Hockey is tough. Always has been, but this one was more difficult than others for the Colorado Avalanche. It was rough for them both on and off the ice for both the fans and players who tuned in on Friday night.
This was due in part to the lackluster play all night, leading to the Avs’ 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils. It’s the first time they’ve been shut out since March 10, 2022, against the Carolina Hurricanes on the road. It wasn’t pretty, and unfortunately for the Avs it doesn't get any easier after this.
Despite an early Cale Makar shot hitting the iron, there was next to nothing going on in the period. Pavel Francouz made a couple of saves early to get into the game, but there was nothing threatening from either side.
The best chance came to J.T. Compher who was robbed all alone from the slot by Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek. On the other end, Francouz was beaten by Miles Wood on a tip shot down low, but it was disallowed for offsides to keep things scoreless.
The Avs tried to force the issue as they were still stuck in the single digits for shots on goal. They sent some pucks down low, which included Makar missing a couple more chances wide, and also sending Fabian Zetterlund flying on his behind.
It was the most action we’d seen all game long, as things started to open up slightly for either side. However, it kept donuts on the scoreboard for either side with nothing too interesting of note at all heading into the final 20 minutes.
The Avs conceded early in a horrible way. Samuel Girard stood behind the net with the puck for about 30 seconds before sending his clearance off Bowen Byram. It got caught in his skates, forcing him to take a penalty for cross-checking which Jack Hughes and company pounced on.
While it was an unacceptable way to go down, the Avs did have some chances. Evan Rodrigues almost pulled off a similar move to his shootout goal Tuesday night but was stopped, alongside an ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Lehkonen was also robbed from the slot, but then he and his team got a chance when they got a power play in the final minute, playing 6-on-4. However, they could not get anything past Vanecek and were shut out 1-0.
The Avs' play was bad all night long. New Jersey took their notes and played a step ahead of Colorado all night long, who were sluggish and slow. Mark Rycroft described the game best during Altitude’s coverage: scrappy and sloppy. They need to be much better heading into Saturday night’s game.
Makar was noticeable tonight despite the loss. He hit the iron and sent multiple pucks down low. They were all stopped by Vanecek or were blocked, as the Devils as a whole blocked plenty of shots. While no. 8 is still scoreless, he looked better than he had been in the past few games, and his time to find the back of the net is coming soon.
One man was noticeably missing in this one: Valeri Nichushkin. He’s out day-to-day with a lower-body injury and his point streak to start the year comes to a close as well. The Avs need to badly find some depth to cover their losses. Martin Kaut did not do well on the second line, and Alex Newhook continues to struggle there too. They need to do something to deal with this. If these issues continue, it will be a long season if-and-when guys are not fully healthy.
The Avs play their third back-to-back of the season just 35 miles across the Big Apple, visiting Long Island and the New York Islanders. Puck drop is Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. MT.