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Tyson Barrie was huge for the Colorado Avalanche during Erik Johnson’s suspension

With their top defender out, Tyson Barrie was able to pick up the slack for the Avalanche

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When the Colorado Avalanche lost Erik Johnson to a two-game suspension earlier this week, it looked like the team was going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble. Johnson is the team’s undisputed leader on the blueline. He gets more ice time per game than anyone else in the NHL and is relied upon to play all the tough minutes for the Avs.

The idea of playing two games without EJ was a scary proposition, but the Avs were able to come away with three of a possible four points - and the main reason was Tyson Barrie.

Barrie was huge in both games and was able to step up in a way that was surprising to some.

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Tyson Barrie was being badly underappreciated by a segment of the Avalanche fan base. The idea got some backlash - which was unsurprising. The idea that Tyson Barrie is incredibly valuable to this team is a thought that some just won’t accept, regardless of how he performs.

In the two games without Johnson, Barrie contributed in two very different ways. He was their best offensive player in one and their best defensive player in the other.

In the team’s 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, Barrie kicked in two of the four - putting him at the top of the NHL for points/gp by a defender. This was the kind of game that we expect when Barrie has a big game. He’s an elite offensive defender and has the ability to pick up the slack when the forwards aren’t scoring.

What was probably more impressive is the way Barrie performed Thursday night. The Avs lost in overtime, but they left Los Angeles with a point, largely due to Tyson Barrie’s play.

For most of the game, the Avalanche were great defensively, containing the Kings and limiting them to 16 shots on net for the first 50 minutes of the game. Barrie was the catalyst for .this

With 26:23 minutes played, Barrie led the team in ice time by a good margin. He had more than 22 minutes of even strength ice time and a large portion of them came against Anze Kopitar and the King’s top line. In those 5v5 minutes, Barrie had a 60.53 CF%, one of his best performances of the season. He was a +8 in shot attempts while on the ice and did an incredible job of containing the King’ .attack

It would have been nice for the Avs to hold on the lead, but they left LA with a point and are likely very happy to finish 1-0-1 without EJ in the lineup. The team played well in both of the games and Tyson Barrie was the main reason why. He gave us a glimpse of what can happen when he is the team’s #1 defenseman, and I’d say he more than exceeded expectations.