It has been a tough week for the Colorado Avalanche. It started off on the right foot with a win against Minnesota, but after dropping consecutive games to underwhelming teams in Winnipeg and Seattle, the Avs now find themselves in a mini-rough patch.
They’ll surely look at this game as a chance to right the ship. Meanwhile, Vegas definitely sees this as a golden opportunity to continue building their early-season momentum.
After a disappointing overtime loss against the Jets, a Friday night matchup with the Seattle Kraken looked like just what the doctor ordered. Philipp Grubauer is struggling yet again to open the season, and the Avalanche had plenty of opportunities to put Seattle behind early and put that game on cruise control. Instead, they came out flat and found themselves down multiple goals early yet again.
Colorado isn’t playing particularly poorly, as they currently sit seventh in the NHL in Corsi for percentage at 5-on-5, they just aren’t sharp, as demonstrated by their perfectly mediocre ranking of 16th in the NHL in expected goals at 5-on-5.
While the Avs are struggling to meet their exceptionally high bar at 5-on-5, the power play is white hot, sitting first in the NHL and converting at a mind-boggling pace of 46.7%. The penalty kill is still a work in progress, as it sits dead last in the league at 57.9%. Some hope for that unit emerged last night against Seattle, as Valeri Nichushkin kept up his blistering early-season point production and found Bowen Byram for a game-tying shorty.
Artturi Lehkonen—Nathan Mackinnon—Mikko Raantanen
Valeri Nichushkin—J.T. Compher—Evan Rodrigues
Andrew Cogliano—Alex Newhook—Logan O’Connor
Dryden Hunt—Jayson Megna—Martin Kaut
Bowen Byram—Cale Makar
Samuel Girard—Josh Manson
Kurtis MacDermid—Erik Johnson
Note: Last night, Martin Kaut was announced as the second-line right-wing, but he was quickly demoted to the 4th line while Evan Rodrigues and Logan O’Connor were elevated to the second and third lines. Additionally, Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen flipped spots on the first and second lines for a portion of last night as well. The only certainty right now is that Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen are on the top line. Every other spot in the lineup seems to be up for grabs on a shift-by-shift basis as Jared Bednar tries to find combinations of players he can lean on.
Vegas has started out hot, winning four out of five games and playing in their trademark balanced fashion. Jack Eichel, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jonathan Marchessault all lead the team with five points, with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson right behind them with four points. They currently sit fourth in expected goals for at 5-on-5, and 16th at Corsi for percentage at 5-on-5.
The Golden Knights have had a very good start to the year, but questions still remain. Only one of their wins has come against a team who made the playoffs last year (Los Angeles), and their mediocre Corsi for percentage looks even less impressive when you take into account the relatively weak schedule they have played to date. That doesn’t mean the Avs can expect an easy game, as two of Vegas’ wins came against the two teams the Avalanche recently lost to. Jack Eichel is also heating up, as he scored two goals in Thursday’s win against Winnipeg.
Reilly Smith—Jack Eichel—Phil Kessel
Brett Howden—Chandler Stephenson—Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault—William Karlsson—Michael Amadio
William Carrier—Nicolas Roy—Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez—Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb—Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague—Zach Whitecloud
Given that Pavel Francouz played last night, Alexandar Georgiev should get the start in net for Colorado tonight, as he looks to keep up his excellent play as he currently sits second in the NHL in save percentage at .983%.
Logan Thompson was named the starter for the Golden Knights at the beginning of the season and the expectation is he will start in net tonight. He has played well, sitting at 14th in the NHL in save percentage at .941%, but he is looking to bounce back from his last game where he gave up three goals in a loss to Calgary.