The Colorado Avalanche extended their perfect record in overtime games to three this season with a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the prolongation. The Avalanche held on for dear life to a 2-1 lead for the entire third period before Cam Atkinson tied the game at 19:53. Prior to that goal, Atkinson amd Columbus got out to a fast start with the Avalanche giving up yet another first period tally at 9:00. Both goals were the familiar story of fortunate bounces that went against the Avalanche but really were initially created by scrambling and soft plays in the defensive zone. The Avalanche roared back in the second period and grabbed the lead with a beautiful give and go at 3:05 between Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie for Barrie’s second goal of the season just as their only power play of the night expired. Erik Johnson got on the board with his first goal of the season at 9:00 in the second period off a great pass from Nathan Mackinnon on a play started by Blake Comeau and Rantanen working hard long the boards and in front of the net. In overtime only 1:49 was needed for Matt Duchene to tip a sizzling pass from Johnson for an easy tap in goal.
While the victory is satisfying, there is a lot to digest from this game. Again, the Avalanche got out to a slow start and gave up the lead and a first period tally. At this point it doesn’t even look like a lack of focus or desire but more playing too tight and cautious. After mostly even play, the Avalanche let the goal deflate them until the beginning of the second period when they came out with a lot more fire and proceeded to earn two scores for their own lead but then went back into a cautious shell where they almost turtled their way to victory if the game had ended seven seconds sooner. It is understandable that the Avalanche need to learn to win and trust in themselves and each other in these tight situations but this will need to get sorted out eventually to truly take the next step as a team and organization.
Keys to the Game
Has AJ Greer earned a spot on this team yet? Greer has gone from entertaining callup to a legitimate player on this team in a week’s time. Greer hasn’t eased into the NHL at all as he already has seen a little time killing penalties and trusted with late third period ice time while holding a slim lead. While the numbers game and his age might push Greer out when Gabe Landeskog eventually returns to the lineup (coach Bednar teased soon but not imminent in his post game press conference), he has already cleared the hurdle of finding a spot after Matt Duchene’s return and put Joe Colborne on the bench for at least a game. Greer was also the only Avalanche player to end the contest with a non-negative Corsi differential (+16/-16) in over 15 minutes of even strength ice time and contributed four shots and three hits to boot. Greer’s future might be uncertain but he’s certainly cemented his place in the hearts of Avalanche fans who appreciate his feistiness and tenacity in moving the puck up the ice.
Speaking of Corsi, the Avalanche gave back some gains they made in this department over the young season as they let Columbus put up 79 even strength shot attempts. Particularly troubling was Tyson Barrie at -22 (+18/-40), Andreas Martinsen and Francois Beauchemin also finished the evening at -20 even strength as well. Wrestling with possession will be one of the key issues this team deals with though the season and nights like tonight will serve as a reminder that positive gains will come with works in progress as well. Dealing with maintaining a lead is one of those works.
Semyon Varlamov was once again solid in net as the two goals against the Avalanche tonight were both bounces with heavy chaos around him. After his slow start Varlamov has rebounded with a 1.8 GAA and .955 save % over his last five outings. The Avalanche will need Varlamov to be strong in net regardless of any gains they make defensively and with possession to have any shot at taking the next step. It is encouraging to see these results in net even if the wins have not always materialized.
Up Next: A meeting with Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers back home at Pepsi Center on Wednesday, November 23rd at 8pm mountain time.