We’re back with the Colorado Avalanche weekly report card!
This week started rough with a 7-0 shutout in Vegas, got better with a win over New Jersey, and ended in heartbreak with a last-minute loss to Seattle. But were the Avs any good? Let’s find out.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Logan O’Connor: This is in part an indictment of the Avs's inconsistent stars and a nod to a great week from LOC – O’Connor’s elevation to the third line turned an unproductive group into a dynamic force, completely controlling play with their forecheck and cycle game and chipping in some offense.
O’Connor only tallied that one assist he got by blocking a shot not actually passing, but his influence is clear at even strength and his PK work continues to be excellent. Miles Wood and Ross Colton are going to owe him a lot of steaks if that line keeps this up. A
Nathan MacKinnon: 2 Goals, 4 Assists
The stats look really good – better than I thought when thinking back on these games – so maybe I’m being too harsh by not giving Nate player of the week. But he’s just had too many absent plays lately, and his giveaways are turning into goals against far too often.
That play really sums up how I see MacK lately – he tried to do a little too much, turned the puck over, backchecked well but made a lazy play to turn it back over, and then zoned out defensively leaving a scorer alone in front. At the same time, he racked up points in the win over the Devils and the loss to the Kraken and had decent underlying stats all three games, so he grades out better than my impression of his week. A-
Cale Makar: 4 Assists
Loved his game against Jersey and his statistical profile in the Seattle game was dominant, but that Vegas game tanked his week as despite the team’s overall solid underlying stats Cale’s were not good enough. B
Mikko Rantanen: 2 Goals, 1 Assist
He rocked against the Devils, asserting himself in all facets of the game and tallying all three of his points for the week. If that was the only game, he’d grade out in God tier. I’d be bowing down.
But the other two games happened. In Vegas, the moose was relatively loose but just couldn’t finish – it’s the Kraken game that sunk Mikko’s week, as he was invisible all night. Nate and Val looked dialed in out there while Mikko kind of floated alongside them and didn’t make a memorable play. Very disappointing game from an excellent player. B-
MINDING THE NET
He did enough to win against the Devils after getting hung out to dry against the Golden Knights. The night off against Seattle was somewhat surprising as Georgiev no doubt would have preferred to build on his bounce-back game. B
He’s a young backup goalie who needs reps to improve so it’s hard to be too harsh on him, but man that Seattle game was a disaster. Prosvetov was routinely off his angle all night and popped rebounds into dangerous areas throughout the contest – culminating in the final goal that he couldn’t absorb and instead kicked to Bjorkstrand.
There’s a lot of blame to go around on all the goals - mostly to Ross Colton on that one - but if he can’t stay square and track pucks consistently then all the heroics on some of his exciting athletic saves early in the game are pointless. I still like his athletic potential, but this game was not encouraging for the mental side of goaltending – he doesn’t appear to be able to lock into positioning fundamentals consistently from puck drop to the buzzer. D
ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL
Artturi Lehkonen: After the worst game of his Avs career last week in Buffalo, Lehkonen bounced back to lead the team in underlying metrics against Vegas and New Jersey. Fell awkwardly into the boards against the Kraken and went to the hospital – hopefully, he’s ok. A-
DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON
Another week, another healthy scratch. Drouin was dreadful in the Vegas game – the team was beaten down in possession metrics with him on the ice and the offensive creativity he needs to show in order to justify a roster spot was simply nonexistent.
He was given the opportunity to bounce back against the Devils but the metrics got worse and he was unable to generate any chances for his teammates. Riley Tufte wasn’t much better in his place, which to me indicates this might be a Ryan Johansen problem, but Drouin has to find a way to create chances when he gets another look. F
Bowen Byram: That opening goal against the Kraken was a snipe and I liked his night overall, though the same cannot be said for the Devils or Knights games.
Fisticuffs!— Sound Of Hockey (@sound_hockey) November 10, 2023
Dunn with a big hit on Cogliano, which Byram didn't like. He went after Dunn, and Dunn fed him a few knuckle sandwiches. #SeaKraken actually got a 2-minute power play out of this. pic.twitter.com/WlA3R5LCEV
This choice to defend Andrew Cogliano somehow ended up an instigator penalty and put the Avs shorthanded – not cool, referees. That said, Bo could make the choice not to drop his gloves and the Avs don’t end up shorthanded there. Sometimes, a scrum is enough. But I get it, Cogs shouldn’t have to take that kind of hit again. B
Andrew Cogliano: Was exactly him out there - killing penalties, posting solid possession metrics, and taking unpenalized checks from behind. C+
Ross Colton: We have to talk about the Luke Hughes hit and Timo Meier crosscheck. The hit was fine, the rookie Hughes just didn’t brace himself and he’ll know to do that now. The crosscheck was not. You can say he was just putting his stick up to defend himself and it rode up Meier’s arm into his face – and that’s probably totally accurate – but you can’t say it was smart. He’s got to avoid that interaction rather than skate into it with his stick up.
It didn’t end up costing Colorado, but it did undermine his individual effort which to that point had been fantastic. I also liked his Vegas game and most of his work against the Kraken – just not his defense on the last goal. B-
Sam Girard: That Devils game was his worst of the year, but he was great against the Kraken and among the best Avs in Vegas. B
Ryan Johansen: Got an even-strength goal against New Jersey! But then reverted back to his brand of low-event, somewhat ineffective even strength play vs. the Kraken. His line is just not creating high-danger chances no matter who is out there with him, so it’s starting to seem like a RyJo problem. C+
Jack Johnson: So totally himself – just fine. C
Kurtis MacDermid: Back in the pressbox where he belongs! A
Josh Manson: He just isn’t effective with Jack Johnson next to him. They don’t complement each other well, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that as Caleb Jones also plays a similar game. B-
Valeri Nichushkin: His Vegas game was his worst in an Avs sweater. By miles and miles and miles. It was so bad I genuinely thought maybe the NHL does have a sports betting problem because he had to be doing it on purpose.
I don’t believe that and I’m not accusing Val of anything, to be clear. But he played so badly that it absolutely crossed my mind. Was much better the rest of the week, but still: D
Fredrik Olofsson: Glad he got healthy because he remains quietly impactful on the defensive end. Would love a little more finish, but that’s why he’s a fourth-liner. B
Devon Toews: Another quiet week from Toews. I’m ready for one of his trademark pinch-in-back-door goals. B-
Riley Tufte: He got another shot on the second line against the Kraken and was not impactful at all. He needs some consistency to be effective, and bouncing up and down between the Avs and Eagles isn’t fair to him. I get the financial reasons, but it doesn’t seem like smart player development. He needs practice time with RyJo if they’re going to click. C
Miles Wood: Statement game with two points against his old team, including a shorthanded goal on a breakaway. A
TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK
The Vegas loss looks so bad on paper, but the underlying stats speak to how generally well the team has been playing – they dominated possession metrics all night, but were not using that possession advantage to create high-danger chances. Instead, all that possession led to long shifts on tired legs that couldn’t recover to prevent chances the other way when players made boneheaded turnovers here and there, and all those plays turned into goals. Seriously. All of them. The puck luck that night was insane.
The Devils and Kraken games went how that Vegas game should have – they were close, and the team that got more bounces got the W. The problem with that is that these Avs are far too talented to be creating so few high-danger chances—they shouldn’t have to rely on bounces, they should be scoring at a much higher rate.
Bottom line – whoever is on the ice with Ryan Johansen has to start creating high-danger chances, because the top and third lines are doing their jobs but the team as a whole just isn’t creating enough. B-