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Avalanche can’t stay out of their own way, buried by Golden Knights

The Avalanche have been shutout in three consecutive road games.

Colorado Avalanche v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche were embarrassed under the bright lights of Vegas Saturday night, falling to the Golden Knights by a score of 7-0. The defending Stanley Cup Champions made their statement to the league tonight, by decimating the odds on Cup favorite Avalanche, and improving to a 11-0-1 record on the season.

1st Period:

I was anticipating this being a very difficult game for the Avalanche straight out of the gate. The Golden Knights are the best team in the NHL early on this season, and their record of 10-0-1 coming into the night reflects exactly that. Combine a surging hockey team with a Saturday night crowd in Las Vegas, and you have what’s an uphill battle for the Avs, and that’s what it looked like early on with the Golden Knights jumping out to a 9-1 shot advantage in the first half of the period.

This came with a few penalties however, as Ryan Johansen and Mikko Rantanen both went off with stick infraction minors in the first seven minutes of the game. After Ross Colton and Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson got into a scuffle in the middle of play late in the period, a Brett Howden hooking minor would finally give the Avalanche their first power play opportunity with a short 4-on-3. Colton and Stephenson exited the penalty box to return to a traditional 5-on-4, and that’s when trouble struck.

Cale Makar blew an edge defending a shorthanded rush, and appeared to be shaken up on the play as a result. This prevented Makar from covering Mark Stone in the low slot, and with no one to cover for a hobbled Makar, that left Stone all alone with the puck on his stick in front of Alexandar Georgiev. Stone made no mistake with the room he was given and resulted in a 1-0 Vegas score on a short handed goal. It was a devastating goal to give up after weathering the early storm, and now the focus going into the dressing room was shaking off that goal and getting even.

2nd Period:

Not much happened in the first half of the second period. The game was in a good spot, the Avs and Knights were exchanging scoring chances, but nothing of extremely high danger. The danger started after Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo disrupted a rush opportunity from the Avs, and wired a pass to Jonathan Marchessault in the neutral zone, who found a streaking Jack Eichel for a 2-on-2 rush of their own. Eichel elected to rip a shot top corner above Georgiev’s blocker, and now the Avs were trouble down two.

A couple of minutes after the Eichel goal, Valeri Nichushkin turned over the puck in his own zone to Chandler Stephenson, who quickly found Mark Stone flying into the zone. Stone found Carrier streaking with him, and slid the puck over for a one-time shot that beat Georgiev, 3-0.

Exactly 20 seconds later, Ross Colton headed to the box for interference, and the Knights had a chance to put the Avs away early with a power play goal. All it took was 32 seconds before the relentless pressure from Vegas lead to Jack Eichel’s second goal of the night on a one-timer of his own.

Three goals in 2:52 of game time usually sinks any hockey team, especially when the defecit comes on the back of self-inflicted errors, and the Avs had approximately 26 minutes of hockey to figure something, anything out.

3rd Period:

The Avalanche were given a powerplay a little under two minutes into the final frame, and at this point of game any power play is a golden opportunity to spark some life. Instead, the Avs tripped over themselves once again. Bowen Byram turned the puck along the half-wall to Mark Stone, who sprung himself for a breakaway. Devon Toews, nor Valeri Nichushkin were able to catch Stone, who potted his second short handed goal of the contest to extend the lead to 5-0.

About midway through the period, William Karlsson added to the damage with a shot Georgiev should’ve saved, but the biggest question surrounding Georgiev at this point was “Why is he still in the game?” The team in front of him didn’t show up for him tonight.

Karlsson added another goal with approximately five minutes to go in the frame after Vegas cycled the Avs into submission. Georgiev was once again left hung out to dry on the seventh and final Vegas goal.

I don’t know what more I can say about these goals than that, so I’ll end the game portion of this recap with a lighthearted jab. The Las Vegas Raiders are starting Aidan O’Connell at Quarterback against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon, and I think the Golden Knights seven-goal touchdown will be more touchdowns than the Raiders produce tomorrow.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Vegas Golden Knights are the best team in the Western Conference, tonight proved that. They’re the same Golden Knights the league has come to rue collectively, and they will execute on their scoring chances if you give them an inch. They’re on top of the NHL as defending Stanley Cup Champions, and are 11-0-1 on the season to boot.
  • The Avalanche have now been shutout in three straight road games, which is very concerning. They need to check back in mentally. They’ve had an overwhelmingly road-heavy schedule to start the season, with seven out of 10 games taking place away from Ball Arena. It’s not uncommon for teams to struggle on the road early, but the Avs need to lock it in sooner rather than later.
  • The Avalanche are still a very talented hockey team, and very much a Stanley Cup contender, but need to look themselves in the mirror. The 2021-22 team had some struggles early on as well. Remember, that team started the season by going 4-5-1 in their first 10 games. The 23-24 Avalanche are 7-3-0 after their first 10 with tonight’s loss. There have been a whole lot of things to like in the Avs victories, but an equal amount of things to dislike in their three shutout losses. On almost every goal tonight they left Georgiev hanging out to dry.

Next Matchup:

The Avalanche will be back in Denver for a Tuesday night matchup with the New Jersey Devils, and New Jersey could be without their superstar center Jack Hughes after a shoulder injury suffered in St. Louis Friday night. This is slated as a nationally broadcasted game on TNT so local fans might be able to finally watch a game. Puck drop is slated for 8:00pm MST, but as national games tend to go, a delayed start due to the the first national game (DET vs NYR) is possible.