Coming off a brutal third-period collapse against the Anaheim Ducks, the Colorado Avalanche overcame another lapse in third-period play to ride into the All-Star Break on a victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Both teams entered the game limping a bit, with Colorado continuing to miss Gabe Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, and Josh Manson and St. Louis without Ryan O’Reilly, Robert Thomas, Pavel Buchnevich, Scott Perunovich, and Marco Scandella.
That’s a lot of quality hockey wasting away on the shelf.
Fortunately for Colorado, missing players didn’t slow them down this afternoon - and even better, Nuke, Bo, and Manson are all expected to return with the team from the break.
Colorado came out buzzing, clearly determined to shake off the ugly Anaheim game with a statement win in the afternoon.
Alex Newhook got the scoring started on his birthday with a beautiful individual effort, turning a little bank pass from Logan O’Connor at the blue line into a chance alone in the slot and burying his own rebound through Jordan Binnington and two Blues defenders.
Alex Newhook scores against the St. Louis Blues to make it 1-0#STLvsCOL pic.twitter.com/DtMRz60Ros— PeckBot_001 (@PeckBot_001) January 28, 2023
That third line of Newhook with LOC and Andrew Cogliano continued its stretch of dominant play lately, relying on a strong forecheck to force turnovers and generate chances. That goal is a perfect demonstration of what makes them effective - the high motor forechecks - and dangerous - the evolved form of Alex Newhook that has emerged in recent weeks.
J.T. Compher then got in on the rebound goal party, beating Nick Leddy to the puck and burying it off a Girard point shot.
J.T. Compher scores against the St. Louis Blues to make it 2-0#STLvsCOL pic.twitter.com/FgkE1EqVjE— PeckBot_001 (@PeckBot_001) January 28, 2023
O’Connor picked up another assist by digging out a puck from a successful Ben Meyers board battle and finding Girard for that shot, and guess who got the whole play started? Newhook, who you’ll see on that replay gained the zone and fought off a check to get the puck in deep to set up the board battle LOC pulled the puck from.
St. Louis nearly got a dangerous opportunity when Erik Johnson’s stick exploded while trying to clear a puck from the corner of his defensive zone, but everyone covered for him quickly and forced an outside shot that didn’t really challenge Alexandar Georgiev.
Shots ended up 14-9 in favor of the Avs, a somewhat lopsided number that actually makes St Louis look better than they were — none of those shots were particularly dangerous, and Georgiev was on his game turning them aside with ease.
The only downside to the period aside from a couple of sticks to the face for Mikko Rantanen and Girard was a missed opportunity on the power play, though they were moving the puck around neatly and generated two shots with the extra man.
The period started with an uneventful two minutes of four on four hockey after Torey Krug and Matt Nieto got matching roughing minors when Krug took exception to a little bump in the slot from Nieto and tried to fight him.
Here’s the “fight” that occurred. Not really much of a fight at all except for Krug being hot at Nieto #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/E1iUEkZvDc— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) January 28, 2023
Back at even strength, Colorado kept the lopsided shooting galley going, controlling play and outshooting the Blues six nothing through the first five minutes of the second period.
Not content to let Newhook be the only productive Avs center, Nathan MacKinnon turned a simple zone entry into a cross-ice feed to Evan Rodrigues, who lasered it past Jordan Binnington’s outstretched glove.
E-ROD DOESN’T QUIT. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/Xa9rJP0HyJ— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 28, 2023
The stretch pass from Cale Makar to spring MacKinnon on that play will earn him a secondary assist, and the goal never happens without Artturi Lehkonen driving the slot hard to both force the Blues’ defense to clear the passing lane and screen Binnington on the shot. Simple, perfect transition offense from Colorado’s top line.
That third goal seemed to break something in the Blues, as Colorado spent the vast majority of the rest of the period buzzing around Binnington’s net, setting each other up for one-timers from the dots and the slot that just couldn’t quite find the back of the net.
Binnington got so frustrated by this (surprise!) he took a couple swings at O’Connor after he tried to poke a loose puck in the crease through his pads, and then wrapped up Kurtis MacDermid in the ensuing scrum before the refs put him in a little timeout by the Blues bench while they sorted out the pile of players in the corner.
He got a misconduct penalty, but the refs basically rewarded his childish behavior as St. Louis ended up with a powerplay because LOC was given both a slash and a rough. The Avs PK had a chance to extend its shutout streak to five games and mostly kept things to the outside nicely, but Brayden Schenn found a rebound and chipped it through Georgiev to put the Blues on the board.
Brayden Schenn buries Krug's rebound on the power play to get the Blues on the board in the 2nd!#STLBlues pic.twitter.com/wj0eJoFUG9— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 28, 2023
It would have been good for Erik Johnson to not chase out so high so he could recover down on Schenn there, but this goal is actually on Nieto - who is probably still adjusting to the Avs PK system. By not challenging the shooter or taking the man in the high slot, Nieto left Girard in no man’s land in the slot trying to cover both the high slot and the backdoor pass at once, and that’s never good.
Girard, unfortunately, followed that tough play-up with an accidental puck over the glass, but the PK bailed him out and sent the Avs to the intermission up 3-1.
St. Louis started the period strong, with Noel Acciari and Jake Neighbors generating their most dangerous chances of the night that Georgiev had to fight off. After a lull early in the third period allowed Anaheim to come back and win in Colorado’s last game, letting the Blues control the first five minutes of the period had to be causing some nervous thoughts on the Avalanche bench.
Colorado still hadn’t registered a third-period shot when Rodrigues drove the net on a mini breakaway, and before he get that first shot off Niko Mikkola hooked him down from behind sending the top power play unit onto the ice for just the second time in the game.
Newhook finally broke the shot embargo on a chance from the high slot that Binnington barely got a toe on, and that was the only dangerous opportunity the powerplay managed to create. Then an ugly Meyers turnover at the blue line sprung Ivan Barbashev for a breakaway past Brad Hunt that he roofed a perfect shot over Georgiev’s blocker.
Ivan Barbashev forces a turnover, bodies his way to the puck, and finishes for a terrific goal, Blues within 1!#STLBlues pic.twitter.com/CtkJcRtCn9— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) January 28, 2023
Meyers has to cycle that puck deep or move it up to Hunt way sooner, you just can hold on to it that long with a man on your back. Hunt had no chance to make a play once Barbashev made that poke check, he just doesn’t have that kind of acceleration — very few players do.
Colorado managed to give up an odd-man rush when Andreas Englund blew a tire tripping over the red line that nearly found the back of the net, but Rodrigues kicked the loose puck out of the crease.
The Blues controlled the last seven minutes of the period after that Rodrigues play and generated several good chances that Georgiev battled through until Nieto found the empty net dagger to end the St. Louis comeback bid.
Meanwhile welcome back to the Rocky Mountains Long Beach native Matt Nieto! #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/UPJjJxgYUT— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) January 28, 2023
This sleepy third-period act cannot continue after the All-Star Break, and there’s no way it is not the coaching staff’s top priority after this game and the Ducks debacle. But ultimately, Colorado never trailed in this one, and battling through the rough patch is a big improvement over losing to Anaheim — and goaltending was the difference. Georgiev was very good today.
The return of Byram and Manson cannot come soon enough, Englund, Hunt, and MacDermid have all shown warts in their games too frequently even while the Avs were on their six-game win streak, and the last two games clearly demonstrate that all three are liabilities even when playing with a lead.
Englund’s decline in play has been stark - he looked good for stretches but kept losing ice time. I still see him as a third-pairing guy on a lesser team, but he needs to get his confidence back if he’s going to be one - he just looks scared to make mistakes out there right now, and that leads directly to mistakes.
Dennis Malgin seems to need to regain Bednar’s trust after his injury absence. Playing Matt Nieto as a top-six winger and only giving Malgin six minutes is not ideal for no. 81. He didn’t do too much to change that in this game.
EJ needs this break more than anyone who isn’t out injured. His game has cratered after playing extra minutes while Makar was out, and he posted a team-worst -30 percent relative expected goals for today - that basically means he was 30 percent more likely to get scored on than the rest of the team. Hopefully, he’s able to rest and reset - they’re going to need him to be a safe third-pairing option.
And I have to get into this - Binnington stirring the pot should absolutely not be allowed to result in a Blues powerplay. That is bad refereeing. O’Connor’s swipe at a loose puck that spurred that whole thing was not deserving of a slashing penalty on top of a rough for the scrum, but ultimately the fault on that play lies with Kurtis MacDermid — when defensemen come down from the blue line to join scrums they get penalized, it’s that simple.
Speaking of simple ...
Hats off to this Avs fan lol pic.twitter.com/2dbL8hfZD4— Zach Grimes (@GrimisS) January 28, 2023
Enjoy the All-Star Break folks! We’ll have content up throughout so check back in with us while you’re watching Nate, Mikko, and Cale be superstars with their talented friends. While the All-Star festivities of the Skills Event and All-Star Game occur on February 3 and 4, the Avs are next in action against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road on February 7. Puck drop is at 5:00 p.m.