It seems like the Avalanche just can’t seem to stay healthy. With injuries to both Cale Makar and starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer during their Saturday night game, they lost two more pivotal players just as their first onslaught of injuries finally seemed healed up.
Luckily, though, their injury spells have given them a chance to show off just how good their depth development has been over the last few seasons. So despite going down a goalie and one of their most promising defensive pieces before the game was over, they took down the high-flying Boston Bruins with a resounding 4-1 win on Saturday afternoon — and moved just two points back of the Central Division’s first-place St. Louis Blues in the process.
trying to follow a hockey game when Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and David Pastrnak are on the ice at the same time pic.twitter.com/CICdQgC5r9— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) December 8, 2019
The Avalanche arrived in Boston on Friday ready to play, with rookie Cale Makar fresh off the heels of a touching Hobey Baker ceremony at UMass on Friday night and the team boasting five straight wins to come out of the American Thanksgiving break.
Makar would ultimately only participate in the first 45 minutes of the game, though, due to a hit along the boards from Boston winger Brad Marchand early in the third period, muting what was ultimately a fairly fast-paced and flukey game for both teams.
The first goal of the night went to Boston, when former Avalanche forward Chris Wagner opened things up against his old team 13 minutes into the first period.
For yet another game, though, Valeri Nichushkin managed to get himself on the board not too long after that. With just three minutes left in the first period, Nichushskin carried the puck into the offensive zone — and although he was stripped of it just above the hashmarks, a flukey bounce sent the puck back off his skate and directly to Matt Nieto. Nieto’s first shot attempt bounced back out to Nichushkin in the slot, where he was able to maneuver around and put home a backhand shovel to tie the game up at one apiece.
From there, the Avalanche shut the Bruins down — both in the form of allowing just 16 shots on goal for Pavel Francouz during his relief performance (which saw him shoulder 42 minutes worth of game action overall) and in the form of getting all of the scoring on their side throughout the final 40 minutes, as well. A goal for Ian Cole midway through the second period marked the veteran’s first tally of the year, and then Andre Burakovsky was able to take advantage of some baffling defense from Bruins defender Charlie McAvoy to really put the nail in the coffin for the second time against Boston this year alone:
Add in a late empty-netter for Gabriel Landeskog just seconds before the clock ran out, and that was all she wrote.
Makar’s injury wasn’t officially disclosed by head coach Jared Bednar after the game, who simply told media that there was no update on the rookie Calder front-runner after he left early in the third period. He wasn’t the first Avalanche to go down during the game, either, which truly puts the team in a precarious position as they head towards the Christmas holidays; they could potentially be without both Makar and goaltender Philipp Grubauer for a period of time, which leaves them short a starting goalie and one of their most effective blue line pieces.
It’s been nice watching how Nikita Zadorov continues to play an effective, physical game for the Avalanche this year, especially when they’ve been short-handed at times due to inopportune injuries. His imposing presence and “heavy” hockey style both looked tough for Boston to manage and showed up as effective on paper, as his eye test and his ‘numbers’ both revealed that the Russian-born blue liner was one of the team’s strongest players through 60 minutes on Saturday. Without Makar, that’s a huge help — especially if the team needs to play without him for any stretch of time.
It’s also been nice watching the renaissance of Valeri Nichushkin, to be honest. The former Dallas Stars top prospect seemed to flame out far too fast in Texas, and watching him re-gain his confidence — even if he’ll never be the elite offensive threat he was initially supposed to be — has been heartwarming.