Lehner and Varly tonight. Look how many shots were from wide out and high in the zone. These aren’t good chances, this is the point I want to make, not the fact that Varly had to make great save. Something to think about when the shot totals are so different but to me the game was pretty even. Take a look:



Three Whores.

3rd Whore: The 3rd line of Cliché/Talbot/McLeod. They probably went unnoticed but man did they do a great job pinning Ottawa’s top lines when the Avs needed it.

2nd Whore: Duchene. He was the Avs best skater all night and looked dangerous. The two goals all began with his play.

1st Whore: Varlamov. He was spectacular as usual. I think he had an "easy" 38 save night and he was there when the Avs needed him.

Dilemma of the night: Chicago vs. Detroit right now.

Next up: Montreal on Tuesday. Jiggy’s last stand?