Welcome to another must-win game for the Colorado Avalanche. They lost last Saturday night to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 beating, dropping them out of the playoff spot they were lucky to still have heading into the week off. Now, they face a Columbus Blue Jackets team who are equally desperate for a win to keep their playoff position intact.
These two teams haven’t played each other since October when the Blue Jackets handed the Avalanche a 5-2 loss in Ohio. Philipp Grubauer stopped 30 of 34 shots he faced in the loss, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 27 for the win. IT’s been a few months since that game and a lot has changed on the goaltending front for both sides. Alison Lukan stopped by the MHH offices to discuss the Future of Bob. You can read her assessment of the situation below.
The Avalanche have been shuffling lines around a lot lately, but during practice on Monday, things started to settle back to normal. Nathan MacKinnon is back with his boys, and so is Carl Soderberg. The Blue Jackets have a deep forward corps, so tonight will be a tough test for both Alex Kerfoot and Sheldon Dries up the middle. Hopefully they can make some things happen against the CBJ third pair and fourth line as much as they can with the use of home ice advantage (last change).
Alison Lukan of The Athletic stopped by to share a few words on the Blue Jackets, including some of the bubbling controversies starting to form as a result of a trying season combined with contract uncertainty.
“The Jackets come into Colorado in need of a win for a few reasons. Columbus has lost five straight for the first time since, well, last year’s All-Star Break; and, after being quite healthy the majority of the year, the team is fighting against the injury bug.”
“Boone Jenner may return after missing the last three games due to an ankle infection. Brandon Dubinsky left Monday’s practice early and defenseman Ryan Murray did not skate yesterday after suffering what was seemingly an ankle injury in the Jan. 31 game in Winnipeg. It’s worth noting the defenseman did play Feb. 2.”
The final wrinkle? Who is in net. The Jackets have been playing Joonas Korpisalo more with the presumed departure of pending free agent Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled this season, so it’s unclear prior to morning skates who will be the starting goaltender. Both goalers currently have a save percentage of 0.901.
The Florida Panthers have been rumoured to want to trade Sergei Bobrovsky now, despite being more than 10 points back of a playoff spot, in order to get a long-term contract on the books with him. Like Alison said, not only has Bob struggled, but the Blue Jackets have begun to favour Joonas Korpisalo over the veteran netminder anyway.
Bobrovsky is an elite talent.— Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) February 4, 2019
Bobrovsky relies on amazing lower body strength/push/flexibility.
Bobrovsky has a bad groin.
Bobrovsky is on the wrong side of 30 at a position notorious for substantial age-related declines and injury cliffs.
The Avalanche have officially moved past their brief, ill-fated foray into being an International Team Of Mystery, and now name their starter long before puck drop once again.
For the Avs, the team has been desperately trying to get at least one of their two goaltenders to put up even league-average numbers, and tonight that will be Philipp Grubauer. He’s still sitting well below that .900 threshold, hovering at a .891 save percentage in all situations and a horrendous .368 quality start percentage to go with five Really Bad Starts in just 21 games. The team will hope that the guy who got the Washington Capitals into the postseason can also be the one who helps push the Avalanche past the rest of the Western Conference Wild Card turtle race — they just need to see that he still exists first.
For the Blue Jackets,
future Avalanche Sergei Bobrovsky is set to get the nod, where he’ll look to improve his own mediocre play as of late. There’s a lot of hype surrounding him even with his last two games, but he’s been struggling as much — if not more — than Varlamov and Grubauer in Colorado. Given the recent stats for both goaltenders, this could be a pretty high-scoring game.