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Twitter Tuesday: A series with the Stars; confidence in goaltending and trade deadline musings

Plus, cliff diving at Casa Bonita?

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The Avs signed Colorado Eagles netminder Hunter Miska to an NHL contract on Monday
Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles

We’re officially less than two weeks out from the NHL trade deadline, and the market officially opened for business on Monday night with a late-night trade between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild. If this first larger-scale trade is any indication, the market will be steep and expensive this year, which doesn’t bode well for Colorado.

Are the Avs willing to pay the price for anyone at the deadline?

If history has taught us anything about GM Joe Sakic and the Avs, it’s that there won’t be any major moves — or, really, any moves — by him and the Avalanche come the official close of the NHL trade deadline on February 24th at 1 p.m. MST.

I’m sure there have been calls and texts to the other 30 general managers feeling out the market, but I’m sure it’s been nothing of substance coming from that. I’m expecting — if anything at all — something small on deadline day, a la the Derick Brassard trade of last season.

Last night, in a way, opened the market and set the price, as the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins were able to orchestrate the market’s first larger-scale trade. Less than 24 hours after the Avs’ plane departed from Minnesota after a 3-2 win in St. Paul, the Wild shipped one of its leaders and fan-favorites in Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh for the perpetually-struggling-to-find-a-fit-in-this-league Alex Galchenyuk, 2018 2nd-round draftee Calen Addison and a conditional 1st in the upcoming draft.

That’s not the greatest news for deadline buyers like the Avalanche. That’s a pretty significant haul for a veteran player who is on pace for just 53 points. Joe won’t get rid of his 1st this season which pretty much puts the Avs out of the market for any big fish. Sorry to disappoint.

Well if this year’s season series is any indication, not good.

As I’m sure we all know, Dallas was able to sweep the four-game division series. To be fair, it was close, with the last two games going to overtime and a shootout, respectively, and the Stars only out-scoring the Avalanche by one goal in each matchup, save a 4-1 beatdown in Dallas with both Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog out of the lineup.

In all seriousness, I’m gunning for this matchup come playoff time. I’d love to see these two teams in a seven-game series. The NHL’s top offense versus its best defense; leading scorers versus brick-wall reminders; Cale Makar versus Miro Heiskanen; Matt Calvert versus Jamie Benn. The list goes on. It’d be an exciting back-and-forth of, in all likelihood, a replication of the regular season’s close one-goal games.

Honestly, teams like Dallas and St. Louis — very physical, shut-down teams — show up in the playoffs, where the level of physicality and intensity is ramped up to the max. That’s not the Avs’ MO, which makes me a little nervous. It’d be a tough tilt from series start to finish and I’d probably have to give the Stars taking the series in six.

I am of the contingency that defense wins championships, and the Stars have one of the NHL’s best so far this season. In addition to a strong blueline, Dallas also boasts one of the league’s best goaltending tandem, with both in the league’s top-10, averaging a combined 2.34 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

Speaking of goalie tandems...

Last Tuesday, I wasn’t feeling the best about the goaltending situation.

Today, I’m feeling much better.

January was tough for Philipp Grubauer. The Avs goaltender was 4-2-1, which isn’t terrible, however, his save percentage was an .896 and his goals-against was a not-great 2.88. The past couple weeks, though, Grubauer has been hitting his stride with a more respectable .927 Sv% and a low 2.02 GAA since Feb. 1.

The inconsistency of Grubauer’s play has made me a little nervous this season. Now is obviously not the time — on account of Grubauer playing well and more consistent of late — but I wouldn’t mind seeing Pavel Francouz get a few more back-to-back starts, which I discussed in last Friday’s At Elevation Podcast.

In somewhat related news, the Avs signed Colorado Eagles standout Hunter Miska to an NHL contract yesterday. Miska has been playing unreal in Loveland ever since getting called up late in October when the recently-acquired Antoine Bibeau went down with injury. Miska has really not looked back since. He’s 11-4-4 this season with a .925 Sv% — tied for fourth-best in the AHL — and 2.45 GAA (10th in the league). Oh, and he can make saves like this:

Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles

Fearless. Gutsy. A complete disregard for one’s personally safety in sacrifice for the greater benefit of the team. I love it.

Miska is solid added insurance between the pipes come playoff time for the Avalanche, just in case we see another Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond situation like we saw in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.

Yes. They’ve been a legit top-5 team for pretty much like 90% of the season.

I mean, you see what happens when Grubauer is playing solid, the Avs are able to win the close one-goal games, i.e., against Minnesota on Saturday, that they weren’t previously winning. Those games will be important come playoff time when most games will be close one-goal games.

But inconsistency on the part of the defense and goaltending has been an issue all season long. Offensively, I’m not worried in the slightest. That’s why I’ve been a big proponent of bringing a veteran shut-down D-man at the trade deadline to help shore up the blueline and add some toughness come postseason. That probably won’t happen though, so we’ll just hope for the best.

Oh the Hart Trophy campaign started during the 2017-18 season when he almost put up 100 points. And then the season after that, he was just one point shy of the century mark. Now this year, MacK is on pace to finally break that 100-mark barrier — something like 115 points.

Now, it’s important to remember that the Hart has nothing to do with number of goals scored or points put up, those are two separate awards. However, the Hart is given to the “player judged most valuable to his team,” and if that’s not Nathan MacKinnon then I don’t know.

The latest odds have MacKinnon just narrowly behind Conor McDavid. But like McDavid has already won one so let’s give it to MacK, yeah?

Avs head coach Jared Bednar broke the news Tuesday morning on Altitude Sports Radio that Nazem Kadri is out “indefinitely” with a lower-body injury, which will sideline him for “weeks, not days.”

In a way, this couldn’t have happened at a better time, with the trade deadline coming up soon. But I don’t think this will cause enough panic within the Avs brass to pull the trigger on a big trade like Pageau, or anyone really. As I mentioned a few questions ahead of this one, Pageau would no doubt require the Avs first-round selection and that’s a non-starter for Joe.

The Avalanche have plenty of depth. We all know this. So a simple solution would be to just re-insert Vlad Kamenev back into the lineup and you have your replacement center right there. Do a little more line shuffling, i.e., as you mention, see what Jost or Compher could possibly do, and Colorado can survive missing Kadri for a couple weeks. We don’t really know the severity of the injury quite yet, however, so it’s hard to say for sure. If Kadri is out “weeks,” meaning like 4-6 or even the season *knock on wood — then I think maybe you explore the trade avenue.

All I’m saying is, regardless, the Avs don’t need to panic.

Bonus Question:

Before we answer this question, I feel it necessary for our unfamiliar or out-of-town readers to explain what Casa Bonita is.

Nestled in an unsuspecting, nearly-abandoned shopping plaza in the Lakewood suburb of Denver is Casa Bonita. Opened in 1974, the Mecca known as Casa Bonita is (apparently a) chain Mexican restaurant with an entertainment focus. Fun fact: It was actually named a historic landmark by the City of Denver in 2015. They are notoriously known for requiring that you order their food to gain admission — yes, seriously — and as one might expect, the food is absolutely vile. No one actually eats it, again you’re just forced to order it, and they’re only there for the bottomless sopapillas, which are actually pretty good. Casa Bonita is probably most famous for being the subject of an episode of the popular Colorado-based cartoon South Park.

Really, this place is not a restaurant, but rather a glorified arcade of sorts. There’s Black Bart’s Cave, which is a spooky walk through an artificial cave with jump scares abound, multiple arcade rooms, a magic theater, with the main attraction being the cliff divers in the center of the restaurant, where there is a 30-foot-tall artificially made rock cliff from which jumpers dive head-first into a small pool. It’s exhilarating.

Take a tour of Denver’s local lore for yourself:

Now that’s out of the way, on to your question.

I’m going to go with Joe Sacco or Tony Granato on this one. I think their more slender physiques would make them perfect candidates to soar through the air, capturing the hearts and eyes of on-lookers before they pencil dive into the deep.

On the current roster, it’s got to be Sam Girard. No reason, other than I could just see him really getting into it.

More questions, comments or concerns? Direct them @0ffScottFree on Twitter any time!