Following a sweat-it-out win against division rivals the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche headed back home to Ball Arena in search of the extra two points against the Calgary Flames. It wasn’t pretty at times but the home team got the job done in a 3-1 victory.
Before we get into the actual recap I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Avs pregame ceremony in honor of Flames long-time Assistant General Manager, Chris Snow. Snow passed away after a long battle with ALS this year. The team had Snow’s wife and kids out to read the lineups for both teams and participate in a ceremonial puck drop. Kroenke Sports Charities also donated ten thousand dollars to ALS research. It was an incredibly classy and important move by a franchise that Snow was never even employed. A good reminder that hockey is meant to bring people together.
Now onto the gameplay. The first few minutes of the game were a small sample of what was to come the rest of this game. It was evident both teams were on the second leg of a back-to-back as they both appeared tired and sloppy with the puck. Each team took a penalty in the early stages of the game, but the teams were unsuccessful on their respective powerplay chances. Less than thirty seconds after the Avs’ first failed attempt with the man advantage Blake Coleman laid the body on Avs goaltender Ivan Prosvetov, prompting a goaltender interference call. This was one too many penalties for the Flames as the Avs would rectify their failed powerplay attempt with a successful one.
Nathan MacKinnon carried the puck in off the regroup and dropped it for Mikko Rantanen, a typical man-advantage zone entry for the Avalanche. With the speed MacKinnon had he was able to push the Flames penalty killers and Rantanen made a quick backhand pass to a speeding Jonathan Drouin high in the zone. The quick pass left the Flames flat footed against Drouin who easily sidestepped the high man which gave him all the time in the world to walk into the slot and pick his spot. The Avs and Drouin were feeling it and had a 1-0 lead early.
After their early season struggles with starts the Avalanche have made noticeable improvements with their first-period play. Even on the second half of a back-to-back they kept that energy and had a solid first period, outside of some continued sloppiness, exemplified well by Bowen Byram who took his third delay of game penalty in as many games in the dying seconds of the period. The Avs fended off the first half of the penalty as the first period winded down and did the same with the second half in the following frame.
Despite the Avs strong kill, the Flames were able to really pick up their game after their second failed powerplay of the night. They spent long stretches in the Avalanche zone and it almost got them tied. In the midst of one of those stretches, they were able to hem the Avs fourth line on the ice, allowing only Fredrik Olofsson to make a change for Ryan Johansen. For the Avs, it was the only change they needed as Johansen made an excellent block high in the zone on former Av Nikita Zadorov which careened out of the zone. One of the pockmarks of Johansen’s game is skating, but it didn’t look like it here as he blew by Zadorov and found himself one-on-one with Dan Vladar. Rather than take a shot on the fly Johansen recognized he was on his backhand and curled around the net, beating Vladar to the far post with a perfect wraparound for the 2-0 lead.
The Avalanche found some life in the period but it didn’t last long. Again the fourth line would get stuck on the ice following a defensive faceoff, one they won. This time they didn’t escape it unscathed as Jonathan Huberdeau fed a nice pass to Mikael Backlund, who beat Fredrik Olofsson to the Avs net front to answer back for Calgary and cut the Avalanche lead in half.
Shortly after the goal the Avalanche gave up a 2-on-1 and almost found themselves in a tie game, but the Flames struck iron on their chance.
The Flames were reminded of something many teams do against this Avalanche team, if you don’t finish your chances the Avs will. Less than a minute after the Backlund goal Nathan MacKinnon carried the puck into the Calgary zone with speed. In an intelligent move, he slammed on the breaks and allowed his linemates to crash the net so he could throw his patented floater on the net for a chance at a tip or rebound. MacKinnon got neither as the puck floated past the bodies in front of the net and in the net into the top corner of the net. The ugly goal not only put the Avs up to a more comfortable two-goal lead but also gave MacKinnon his first goal in seven games.
The Avs found a bit more footing from the goal and finished the period strong. They took a two-goal lead into their best period of the season.
Similar to their last few games the Avalanche third period wasn’t as pretty as it had been in games prior. They got heavily outshot and gave up a few clean looks in tight on Prosvetov. Despite the Avs new backup not having played in over 16 days, he made some great saves to keep the Avs lead and get his second win on the season.
For the second game in a row, the Avs survived a more passive third-period but thanks to a strong finish from their goaltender they earned the 3-1 win, which was their third victory in four days.
As is often the case with the second half of a back-to-back there are no big negative takeaways. It makes it easier that I thought the Avs all did a pretty good job tonight. They played well given the circumstances and battled past some awkward officiating and just a weird game overall.
Two of the goal scorers tonight came from the second line, although Drouin’s goal came on the powerplay. I’ve been saying for a while how important I think it is for that line to start producing and they did just that. Both goals are impressive skill plays from skilled guys. The only problem is they need to find a way to do it together. The line as a whole played well tonight, as I thought they had for a large part of their time together. But they still couldn’t connect with each other to find the back of the net. I’m sure it will come soon. Johansen and Drouin getting some mojo can only help that chance.
I thought the rest of the lines fell under the category of good process but needed better finishing. The third line especially created a lot of chances, mostly to Ross Colton, who was unable to bury them. Hard to crush a guy who’s been scoring the way he has though.
As mentioned at the tail end of the piece I thought Prosvetov did great. He stopped a barrage of high-danger chances in the third period when the game got tight. I was really impressed with how he fought through bodies and chaos to find pucks. Something I didn’t see much from him in his previous games.
The Avs’ second line had one of their better games together. Josh Manson had a good night against the Wild and followed it up with a dominant performance tonight. He was feeling it and you could tell. Shades Manson’s 2022 Playoff performance in his game tonight. Bowen Byram also had a strong night, even considering his penalty. He was moving his legs to create offense and defense well and almost got his third assist in a row after Mikko Rantanen struck iron on a breakaway from a Byram stretch pass.
The Avs only have one day off before they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. MT on Monday, November 27th.