I’m excited to begin this weekly feature, where I’ll grade the Colorado Avalanche players, systems, and overall performance for the week. As this is new, please provide feedback about what you like and dislike and I’ll either take it to heart and change for the better or completely ignore you and keep being me.
My process for this is pretty simple: Every game I’ll make note of a couple of standout players and moments to myself and give letter grades to the rest of the roster, then average those grades out for the week to determine the final report card.
I have a couple of superlatives for players to win and those grades will get more in-depth notes, then the rest of the roster will get brief thoughts. Feel free to pitch other categories if you think something is missing!
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nathan MacKinnon: Against the Oilers he was absolutely on fire, putting eleven shots on net including this beauty to jumpstart the Avs offense:
He did not follow up as strong against Florida though he did squeak one through Bobrovsky on a quick rush, and in Chicago he was subpar despite recording two assists. He also had one goal-saving backcheck in the first period on what could have been a three on one — that was pure effort on a night without much of it.
Cale Makar: He still seems to be fighting the puck a lot, particularly in the Florida game, and clearly doesn’t have luck on his side right now given his crease clearing attempt clicked in off Rodrigues’s skate to give Florida the victory. He also had more turnovers and lackadaisical defensive plays than you want from a Norris Trophy winner.
That said, he capitalized on his one chance in OT to sink the Oilers and that play deserves all our love:
His bad pinch on the first Chicago goal set the tone for the team in the game - a mistake filled, lackluster tone - though he did try to make up for it with a goal later and multiple nice plays including a fantastic backcheck after MacKinnon was tripped up in the neutral zone.
Breaking him up from MacKinnon against Edmonton clearly worked, as he rebounded from his vanishing act last week with a dominant possession game on JT Compher’s wing. No points, but that’s Stuart Skinner’s fault for stopping all nine of Mikko’s shots on goal.
Against the Panthers and the Hawks, he had a strong games throughout and then absolutely imploded at the end of each. He was rightfully angry at missed calls in both instances, but you can’t be taking obvious interference penalties (vs Florida) or ignoring defense to find a hit (at Chicago) when your team needs your best work to win.
MINDING THE NET
Alexandar Georgiev rocked in Edmonton. He didn’t have a chance on either goal for two very different reasons and completely shut the door at even strength.
He did not rock against the Panthers. At all. The first two goals were two he’d like to have back and the third he could have prevented by corralling the dump-in properly. His rough first period was balanced out by a strong second and a third period where a couple of bounces went against him, though on the fourth goal, I’d really like him to have the initial Barkov shot so the lucky bounce to Tkachuk never happens.
And Pavel Francouz returned to the net in Chicago! And gave up three goals. All three were horrible defensive breakdowns, though it would have been nice for him to stop at least one of the breakaways.
Grade: A for health! B for play.
ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL
Brad Hunt: Look at the old man showing everybody he’s still got it!
Love to see him finally score as an Av. Also made a nice cut in the O zone where he relayed a pass from Compher to Rantanen that sprung Mikko’s wraparound goal! Didn’t really notice him in Chicago though.
DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON
Devon Toews: I know he just had a baby and some of this is just how life goes when you’re up all night with a newborn, but I don’t understand where his head has been at points this season. He still makes great defensive plays most nights, but there has been so much bad lately that it’s easy to forget those.
The first Panthers goal was entirely his fault, as he just lost a puck battle to Anton Lundell that shouldn’t have even been a battle if he skated hard through the puck instead of trying to tie it up on the wall. A confusing, bad play that led to a night full of them.
He led the team in expected goals against that night, the stat a player, especially a top-pairing defenseman, never wants to lead the team in. He also put a lot of passes in feet or other bad areas that forced plays out of the offensive zone. And no attempt to drag a foot to stay onside on the overturned Lehkonen goal?? What is that?
I love Toews, I think he is a fantastic player who literally every young defenseman should model their game after, but the extra minutes he’s had to play with Byram and Manson out and the lack of sleep from being (I assume) a good dad seems to be catching up with him.
In Edmonton he was decent. In Chicago he was invisible.
Andrew Cogliano: Love the goal against Florida, but his fancy stats were dreadful in Chicago. D
J.T. Compher: His bad pinch while covering the point for Erik Johnson caused the odd-man rush that led to the second goal against Florida, but he also scored the game-tying goal on a nice turnaround snapshot to even that out. B
Sam Girard: the highlight for G haters is going to be his fumbled puck that led to Sam Bennett’s third Florida goal, but he was also excellent in Edmonton and fine in Chicago. C-
Darren Helm: Did not notice him much, and he is now hurt again after the Hawks game. C
Erik Johnson: I really hated his defense on the Sam Bennett goal. He did not track Bennett at all and swiped at the passer instead of taking the passing lane away, which is either a bad choice in the moment or bad awareness if he didn’t know Bennett was there. D
Martin Kaut: He, Meyers, and MacDonald had some jump on a couple of shifts in Florida that definitely made a difference, as the top lines just weren’t going at that point and someone needed to give the defense a break. Didn’t do anything with those shifts or his powerplay time, but when the fourth line gets o zone time that is only a good thing. C+
Artturi Lehkonen: Lots of chances, just one disallowed goal C+
Kurtis MacDermid: Two assists in Florida! Lots of bad defense everywhere! D+
Jacob MacDonald: See the Martin Kaut section, but subtract the powerplay time. C
Ben Meyers: See the Maritn Kaut section. C
Alex Newhook: Did not notice him much in Edmonton or vs Florida, and fancy stats do not paint a pretty picture. He bounced back in Chicago though, with a great effort on his disallowed goal, a screen that made Makar’s goal possible, and some of the best board week of his season. Not great board work, mind you, but some of his best. C+
Logan O’Connor: I did not like his coverage on the first Edmonton powerplay goal, but otherwise LOC was exactly the LOC you expect every night. C
Evan Rodrigues: Two assists in Edmonton and didn’t miss a shift after he went down with an apparent leg injury early in Florida. Scored and led the team in xGF% in Chicago. B
The process has been solid but the results speak for themselves: No goals is unacceptable for a team with this much offensive firepower. That said, Nathan MacKinnon is an absolute wizard at zone entries - it’s beautiful to watch:
I think the powerplay needs to adjust its focus a bit. MacKinnon will get them in the zone, Makar will quarterback from the point, but what are they trying to do when they get set up?
They could be using the threat of MacKinnon and Makar to free up Rantanen’s lethal one timer, but instead, they work Mikko down low and Cale up high, both trying to feed Nate so he can... usually miss the net. It’s just not working, and you can see the frustration growing on every failed attempt.
Against Chicago they tried different entries, but that was not the problem and it did not help. It’s a real failure by the coaching staff that they only tweaked the part that worked.
In short: Effective but misguided process + terrible results = D
Again, if we look only at the results this was a bad week. But let’s dive a little deeper.
In Edmonton, the PK gave up two goals to Zach Hyman. The first was a beautiful passing play from Draisaitl to McDavid to Hyman, and while you’d definitely like to see Logan O’Connor stay with Hyman a little tighter, sometimes, great players just make great plays.
Against Florida, they gave up two more on two chances. Pretty terrible stats, obviously.
The first one is absolute trash all around. Georgiev misses the dump-in, Girard doesn’t get a handle on a loose puck, and Erik Johnson does not cover the backdoor pass. This play was bungled by everyone and we should all barf about it.
But the second one was actually a fantastic kill, they kept everything to the outside for nearly two minutes and then the puck ticked off Makar’s stick over to Rodrigues’s skate and into the net. That’s hockey sometimes.
Also, I guess holding Chicago’s inept powerplay to zero goals on three tries counts for something. Ok, I’m glad we dove deeper. Still a bad week, but not as bad as it seemed.
In short: bad results + inconsistent process = C-
The Avalanche were so good at even strength against Edmonton it made me question why anyone would ever take a penalty. Just don’t do that, boys. Duh.
The Natural Stat Trick 5-on-5 graph is all Avs all game. Look at this masterpiece!
Print that, frame it, and give it to Bednar for his birthday, my god. If not for one incredible play and one questionable goal, this would have been a full rout.
Against Florida, not so much. That second period was ugly.
And in Chicago they somehow looked decent on the graph despite looking terrible on the ice. It is noteworthy that the second period was again their worst. It’s also fair to say they controlled this game, but a couple terrible defensive breakdowns and a lack of finish sunk them anyway.
The simple truth is, they outscored their opponents at even strength 9-5 and for the most part, looked good doing it. They just keep starting periods slowly and making big mistakes before they get going.
In short: mostly good process + mostly good results = B-
CLIP OF THE WEEK: MY FAVORITE MURDER
My note for this play was: “Rantanen called for interference after decking Cousins off the puck for no reason. No embellishment?? Cousins snapped his head back and pretended to fully die.” Give him the Oscar for the most beautiful flop. Maybe this was his tribute to the late great Brazilian soccer star Pele.
Also gotta love Brad Hunt dodging the stick subtly instead of manifesting an open wound on his cheek to sell high sticking there.
TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK
The win in Edmonton was an absolute banger, the loss to Florida a frustrating dud, and then the Chicago disaster ruined everything everywhere all at once.
Overall, I’ll give the team a D.