After stringing a couple early season wins together the Colorado Avalanche continued their road trip in Southern California by finishing out their set with a second game against the LA Kings. The lineup looked noticeably different with new acquisition Greg Pateryn and the highly anticipated NHL debut from Bowen Byram on the back end. Hunter Miska received his first NHL start filling in for the ailing Pavel Francouz and allowing Philipp Grubauer some rest as the schedule now picks up. Unfortunately those debuts were spoiled when the Avalanche dropped this game 4-2 with a questionable offensive effort.
A fast start out of the gate is exactly what the Avalanche wanted. Nathan MacKinnon was tired up and created the first two scores of the evening. The first at 4:49 to take an early lead when Mikko Rantanen deflected the rebound with his skate off of a fantastic MacKinnon rush.
In what turned out to become a special teams affair the Avalanche were the first ones to cash in on the man advantage on another incredible individual effort from MacKinnon in which he scored the goal this time to close out the first period for a 2-0 lead.
The second period the Kings flipped the script and took advantage of their own power plays. The first seemed inevitable on a lengthy 5-on-3 as the Kings got numerous looks before Drew Doughty found the back of the net at 3:35. Gabe Vilardi, whose come back is such an underrated story, whistled the puck right past Miska’s ear for the second tally at 17:50. Neither were Miska’s fault but Jared Bednar remarked in his post game presser that Miska may have been playing a little too deep in net.
In the final frame hints of overtime wafted through the empty building but the Kings converted on some defensive zone mistakes when Adrian Kempe won a battle in front of the net and pushed the puck past Miska with less than four minutes to go. The Kings would go on to add an empty net goal for a 4-2 final.
All eyes were on Bowen Byram and his first NHL game did not disappoint. After he was called for a cheap penalty on his first shift, a likely welcome to the NHL gift, Byram settled into a strong effort for the rest of the contest. He finished with 11:19 time on ice and one shot on goal but the deeper analytics reflect the impact he is already able to exert on the game. Byram was third on the team with a +12/-7 Corsi For at 63.17% and second to only Cale Makar with a 69.75% share of expected goals. His minutes were all at even strength which was actually tied for fourth with Ryan Graves among the seven defensemen who played.
Byram made smart and crisp passes out of the defensive and neutral zone, made some great pinches to keep possession for the top line and carried the puck a few times. As he learns more the timing and how to handle physicality will allow him to do more with the puck. A successful debut to hopefully build on with the games to come.
Hunter Miska did what he could to keep the Avalanche in this game and a win was possible if they could have found a goal after the first period. With 23 saves on 26 shots is about what’s expected of a third goaltender but with multiple goaltending moves made within the organization over the last couple of days begs the question of how much they are expecting to rely on Miska in the near future.
Four shots on goal in the third period wasn’t acceptable for the Avalanche to have a real chance at securing this game. The jumbled second through fourth lines haven’t helped with Andre Burakovsky’s absence but perhaps a taxi squad move should be made to dress 12 forwards again and bring some stability to the lineup. JT Compher and Joonas Donskoi saw limited minutes at even strength for good reason but Brandon Saad also has not clicked with any of his new teammates either. For his part Greg Pateryn played the defensive penalty killing role but he took the penalty for the 5-on-3 and his limited puck skill looks out of place on this defensive core.
The road trip moves on to Anaheim tomorrow night again at 8pm MT to face the Ducks in the first of a two-game series.