We’re back with the Colorado Avalanche weekly report card!
This week started rough again with an 8-2 loss to St. Louis, got better with a win in Seattle, and fully turnt up with an 8-2 win over Anaheim. But were the Avs any good? Let’s find out.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Cale Makar: 1 goal, 5 Assists
Calls for Makar to play better need to quiet down now – Cale was dominant this week. Even in the St. Louis loss, Cale controlled play when he was on the ice and looked dangerous whenever he had the puck with time and space to create chances. And with tips in front finally finding their way into the net again, he racked up assists.
Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar make it look too easy. What a passing play to setup Devon Toews.pic.twitter.com/l0D0he2JVR— Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) November 16, 2023
It wasn’t a flawless week – Cale’s turnovers at the offensive blue line led directly to goals against St. Louis and an overturned goal in Seattle – but it was a return to the consistently influential play we’ve come to expect from #8.
Nathan MacKinnon: 6 Assists
Six assists is a great week for most players, and there’s really not too much to complain about with MacKinnon overall – he drove play, created havoc with his feet while creating chances for others with his hands and vision, and was strong in his own end as well.
The knock on Nate is mostly the St. Louis game – Coach Bednar called out the team for quitting on each other when the game started slipping away, and 29 was a huge part of that. His body language when the Avs can’t catch a break is visibly deflated, and as a leader that cannot happen. He has to be one of the guys keeping the team positive and focused, but instead he led the descent into apathetic play.
You can see there why he got frustrated – Colorado was controlling most of the play and St Louis kept getting pucks to go whenever they got a chance – but regardless he made up for it with a great game in Seattle and followed that with a solid effort against the Ducks, though getting only two shots on net was decidedly un-MacKinnon like. The goal scoring touch will come back – he has started most seasons on a slow goals pace – and he’s contributing well in all other areas while we wait for that.
Mikko Rantanen: 2 Goals, 1 Assist
Rantanen’s effort was a bright spot in the St Louis game, but his goal wasn’t enough to turn the tide once the rest of the team checked out. Against Anaheim it was the opposite – Mikko looked somewhat checked out but the rest of the team was dialed way in and it didn’t end up mattering. The Seattle game, though?
This pass by Mikko Rantanen is sick— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) November 14, 2023
It was vintage Rantanen – showed incredible passing touch on that play at the red line, used his body to control pucks in the offensive zone, and picked up a goal of his own by getting to the front of the net. Only three points for the Moose in a week the Avs scored 15 goals is a bit surprising, though.
MINDING THE NET
The St. Louis game was dreadful, but it would be unreasonable to blame Georgie for all six goals against him. That said, he has shown he can make huge saves to bail out the team when it’s struggling and when they needed that against the Blues it simply did not happen.
In Seattle, it did. The Avs started slow and if Georgiev hadn’t kept the game close with big saves in the first period, it could have been another nightmare. Instead, Colorado rode him all the way back to dominant play in the third period and stayed dominant vs Anaheim to give #40 an easy night between the pipes. B+
He came in for the last two Blues goals, but with the team in front of him barely trying those two goals are completely unfair to pin on Prosvetov. He actually made five or six incredible stops in half a period, and deserves some flowers for the effort. B
ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL
If LOC keeps this up, I might have to move him over to Star Watch. O’Connor’s defense was phenomenal, as usual, and he chipped in two assists against the Ducks. The Logan O’Colton Wood line posted dominant underlying numbers even in the St. Louis loss, and LOC is the key that unlocked that group’s potential.
Great feed by Logan O'Connor to spring Ross Colton pic.twitter.com/gFImyCeiUa— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 16, 2023
That’s a great finish from Ross Colton, but it’s not possible if O’Connor holds the puck too long or chips it deep – both plays he would have made as a younger player. His work ethic was always obvious, but as the game has slowed down for him LOC has developed a feel for passing that elevates him from a fourth line grinder to much more. A
DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON
Riley Tufte: Look, I promised to give this to someone every week so this may be harsh but it has to happen. Tufte was given every opportunity to take injured Artturi Lehkonen’s spot in the Top 6 while Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar struggled to make an impact and he was… not good.
The St. Louis game is a tough one to judge someone on, but while the rest of the top six was mostly effective despite not getting pucks to go in, Tufte was on the ice for 5 high danger chances against and just 2 for. His defensive zone work is not NHL caliber right now, and he isn’t playing with enough creativity to generate offense at the NHL level.
He’ll get another shot, and we’ve seen in his Eagles stint that he can be an impact player on both ends of the ice when he’s playing with freedom and confidence, but he has to bring a leveled up version of his AHL self to the NHL if he’s going to stick. C
Bowen Byram: No points, but a strong week defensively – particularly on the penalty kill. C+
Andrew Cogliano: Good to see him back on the ice against the Ducks – better to see him pot a goal! B+
Ross Colton: That goal from LOC was an excellent finish, and he was absolutely flying out there all three nights. That line has become a consistent chaos creator and we love it.
No you’re not hallucinating – that’s a powerplay goal from the second unit! B+
Picked up an assist against the Blues and finally broke the donut in his goal column:
You gotta love that for Drou, and he kept up the strong play againstAnaheim – even earning some time on the top powerplay unit. Still looking for more creativity from him to unlock Ryan Johansen and Tatar on the second line, but it’s starting to happen. B
Sam Girard: Picked up an injury against the Blues and missed the Seattle game, but returned against the Ducks and picked up his first goal of the season with hard nosed play in the low slot – rare to see! Love to see! B+
Ryan Johansen: Got an even strength goal against Seattle! But then reverted back to his brand of low-event, somewhat ineffective even strength play vs the Ducks. C+
Jack Johnson: Stepped up with Girard out and looked like it was 2010 again doing it – he was moving well and making plays all over the ice. B
Caleb Jones: Loved seeing Caleb finally get into the NHL action, and he picked up an assist in his first game. Excellent defense and breakout work in both games proved he belongs with the big club. A
Joel Kiviranta: Got an NHL contract to fill in for Andrew Cogliano on the fourth line against the Kraken, and then made a statement with a goal and two assists against Anaheim. He should stick with the big club too. A
Kurtis MacDermid: His three minutes against the blues were three too many. C-
Sam Malinski: Debuted in Seattle and played surprising simple, solid hockey for a guy touted as an offensive creator. That’s encouraging, as his struggles in preseason were mostly on the defensive end. B+
Josh Manson: Struggled against the Blues and picked up an injury that kept him out the rest of the week. C
Valeri Nichushkin: Elevated to the top line and found his scoring touch again with a couple fantastic tip in goals. Much much better week from Nuke. A
Fredrik Olofsson: Was caved in against St Louis, but rebounded well once he got actual linemates.
Love the finish off a great feed from LOC B
Tomas Tatar: Back with skilled players on the second line, Tatar was back to looking like he belongs – but he’s still fighting the puck a bit.
Oof. Pucks have to start cooperating with him soon. C+
Devon Toews: Very strong underlying play even in the Blues game, and he capped off the week by finally getting back in the goal column on the beautiful Makar feed at the top of this article, A-
Miles Wood: Only one assist on the week, but the overall play of the Logan O’Colton Wood line was the engine that drove the ducks win and Wood’s speed and tenacity on the forecheck are a huge part of that. B
TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK
That Blues debacle had better be the last game where the Avs can’t buy a goal and instead give out freebies to their enemies. The team quit, as Bednar said, and for a minute it looked like that was going to carry over to the Seattle game:
But it didn’t, they turned their game around at the end of the first and dominated the next 90 minutes of hockey to beat down both the Kraken and Ducks with the kind of defense and forecheck that made Colorado cup champions in 2022.
The speed and tenacity of the bottom six combined with the skill and intensity of the top line are the front office’s vision for this lineup come to life, and offset the struggles of the second line. It’s great to see, and it has to continue in Dallas on Saturday. B+