The Colorado Avalanche steamrolled the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night, picking up a decisive 6-1 win over their conference rivals thanks to multi-goal games from both Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert.
Cale Makar scored his first career NHL goal and the team combined to outshoot the Golden Knights 40-26 — but now, coming off of a road game that saw them give their all, the Avalanche will look to get another two points against a much tougher goaltending opponent and on the back end of a back-to-back trip.
The Anaheim Ducks are still a team that very badly needs to overhaul an aging roster, and trading for defender Erik Gudbrandson to fill in for injuries on their blue line probably isn’t a step towards doing that. But the Ducks still have one of the better goaltending duos in the league — so even when teams don’t face John Gibson (as the Avalanche won’t tonight), they still get a never-seeming-to-regress Ryan Miller. In a battle of the backup goaltenders, the Ducks will have experience on their side and plenty of rest — something that could hurt the Avalanche if they don’t take the game seriously.
#Avs lines at practice:— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) October 24, 2019
The Avalanche proved that they’ll survive just fine without Mikko Rantanen when they faced off against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night. In the pre-game, summer addition Nazem Kadri was named as a key to the depth scoring that would be needed with Rantanen’s absence — and sure enough, he chipped in with two goals to help the Avalanche demolish their opponents en route to their eighth win of the very young season.
Other key names that helped show the importance of that supplementary scoring? Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored a goal and contributed with three points in the win, and Matt Calvert, who had two goals of his own. Add in that Cale Makar showed he’s well on pace to help replace the loss of Tyson Barrie in the Nazem Kadri trade, scoring his first career NHL goal, and it’s obvious that the Avalanche have what it takes to bring home the wins.
Keep an eye on the top line, though. Nathan MacKinnon had two assists and he combined with Gabriel Landeskog for seven SOG on Friday night, but neither of the team’s two remaining top offensive contributors managed to find the back of the net against Vegas — and that was with half a game of Marc-Andre Fleury and then 20 minutes of a recently-recalled Garret Sparks.
Gudbranson is skating with Lindholm at the #NHLDucks am skate.— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) October 26, 2019
The Anaheim Ducks were one of the worst teams in professional hockey last year, and their record was only even salvageable because of Vezina-worthy goaltending candidate John Gibson. Their roster is old, overpriced, and was stuck trying to play in a no-longer-effective system under head coach Randy Carlyle until general manager Bob Murray finally caved and gave him the axe.
This year they’re marginally better under new head coach Dallas Eakins, but things still don’t look all that impressive. While Jakob Silfverberg was highly underrated for far too long and Rickard Rakell continues to prove he’s exactly the offensive standout he proved to be a few years ago, the team is also still limping along with supplementary pieces like an aging Ryan Getzlaf and a defensive core that boasts names like Michael Del Zotto and Korbinian Holzer (who, yes, is still playing in the NHL). Add in the addition of Gudbrandson to replace an injured Josh Manson — who has been a surprising bright spot for the team over the last few years — and things aren’t looking great.
The biggest threat the Ducks pose, though, is the element of surprise. They do still have offensive tools in players like Rakell and Nick Ritchie, and they’ve managed to win a handful of games purely by virtue of having stellar goaltending to make up for their ongoing defensive woes.
Both teams will be playing their backups, although neither look poised to give their opponents any kind of a clear-cut win. Pavel Francouz and Ryan Miller both boast 2-0-0 records so far this year — and although Miller has a .919 save percentage to Francouz’s .951, he also has the advantage of plenty of experience on his side. He’s used to playing behind tired and poor defensive-structured teams; for Francouz, this will be the test to see if he’s able to shine as brightly behind a tired lineup as he does on other nights.