The struggling Colorado Avalanche - a phrase we haven’t had to type much in recent years - have a lot to prove as they head to the Pacific Northwest for the already final time in this young season to face the pesky Seattle Kraken.
Seattle prevailed 4-3 over Colorado after a last-minute goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand four days ago, and in between matchups both teams lost badly - the Kraken fell 4-1 to Edmonton, and the Avs were embarrassed at home in an 8-2 drubbing with a third-period collapse coach Jared Bednar described as the worst period of hockey he’d ever seen from his club.
One side is going to get back in the win column tonight, and one will continue their downward spiral.
They’re battered and bruised right now, with Pavel Francouz now officially out for the season, Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano, and possibly a defenseman on the shelf. To fill out the road trip roster, Joel Kiviranta was signed to an NHL deal and brought up to the big club along with Sam Malinksi.
Adding insult to injury, Coach Bednar used the word quit many times in his post-game press conference after the St. Louis blowout because his players simply looked deflated, defeated, and disinterested after strong play early in the game didn’t lead to any goals and every break seemed to go the Blues’ way.
Mental fortitude is as much a part of an NHL season as physical fortitude, and the Avalanche are undergoing serious stress testing for both right now - will they rise above, play solid defensively, and make this game their get-right night? Or will they succumb to despair and self-pity as the hockey gods continue to punish them with horrible puck luck?
An atrocious PDO is bound to correct itself for a team with strong underlying metrics like these Avs, but that won’t happen if they don’t stay focused on the details and work their butts off.
Jonathan Drouin — Nathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin
Tomas Tatar — Ryan Johansen — Mikko Rantanen
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Logan O’Connor
Joel Kiviranta — Fredrik Olofsson — Kurtis MacDermid
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Bo Byram — Sam Girard
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Note: Sam Malinski wasn’t brought on the trip just for fun - someone must be at risk of missing the game who wouldn’t be easily replaced by Caleb Jones. It seems likely that is Cale or Bo.
Losing to the Oilers wasn’t considered a bad thing last season, but this year is a different beast — Edmonton just fired their coach because they’ve been so bad, but not bad enough to lose to these Kraken. That’s the Avs bailiwick.
In Denver last week, Seattle got some help from Avalanche turnovers and a struggling Ivan Prosvetov in net to put four goals up despite being outplayed the entire game. Back at home, they’re likely to play a little better even if their luck runs a little less charmed.
Jared McCann — Matthew Beniers — Kailer Yamamoto
Jaden Schwartz — Alexander Wennberg — Brandon Tanev
Eeli Tolvanen — Yanni Gourde — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Ryan Winterton — Shane Wright — Tye Kartye
Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak — William Borgen
Brian Dumoulin — Justin Shultz
Georgiev will get the net. So will Grubauer. Both have been bad news for the Avs, good news for everyone else lately - Georgiev has to get some more consistent play in front of him to flip that script.