Coming into the ninth game of the season, this was about as much of a must-win as you can have as a 6-2 hockey team. That’s just how the cookie crumbles when you’re facing a division rival at home after back-to-back shutout losses. The Colorado Avalanche got back on the scoreboard and got their win in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
It was an eerie copy of the past few games for the Avalanche in the first few minutes of this game. Colorado was sloppy with the puck and gave up some good looks to the Blues, including a cross-crease pass to Jordan Kyrou that Ivan Prosvetov got his pad on. The puck was constantly in the Avalanche zone, and the team was reeling, which forced them to take a penalty early in the first. The kill wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done, and that gave the Avs a much-needed boost.
Colorado punched back with some chances shortly after the Blues failed powerplay. The team had taken a step forward with their play and Ross Colton killed two birds with one stone nine minutes into the first. Mikko Rantanen and Miles Wood completed a relay of chip passes off the boards that landed on the stick of Colton. He flew down the boards, beating the only Blue’s defensemen back, Tyler Tucker, with a power move to the net. Colton snuck the puck between crowd favorite Jordan Binington’s pad and the post to get the Avs's first goal in two games and his first 5-on-5 goal of the season.
Colton didn’t just get the monkey off Colorado’s back with that goal, he threw it. From that point on the Avalanche worked the Blues in the first. Creating chance after chance before their struggling powerplay got a chance. The Avalanche powerplay, which was 0 for their last 12, shook another skid after Mikko Rantanen ripped a shot past Artturi Lehkonen, Ryan Johansen, and Jordan Binnington. The Avs stayed strong through the remainder of the period and took a 2-0 lead into the room.
The second period was a big step back for the Avalanche. After their solid first Colorado again struggled to connect on passes and found themselves getting caught in the defensive zone shift after shift. Prosvetov did a great job of keeping the Avs with a two-goal lead until his shutout bid was ended by Robert Thomas. The Blues cut the Avs lead to one almost eighteen minutes into the period after a well-executed rush and kept it close until the second period wound down.
Robert Thomas gets the Blues on the board pic.twitter.com/qxncQM42IY— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) November 2, 2023
Something was said in the Colorado locker room and the team came out like gangbusters to start the third. They knew they needed to get back in the win column and they played like it. Right off the jump, Cale Makar took control of the game. Flying around Blues’ players and the ice creating chances until a pass found Lehkonen alone net front with nothing to do but deposit the puck into an open net.
This wasn’t the end of the Avs domination as they would go on to control the remainder of the period, sealing the deal when Bowen Byram put some finesse into a one-timer, courtesy of Nathan MacKinnon, to put the game to bed.
A game like this was needed for the Avs. It would have been nice if they could have responded like this in their previous game against Buffalo, but better late than never. After some controversial lineup choices landed Kurtis MacDermid and Riley Tufte in the game squad both players backed up the faith their coach had in them. They were seen countless times winning puck battles along the boards and trying to fire home goals, things Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar don’t bring in a hockey game. Tufte especially looked good. His defense wasn’t perfect but he constantly put himself in positions to make plays in the offensive zone.
The other duo with questionable spots in the roster tonight, Makar and Byram, also looked great. Makar had some bobbled pucks and looked a bit off in the early stages of the game, but took over in the third and really gave the Avalanche the fire they needed to put the game away with his opening shift. Byram wasn’t as active offensively as Makar, but his defensive play was impressive. He was using his body effectively and broke up many plays. Bowen also scored his second goal in four games on a nice read and a nifty finish to help polish off a great night.
Colton has looked good in burgundy early in his Avalanche career but the production hadn’t quite followed as it maybe should have. He made up for a little bit of that tonight with a great individual goal that not only sparked his team, but himself. After the goal, there was a noticeable energy increase for Colton and action followed him around the ice all night. This was definitely his best game as an Avs thus far.
Personally, I’m a big Josh Manson advocator and I think he’s been perfectly fine, for the most part, in his role to start the season. However, tonight was by far his best. His physical presence was noticeable. He made several good reads defensively and offensively like he did in the Avs post-season run. Manson has been getting pretty unlucky to start the season, with pucks always finding the net against him, but it’s good to see him continue to improve.
Last, but not least, Prosvetov. I was a big fan of the addition to begin with and the performance he put on in his first Avalanche start showed why. He reads the game well and is sound positionally. Similar to Georgiev he’s a pretty agile goaltender and is good on his feet, especially for 6-foot-5. The only goal that was scored on him tonight was one that most goaltenders would give up. His biggest struggle so far in his NHL career is his consistency, hopefully, the Avalanche can work him into more games and he can iron out those kinks.
The Avalanche are back in the win column just in time to head to Vegas to play their first regular season game against the defending Cup Champion Golden Knights. Mile High Hockey will have you covered for that game this Saturday night with puck drop at 8:00 p.m. MT.