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Nicolas Meloche shines in disappointing 5-2 Colorado Avalanche loss to Anaheim Ducks

Justus Annunen was hung out to dry and Josh Anderson tried to get an early shower.

NHL: Preseason-Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nicolas Meloche (59) during a preseason hockey game against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Avalanche defeated the Wild 4-1.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche lose their second Rookie Tournament game in as many days. After a 7-6 thriller that went the way of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Baby Avs took to the ice against the Anaheim Ducks and lost a tight game that got away from the team late by a final score of 5-2.

First and foremost, thank you to Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview on Twitter) for all the video clips of the game. He does great work on Twitter and Youtube, and his videos for this preseason rookie tournament game on a Sunday in September were invaluable.

Sunday’s loss revealed a lot about some of the prospects the Avalanche have in their system. To begin, Josh Anderson did not have a good game. He got stripped by the Ducks during an odd-man rush in the third that essentially ended the game. To make matters worse, Anderson allowed that moment to get into his head and he spent the rest of the evening trying to run Ducks rookies and start shoving matches after whistles. He got into a fight late in the third with former Leafs prospect Nicolas Mattinen.

I understand that Anderson plays a physical game, but this performance was a clear example of when toeing the line can get away from you. It’s very easy to have that Canadian Major Junior style of game get away from you when you hit the AHL. You feel like you want to fight every player who annoys you in order to develop a cred of being tough enough. Before you know it, you go from being a big third-round pick with promise to Andrew Nielsen. I’m still giving Anderson the benefit of the doubt, this was just a preseason rookie tournament game, after all.

Nicolas Meloche is one of the older players in the tournament, but nonetheless, he looked terrific. He was creating plays through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone consistantly, as well as being the best defenseman on the Avalanche by a mile at the other end. His skating has improved, as well as his positional awareness, which is always a good sign. He is another player who should be interesting to watch with the AHL Colorado Eagles.

Justus Annunen got the start for the Avalanche in this game, and in general, he was good. I barely noticed him in the game, which can only mean good things for goaltenders. He made a few good stops and kept his team in the game for the most part. Anaheim peppered Colorado with shots all night and Annunen kept his team in it all the way until the end. Just watch the highlights, the coverage in the defensive zone was trash (which is what you should expect from tournaments like these, I guess).

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

First Period

The first period between these two teams was scoreless, and generally uninteresting. The Avalanche were given a power play after drawing an interference call in the offensive zone, but that came to nought. The 5v4 group was completely ineffective at getting any zone time, let along shots on net. The power play being bad for the Avs was a theme for the entire game, so I guess we can chalk that up to a lack of chemistry. Meloche, Ty Lewis, and Brandon Saigeon all looked good, but there was no coheisiveness in the group. The best chances came when players like Igor Shvyrev and Martin Kaut went in on their own and tried to go at it junior-style.

Defensively, the team was good, but the Ducks were able to break the group down for an etended stretch in the offensive zone in the middle of the period and left the period with a commanding 13-6 shot differential after one.

And that’s when everything eploded...

Second Period

Sean Strange, an undrafted camp invitee by the Avs gets the puck caught up in his skates and gets thrown to the ice by Ducks seventh-rounder Tyler Soy. Soy sauces a pass to Max Comtois, who beats a helpless Annunen five-hole.

It was this kind of night for Annunen, the defense core for the Avs beyond a few guys are not only young, but not that great. Annunen did his best to steal some goals from the Ducks, but he was frankly overwhelmed by the shear quality of chances against.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

The Avalanche were able to get it back in quick succession when Michael Joly, a 23-year-old ECHLer who helped the Eagles win the Kelly Cup, burst in alone and was able to get a high shot on Lukas Dostal, in the ensuing maylay, Saigeon banged the rebound home on the power play.

This goal was pretty much the only way the power play was able to get any offense going. The Ducks sent two forwards deep into the offensive zone on a 2-on-2, they were quickly caught and that gave the Avs an easy 4-on-2 that simply overwhelmed the defensemen who were caught back.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

The Avs then took the lead following some pretty terrible tracking back by the Ducks. amp invitee Kevin Davis from the WHL quickly transitioned a loose puck up to forward cole Reinhart, another WHL talent. The play was cleanly finished off by QMJHL center destined to play at the University of New Brunswick in Canada Matthew Boucher. The players on the fourth line and third pair weren’t great on the night as a whole, but the fact that they combined fora goal is a plus on their ledger.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

Ho boy. Things started to get ugly at about this point.

Strange overskates the puck while tracking back on a 2-on-3 that’s almost a 3-on-3 rush. He nearly gets the puck and denies the zone entry, it would’ve been better if he was able to push forward a little more and slow or stop the zone entry closer to the blueline. Unfortunately he doesn’t.

While Strange is battling for the puck, Troy Terry sees that girl at the Stanley Cup Final in Vegas who flashed the Capitals near the penalty boxes and completely goes for a walk out of the play. Poor Davis is left all alone to defend a 1-on-3. He and Annunen obviously can’t stop the Ducks attack and Jack Kopacka scores to tie the game.

Bush league.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

You know this play is doomed from the beginning the moment you see both defenseman skating forwards into their own zone and no forwards for miles. Meloche tries to throw the puck out of the zone, but partner Alex Breton cuts the pass off and skates into the defensive zone. He is immediately knocked off the puck, leaving Meloche to defend a 2-on-1 from below the faceoff dots.

Annunen tries to make a game-stealing save, but he can’t quite reach the puck with his glove, and the Avs find themselves down for the seocnd and final time in this game.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

Following the theme of the game, a lot of the top players tried to do everything on their own and almost show off. First-round pick Martin Kaut was one of those players. He consistantly took shots from all over the ice whenever he got the puck and it was rarely effective. He seemed rushed and adamant that he be the one to score and pad his stats.

Speaking on Kaut, I remember one play in the third where the team was on the power play. He got a pass from behind the net to the far end of the faceoff circle. As a right shot deperately lunging left, Kaut tried to get the shot off and beat the goalie from what was almost the half-boards. It looked downright careless. The play obviously failed and the puck was cleared, killing the penalty. As Nick Fury once said, “It’s that kind of stuff that gives me trust issues.”

Third Period

The game was pretty close up until this goal was scored. It started so promising with the four Avs going up against three Ducks, but the back-checking Duck forwards stripped Josh Anderson of the puck right as he was trying to shoot, went back the other way on a 2-on-1 and scored the brace goal for Anaheim.

Courtesy: Nathan Rudolph (@AvalancheReview)

I’m inclined to give Anderson the benefit of the doubt on this play, but his windup and shot was very slow, especially considering the speed at which the forwards were crashing the net, get that puck on net! I also didn’t like how he reacted to the goal in the final half period of the game.

For every shift following that goal, Anderson went after a player on the Ducks, looking for a fight. He went after Mattinen after this blindside hit where Anderson wasn’t even looking to get the puck. And then following the 4-2 goal, he went after Hunter Drew on the Ducks and the two finally dropped the gloves.

More Notes

  • Power play was crap.
  • With Anderson in the bo, the Avs had to kill their one and only penalty of the game. They did a generally good job with it, preventing the Ducks from getting anything going. Nice.
  • Meloche continues to impress. Showed great puck control at blueline, dropping a guy while walking backwards across the line before continuing around the net and setting up a chance. He is eactly what you want in a modern-day defenseman.
  • Ducks score a empty-net goal with two minutes left, essentially ending the game.
  • Final shots: 29-37