The Colorado Avalanche came back from the holiday break a little on the sluggish side, falling in a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes after getting caught flat-footed at home.
While the Coyotes dished up a disappointing result on Wednesday, though, they helped Colorado out a bit two nights later - with a wild, hard-fought second game in two days against Toronto on Thursday, the desert dogs tired out Colorado’s Friday night opponent just enough to help them eke out a win to start their weekend.
It was nice seeing Calvin Pickard again, but the two points the Avalanche picked up against him was probably a bit nicer.
The game couldn’t have been more back-and-forth in nature, with both teams handing off streaks of possession and tossing scoring back and forth to match.
Things started off heavily in Colorado’s favor, as the Leafs struggled to get their feet moving after a game last night.
The Avalanche would score first as a result, with Gabriel Landeskog forcing a turnover halfway up the ice and chipping the puck to an all-too-eager MacKinnon:
The Leafs took over not long after, though, dominating possesion for the back end of the first frame and carrying their advantage over into most of the second period. They tied it up just three minutes after MacKinnon opened up scoring - on a Matt Martin goal, of all things. A puck sent behind the net was chipped back in front, and the depth forward was able to capitalize and tally his third of the season.
Mikko Rantanen extended his point streak to eight games (and counting) with the third goal of the night, putting Colorado back in front with his twelfth of the season. So naturally, Roman Polak scored next - and the back-and-forth continued, with both goaltenders only holding on enough to keep the game close.
The third period would see one more goal per team once again, with Alexander Kerfoot getting number 10 of the year and James van Riemsdyk getting number 17.
Kerfoot capitalized on some confusion in front of the net, when the Leafs defense collapsed inward in an attempt to get Colorado’s net-front presence away from Pickard. In doing so, though, they allowed an easy cross-ice pass from Nikita Zadorov (who was solid as he filled in the hole left by Tyson Barrie) to hit Kerfoot’s stick right on the tape, and the traffic in front of the net screened Pickard just enough that Kerfoot had an easy goal on a wide-open net to the goaltender’s left.
Ironically enough, van Riemsdyk was the only goal scorer for Toronto that most would have expected to get on the board.
With Pickard pulled in the final minutes of the game, the Leafs controlled the play down by Colorado’s end. Some quick passing around the Avalanche managed to see Morgan Rielly center a shot in front of Varlamov - who didn’t retreat back to his goal line, instead trying to tighten his butterfly to seemingly prevent a five-hole shot.
When van Riemsdyk managed to corral the puck on his stick, he was able to easily maneuver around Varlamov’s right skate and tap one in to tie things up.
In overtime, Colorado dominated the play, getting off four shots to Toronto’s one before slipping one past Pickard to ruin his season debut.
And with that, scene; Colorado had overcome their tough Wednesday night outing, and they’re now back in the win column.
- Pickard allowed four goals on 28 shots (translation: Not Ideal), but looked perfectly fine in his first game back in the NHL in about nine months. The Leafs were inconsistent at best and downright defensively inept at times at worst, and he managed to help them eke out an extra point on the night. We know he’s gone, and it’s time to stop dwelling - but it’s still nice to see him getting a shot to get back on his skates this year.
- It really can’t be understated just how much this is Nathan MacKinnon’s year. He’s having himself an excellent season, both from a scoring perspective and from a playmaking angle. He’s been dominant when it comes to turning the play around, finding teammates, and being relentless in his drives to the net. Last year, he seemed a little unaware of how to just put fear in the hearts of goaltenders - but that seems well and gone now.
- At the start of the season, we complained (more than a little bit) about the Avalanche special teams, but there really needs to be a medal given out for the penalty kill unit this year. 30 consecutive penalties have been killed and counting, which is absolutely unreal; Varlamov and Bernier have been good, but not that good. That’s on the penalty killing units, and that’s something that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
- Nikita Zadorov was pretty good, y’all.
Finally, going to shamelessly plug the nice guys over at Colorado Hockey and AvsFam for a moment.
After getting a chance to go on their podcast last month, they offered to send me a Calvin Pickard t-shirt that I liked - and it’s pretty dope. I wore it tonight. (I may have jinxed him. Sorry, Picks!)
Anyways, I’m sure plenty of you already know about them, but if not, check out the Avs Fam store if you like punny hockey shirts that are actually made super well and won’t create the ‘chest-plate’ design, as they described on their site.