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Avs Shutout The Blackhawks 2-0

At least for me last night’s 2-0 win was reassuring. Here’s why…

The icon line of MacKinnon-Rantanen-Landeskog was uncharacteristically quiet and out of sync, with the exception being that sick dime Gabriel dropped to Mikko for the third period goal. They clearly look tired, a biproduct of 13 games in 24 days and an average of 20+ minutes of ice time a night. Bednar needs to recognize how dire the situation can get if you skate these guys, along with Kadri’s 20+ minutes as well, into the ground before April gets here. The Avs are preposterously deep, so it seems vaguely ludicrous to pile 20 minutes toi on your best players, the ones you’ll lean on heavily in the playoffs. The bench is deep, use that depth and don’t run your top line into the dirt.

Gotta give mad props to Pavel Francouz and his shutout. The Avs stole yet another game in which they were outplayed for the first 40 minutes, a count of grand larceny with Franouz’s grubby little fingerprints all over it. Since his return, Pavel is 6-0 with 1.65 goals allowed on a save% of .942. and 2 shutouts. In seven games, he’s already climbed to 3rd overall in the NHL in GAA at 2.06, 4th in sv% at .932, and 8th in shutouts. He and Darcy Kuemper have been electric the last couple weeks and have bailed out the relatively lackluster play in front of them. There’s no way the Avs 16 game home win streak, to go along with 12-0-1rrecord since the covid break, lasts this long without Francouz and Kemper playing out of their minds.

Cale Makar and Devon Toews are averaging 25+ minutes per game and they look a skosh off. Makar’s skating looks a half step slow and his patented blueline snipes are off target. Toews is committing mental mistakes that he doesn’t make two weeks ago. The Avs boast what might be the best blueline duo in the NHL in Makar & Toews but the danger of fatiguing these guys to the point of brain dead no skating oblivion is clear and present. Bednar has to cut their TOI by five minutes a game or run the risk of his most valuable defenders tripping on their own tongues.

Give it up for Sammy Girard. His positional play and overall discipline is the best we’ve seen since he came to the Avs in the Duchene trade. Girard has seemingly eliminated the infuriating lapses of attention span that plagued him the last two years. His defense is so so so much better in January than it was in October and November.

With Girard’s metamorphosis into a legit defender, and he’s always been an offensive stud, it seems doubly inexcusable that Bednar isn’t spreading blueline minutes out more than he is. Girard and Erik Johnson should be getting more TOI, if for no other reason than conserving the energy of Makar & Toews.

What I’m about to say may be viewed as blasphemous nonsense or will be dismissed as nothing more than the lunatic ravings of an addled mind but Kurtis MacDermid has earned more than 8 minutes of TOI. He’s not the smoldering dumpster fire he used to as his defensive positioning and overall game is vastly improved from where he was in November. With the return of Bowen Byram being completely up in the air at this point, and with Ryan Murray’s rank incompetence, MacDermid should be given more minutes. His on ice Corsi for % is better that E.J., Jack Johnson, and Ryan Murray. MacDermid isn’t the steaming lump of a liability he used to be.

Here’s the optimism…when the Top 5 of your on ice skaters, MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog, Makar , and Toews, plays as anonymously as they did last night, yet you still get the W, be happy. Take heart in the fact the Avs aren’t as reliant on their top line/top pair to secure wins as they used to be. Four of the last five wins have been of the ugly variety, wherein the Avs were outplayed for long stretches. In those games, the Avs have allowed only six goals while Kuemper and Francouz have loomed large in net. In fact, since returning from covid purgatory, the Avs have allowed 23 goals in 12 games, a GAA average of 1.91. The Avs will always be an offensive juggernaut by virtue of their ridiculous scoring depth...they have four guys in the Top Ten in the NHL in points per game. But their defense, if it continues at a roughly 2.0 GAA rate and if the PK continues its current run of form, this and their goaltending can win them a Stanley Cup.



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