Hockey is finally back. And nothing is more welcoming than Mark Rycroft saying “Mikko Rantanen is going to be the Avs’ next 50 goal-scorer.” Gotta love hometown hot takes!
(I really hope he’s right)
Moving on though, there’s really no reading into this atrocious score from a team standpoint. The preseason is a chance to get a look at individual players and potential line combinations, and with that in mind, let’s take you through it.
The Avalanche had a rough start after the MacKinnon line came off the ice and the JT Compher line came off. The Golden Knights held the puck in their offensive zone not only through the second line’s shift, but through the next line’s as well. There were miscommunications and mistakes out the wazoo.
Mason Geertsen furthered the woes by taking a highsticking penalty a quarter of the way into the penalty. The PK looked excellent, led by Compher and Matt Calvert, who were absolutely tenacious. However, when the second unit came on Brandon Pirri scored to give Vegas an early lead at 6:05.
Jon Merrill gave the Avs a power play after a holding penalty just a bit later. The Avalanche were unable to convert, yet they had a few good chances. At this point the game started to tip in Colorado’s favor, catching up in shot differential. Unsurprisingly, the Avs’ top line was the clear driver of this.
The period ends with the Golden Knights still on top, though the shots ended even at 9-9.
To kick off the first period, the Golden Knights got their second goal via Erik Brannstrom. The Avalanche were pretty sluggish to start the period yet again, but the game woke up a bit when Nick Henry went on a breakaway and nearly scored. Shortly thereafter, Vegas had a breakaway of their own, yet Varlamov stopped it cold.
Things calmed down quite a bit, yet the odds were still in Vegas’s favor (sorry I had to). Suddenly though at around the 12 minute mark, the Avs started to really kick it in gear. The Calvert - Compher - Logan O’Connor line led the charge, holding it in the Knights’ zone for a long time and getting some good hard-fought shots on net.
The Brandon Saigon line continued to squeeze Vegas, and despite some nice chances the Avalanche couldn’t put it in the net. Unfortunately Geertsen took a stupid cross-checking penalty at 16:16 to spoil the traction the Avs started to get.
The Golden Knights got some quality shots, and even one off the post. They converted right at the end of the penalty on an Alex Tuch redirection shot.
Vegas stayed on top by the end, leading the score 3-0 and the shots 24-18.
The Avalanche made a goaltender change at the period start, putting in Spencer Martin. The commentators said this would likely happen at the beginning of the game, so this wasn’t an indictment on Varly’s play.
The game really opened up at this point, with guys skating around nearly uninhibited. Now this is the kind of hockey I like. The Avs finally got a goal to get on the board. Tyson Barrie received the puck off of a faceoff in the offensive zone, and he floated the puck over to Ryan Graves. Graves blasted it into the net off of a one-timer to cut the lead to two.
The Avalanche caught a significant break when a Golden Nights skater blew a tire (or was tripped, I couldn’t tell) on a mini-breakaway and flubbed the opportunity. After some regular back-and-forth, Spencer Martin was hung out to dry by his defense, with a Vegas player totally walking in all alone on the netminder.
And Martin stopped it with a flashy glove save. Huh. Defense needs to do much better. Well they didn’t, because after a behind-the-net pass from Alex Tuch to a wide-open R Duke, the Avalanche found themselves behind by three goals.
The bonanza didn’t end there. Graves was forced to try to defend a two-on-one, but he couldn’t stop the score. Paul Stastny took the puck in deep, and passed it just under Graves’ stick to Erik Haula, who put it in the net. Vegas Golden Knights now up 5-1.
Reid Duke tripped Saigeon (and somehow accidentally threw his stick across the rink) at 18:48. The Avs couldn’t convert, leaving the score alone at 5-1. The shots end up with Vegas on top 30-25.
- The MacKinnon line dominated (obviously), despite not showing up on the scoreboard.
- The second line of Calvert, Compher, and O’Connor actually turned some heads. While starting off the game with a subpar performance on the defensive side of the puck, this line actually turned into one of the game’s best lines. Both Calvert and O’Connor had three shots each, and they weren’t garbage shots from bad areas. Rather, they were setting each other up nicely and using their speed to generate good chances.
- Semyon Varlamov looked good despite giving up three goals. Two of them can’t really be blamed on him, and the third was during a screen and somehow snuck through. Really, the problem was the defense. Speaking of which...
- The defense was pretty bad. The goaltender was left out to dry more than a few times, and it was mostly due to the bottom two pairings (as well as some of the forwards flubbing defensive responsibilities). One big culprit was Geertsen, who would unnecessarily jump into the offensive zone prematurely a few times, leaving Barrie behind to defend alone because the winger hadn’t had time to adjust. Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this picture? Besides that, he took two bad penalties, particularly the cross-checking one, both resulting in goals.
- A bright spot though was the Erik Johnson and Ian Cole pairing. EJ looked back to normal, which is to say, he was playing quite well. Cole also had a nice game himself.
The Avalanche take on the hated Minnesota Wild on Saturday the 22nd at 4:00 PM MDT, broadcasted on the NHL Network.