On Hockey Fights Cancer night in Winnipeg, hockey nearly fought a broken zamboni as the game got off to a delayed start because one of the ice cleaning vehicles had to get towed before the teams could take the ice.
Here’s how the beatdown happened:
Both teams started the game somewhat tentatively until David Gustafsson found himself alone in front of Alexandar Georgiev, who pushed off hard to make a beautiful pad save.
On his first shift in the NHL, Jean-Luc Foudy took a huge hit from Brendan Dillon, but popped right back up and joined the rush. Both teams continued to play up and down hockey without generating much in terms of chances or stoppages. It honestly looked a lot like Foudy’s rookie lap out there.
Jean-Luc Foudy with the rookie lap treatment. Been a few of those this year... pic.twitter.com/IINGPocBom— DNVR Avalanche (@DNVR_Avalanche) November 30, 2022
Then the new look third line started moving with a purpose - Foudy got loose in the low slot but couldn’t bury a feed from Newhook, a heavy hit from Manson kept the zone for an Anton Blidh chance, and then Cale Makar set up a nice one timer opportunity for Newhook at the near dot but he whiffed it, and in the ensuing chaos Foudy put a stick on Nate Schmidt coming around the back of the net that got called tripping.
On replay this looked like a weak call, but from the refs angle trying to see the action through Foudy’s back it surely looked like a textbook trip. Regardless, the Avs penalty kill that seemed to have turned a corner after early season woes had some work to do.
And they did not do it. The Jets got set up cleanly and passed it around a little until Blake Wheeler buried a simple uncontested wrister over Georgiev’s blocker. The PK unit had been buoyed of late by strong play from Evan Rodrigues and Martin Kaut, who are now on the shelf with PK stalwarts Val Nichushkin and Darren Helm. It’s a depleted unit, but this showing was still quite disappointing. 1-0 Jets.
After the goal, the top line got to work generating some offensive zone time, culminating in a Makar to Rantanen one timer chance that just barely missed.
The Newhook line then got trapped in the defensive zone for an extended shift including two icings, but hang tough and don’t give up any chances. Once they were finally able to get off the ice, JT Compher created chance for Cogliano on the rush that he wasn’t able to finish.
In the dying moments of the period, Pierre-Luc Dubois tried to climb over Rantanen for a loose puck in the slot, but Georgiev covered it up before either of them could get to it. Winnipeg kept the pressure on as Cole Perfetti drove wide and put one on net that Georgiev kicked into the high slot for Neil Pionk to collect, but he missed the net up high.
The Avalanche outshot the Jets 9-4 this period, but the Jets felt more dangerous throughout and converted on the only powerplay chance. Early on the Newhook-Foudy-Galchenyuk combo was producing some chances but Foudy’s penalty seemed to derail them a bit as they followed those good shifts with a couple icings in a row. Makar, MacKinnon, and Rantanen looked dangerous in spurts but were inconsistent, and the rest of the forward group was unable to generate much. Georgiev was the MVP of the period despite facing only four actual shots on goal, as he shut down several dangerous Jets chances with nifty pad saves or strong positioning that forced shots to miss the net.
Off the opening faceoff the Avs worked down low for a Lehkonen chance at the bottom of the far circle turned aside by Hellebuyck.
The teams traded ineffective trips down the ice until a long shot from Josh Morrissey at the far point hit the near post and dropped in the crease. Erik Johnson tied up Wheeler so he couldn’t get to the loose puck, but Mark Scheifele swooped in and poked it home.
Bednar quickly challenged the goal for goalie interference and won the review, as Wheeler had come into the crease and bumped Georgiev while he was trying to square up on the initial Morrissey shot.
Unfortunately the high of the won challenge was quickly dampened as Sam Girard turned the puck over behind net to Perfetti, who set up Scheifele in the slot for his own shot off the post. The Avs cleared that out, but the Jets brought it right back in and Pionk set up Morrissey d-to-d at the far point again and he blistered a slapper off an Avalanche leg in traffic that beat Georgiev clean. 2-0 Jets.
The top line pushed back with a strong shift after this goal like they did after the first one, as MacKinnon went backhand forehand around schmidt at the top of the near circle for a nice chance that missed wide. Rantanen then set up Makar for a one timer in the high slot that Hellebuyck blocked down right to MacKinnon at the near post, but Schmidt tied him up before he could put it in the empty net.
On the next Avalanche rush into the Jets end Pionk tied up Devon Toews in the slot and rode him into the corner in what can only be described as a textbook holding penalty.
Colorado’s league leading powerplay took the ice down two goals with a prime opportunity to claw back into the game, but was unable to generate anything dangerous.
MacKinnon set up Rantanen but missed his wheelhouse so he had to wrist it through traffic where Compher couldn’t corral the rebound. MacKinnon collected it at the blue line and wristed another one through traffic that Hellebuyck swallowed up cleanly. MacKinnon and Rantanen both got one more shot attempt before the powerplay expired, but both were blocked easily by the Jets stingy PK.
Nothing really happened until the top line’s next shift, when Rantanen took a Jacob MacDonald pass behind the net and gave it on to MacKinnon on the near boards. Nate patiently created space, then found an open EJ at the point for a chance through traffic that Hellebuyck barely found in time to make the stop.
On the top line’s next shift, MacKinnon created a nice chance for Girard off the rush, but Hellebuyck kicked out a rebound that lead to a three on two the other way. Dylan DeMelo sent drove wide and sent a pass across to Perfetti who found Wheeler in the high slot and he absolutely buried it. Coming back from their offensive opportunity, Girard wasn’t able to close down on Perfetti and MacKinnon didn’t back check hard enough on Wheeler. 3-0 Jets.
After a couple more ineffective shifts for both teams, Foudy tried to corral a pass in the neutral zone but was crosschecked hard by Morrissey in the ribs. Foudy took exception to it and got in his face a bit, but didn’t retaliate and the referees sent Morrissey to the box.
On their second powerplay opportunity, the Avalanche were even less effective. MacKinnon tried to force one through the slot that was easily cleared. Off a clean reentry and set up, Rantanen shots for a redirect but Lehkonen’s stick was lifted and it rimmed around out of the zone. On the next entry, Compher tried to saucer a pass to MacKinnon a couple feet away from him up the near board, but he was well covered for an easy clear. The second unit came on for the last 20 seconds and wasn’t even able to enter the zone.
Back at even strength, Andrew Cogliano drove the near wall and narrowly missed Jayson Megna driving the slot. The puck found its way back to Cogliano, who tried a neat give and go with Foudy, but Foudy’s return pass was blocked away.
Compher then drove the slot and fed Johnson at the near dot for a shot through traffic that Hellebuyck kicked out into the slot where Dryden Hunt gathered the rebound but couldn’t put it home.
Toews then skirted down the far wall and fed Lehkonen in front where he tried to jam the puck through Hellebuyck and caused absolute chaos in the crease as no one could get a clean handle on it offensively or defensively. Rantanen and MacKinnon joined him crashing the net but no one could put it home or cover until Nate Schmidt grabbed it with his hand in the crease - an automatic penalty shot if he got caught but the ref was unable to see it in the maelstrom of sticks and bodies.
Despite a 25-14 shot advantage, the Avs finished the second period down 3-0. Those stats scream goalie problems, and it is definitely true that the first two goals were stoppable shots, but Georgiev was not the problem. The Avs offense simply wasn’t able to maintain any pressure and turn their shots into second and third chances they could bury. Winnipeg did a great job creating dangerous chances when they had opportunities, and both Wheeler goals were very nice finishes. Morrissey’s was a bit lucky, but the Jets created that luck with a really strong shift and great traffic in front. The Avalanche plain and simple were not dangerous enough despite racking up shots on goal.
The top line started the period defending, then the Compher line forechecked nicely to turn the puck over but couldn’t generate anything as the puck rolled off Logan O’Connor’s blade on the one opportunity they did create.
Josh Manson corralled it, but then turned it back over at the offensive blue line to Kyle Connor, who blew past him the other way for a two on one chance that he slipped through a sprawling Girard to Scheifele backdoor for an easy tap in. 4-0 Jets.
The top line didn’t follow this goal with a strong shift, instead the rookie Foudy drove the zone on the near wall and had his stick slashed out of his hands by Dubois - his second drawn penalty of the night.
This third powerplay chance found a way to be even less effective than the first two. A Makar shot through traffic found Hellebuyck’s glove. A Mackinnon feed to Rantanen was blocked and cleared. MacKinnon was stripped cleanly on the wall for a clear. The second unit got set up and Teows found Galchenyuk for a one time that was blocked, then Newhook fired from the high slot right into Hellebuyck’s waiting right pad.
As the penalty expired, Dubois won a race out of the box to negate icing, then beat Girard out of the corner but couldn’t beat Georgiev.
After a solid forechecking and possession shift from the Blidh-Megna-Hunt linel, Rantanen drove the slot and dropped a pass to Makar for a shot that couldn’t squeeze through Hellebuyck and the near post. While trying to get to the rebound, Makar tripped up Morrisey.
The Avalanche penalty kill unit had a much stronger second showing, keeping the Jets to the outside for the most part and winning draws for easy clears. Georgiev only had to stop a simple wrister from Perfetti at the top of the far circle, a Scheifele chance at the near dot on a slow moving cross ice pass from Dubois, and a Morrissey bomb from the near point that took a funky deflection and needed a nifty left pad save.
After the kill, Megna and Blidh combined for nice forecheck that lead to a Girard slapper that was blocked away by Demelo and cleared. Demelo and Blidh battled all shift, and that continued after the puck was cleared so Blidh was offside when Megna tried to reenter the zone. Blidh showed a lot more battle in this game than he had so far in an Avalanche sweater.
The Avs took a little momentum from that shift, and controlled much of the play the rest of the period against a Jets team that seemed content to sit back and defend the shutout.
After a couple strong forechecking shifts by the Megna and Newhook lines, O’Connor got another shot on goal from the high slot off a nifty neutral zone pass from Compher. Foudy then took an uncalled high stick fighting for a rebound after MacKinnon drove the zone one on five and fed Jacob MacDonald in the low slot.
Manson tossed one on net off the ensuing o zone draw that Compher nearly tipped home. Then Makar tried to pass through Scheifele at the defensive blue line but turned it over, Scheifele dished it off to Perfetti at the near dot who tapped it on to Wheeler in the slot, where he squeaked it through Georgiev but not quite into the net. Unfortunately, in a microcosm of the Avs puck luck all night, Makar’s effort to pull the puck off the goal line accidentally poked it in. 5-0 Jets. Hattrick for Blake Wheeler.
After a few unenthusiastic trips up and down the ice, Compher and Gustafsson got into it a bit along the near boards in the defensive zone. Everybody tied up but it wasn’t really a scrum, just those two guys trading face washes on their way to matching minors.
With the game out of hand, Bednar used the four on four to reward guys who were playing well. Foudy and Lehkonen took the first shift, and Foudy drove wide and put a shot low on Hellebuyck for a rebound Lehkonen couldn’t quite reach. O’Connor and Newhook took the next shift and generated a similar chance that they similarly couldn’t finish.
Back at even strength, Foudy drove the slot nicely but the pass didn’t get through to him from Newhook, then Blidh got free for a mini breakaway in the dying moments of the game but Hellebuyck shut him down to preserve the 5-0 shutout victory for Winnipeg.
Not a good night for the Colorado’s top players, though with a couple different bounces it wouldn’t have been a bad one either. All the bounces seemed to go Winnipeg’s way from the jump, but the Avalanche didn’t work hard enough defensively to offset that and failed to capitalize on the offensive opportunities they had.
One could chalk this up as getting goalied, or a depleted lineup lacking scoring punch, or a night of good bounces for the Jets, but all those excuses leave out the reality that some guys the Avalanche need to make a difference did not bring their A or even B game to Manitoba.
On the plus side, Jean-Luc Foudy looked NHL ready. He’s not a finished product, but he skates like a pro, creates like a pro, and defended well enough tonight to be a pro. Very excited to see what he does with the rest of this road trip.
The same cannot be said for Alex Galchenyuk, who was invisible in the first period and looked exhausted in the second and third. He’s coming off injury and might need time to get up to NHL speed again, but this version of Galchenyuk looked less like a guy who might have a redemption arc in his future and more like a guy whose career full of lower body injuries have sapped his skating ability beyond repair.
Hopefully, the former comes to play next game and latter was just a fever dream I had because this game made me sick.
Josh Manson stayed out of the box for once! Yay!
A match with the Buffalo Sabres at 5 p.m. MT on Thursday, December 1.