One final stop on the never-ending east coast road trip was against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Colorado Avalanche saved their best effort for last but endured another bizarre set of circumstances and uneven performances yet ended up with a decisive 7-3 final score in their favor. All in all a 3-1-1 road trip was a success but some questions still remain.
It was the start the Avalanche wanted with some shuffled lines when Mikko Rantanen buried a feed from Nazem Kadri at 4:11, getting to Rangers goaltender Adam Huska making his first NHL start was a good strategy.
However any momentum gained would not last long as Darcy Kuemper back in net from a week long injury absence conceded a long range goal to Jacob Trouba, who got away with a vicious head shot the night prior, and put the Rangers on the board at 6:56. The Avalanche slept through a power play including giving up a 2-on-0 chance before giving the Rangers a crack at their own. Naturally the Rangers made their opponents pay as Nils Lundkvist scored his first career NHL goal at 18:15. Despite outshooting New York 19-9 in that period the Avalanche were in a 2-1 hole after 20 minutes of play.
The second period very much went Colorado’s way as they scored five unanswered and blew the game wide open. After a couple tough opening shifts for the visitors something finally went their and Nathan MacKinnon’s way as he scored his first even strength goal of the year at 4:48. Nazem Kadri tipped a Cale Makar point shot two minutes later and then after another couple minutes elapsed Alex Newhook scored yet another power play goal from his favorite spot at the top of the left circle. He’s going to make a lot of money with that specific knack for the man advantage.
Before the period was to expire Logan O’Connor scored himself two goals in 22 seconds and that should have closed the frame out at a 6-2 score but instead the Avalanche had to deal with another missing star due to a head shot. For the second consecutive night Jacob Trouba took the opportunity to deliver an open ice hit with a lot of head contact. So much in fact MacKinnon was pulled from the game by the concussion spotter but he did return for the start of the third period. The hit went unpunished but Gabe Landeskog dropped the gloves with Trouba immediately following the incident.
Gabriel Landeskog and Jacob Trouba drop the gloves after Trouba lays a hit on Nathan MacKinnon. pic.twitter.com/agtCdM63BL— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 9, 2021
The third period was pretty much garbage time with each team running the clock out but also netting an extra goal. Filip Chytil got one for New York after trading rush chances with the Avalanche at 11:52 and then Mikko Rantanen scored his second of the night at to arrive at 13:25 with a 7-3 final. This period was not complete without another Darcy Kuemper equipment malfunction which this time was related to the tie holding his left pad so he had to depart the game for 93 seconds as Jonas Johansson made a save before Kuemper returned to finish the game and secured the two points. Nazem Kadri picked up three points on the night but did not play the third period because of a lower body injury, presumably related to what he was dealing with earlier in the week.
Unfortunately the conversation about head shots in the NHL just won’t die because they keep happening. No amount of fines, suspensions or penalties seem to make a difference and they are applied seemingly at random. Until the involved parties want to take a stand and make a difference these things will keep occurring and it’s a matter of protecting one’s self because the league sure isn’t going to do it. There is no clear rule of law and there’s no deterrent either.
Another topic that isn’t going away is the purpose of Kurtis MacDermid’s continued presence in the Avalanche lineup. This evening coach Bednar finally made the switch placing Jacob MacDonald on the back-end with MacDermid in a far less vulnerable position at forward. It was a marginal success as MacDermid picked up an assist and was not on the ice for any goals against. However this was in three minutes of ice time as he received two shifts in each of the first two periods. The referees threw MacDermid out halfway through the third period when a scrum materialized following a goaltender interference call on Sam Girard as they probably sensed trouble was brewing. Yet there hasn’t been any policing or deterring with MacDermid in the lineup thus far simply because he’s never on the ice to make any sort of impact despite the perception that his mere existence provides it. As the injury carousel keeps turning will continue to give MacDermid opportunities and the Avalanche will continue to put an inferior product on the ice.
All eyes were on the first Cale Makar vs Adam Fox Norris Trophy thunder dome of the season and Makar handily took this round. His team won the game but Makar also had the advantage on the scoresheet with one assist, +2 in 22:46 of ice time while Fox had no points and a -3 in 24 minutes. Digging deeper into the analytics shows Makar with a 51.28% Corsi For and 53.28% share of expected goals. Fox had a tougher night with a 41.38% Corsi For and a 12.60% expected goals. The rematch between the two in Denver next week will provide another interesting chapter in their careers head-to-head.
Back at home finally but no rest for the weary as the Avalanche take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. MT on Friday, December 10th.