We’re back with the Colorado Avalanche weekly report card!
Every game I’ll make note of a couple of standout players and moments give letter grades to the rest of the roster, then average those grades out for the week to determine the final report card.
I have a couple of superlatives for players to win and those grades will get more in-depth notes, then the rest of the roster will get brief thoughts. Feel free to pitch other categories if you think something is missing!
The results were good for Colorado this week, even with a shootout loss to Tampa. Wins against Florida and most importantly Minnesota – the team they’re fighting directly with for the last wildcard playoff spot – were big, though the injury bug continued to bite and the actual underlying play was less than pretty.
Tuesday v Tampa Bay: 4-3 SO Loss
Wednesday @ Minnesota: 3-2 Win
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Josh Manson: What a return against Minnesota! He lit up dudes all night, clearly excited to get back to throwing his body around. The announcers kept lauding him for getting away with crosschecks too, and he was definitely getting under the Wild’s skin with all that. Plus a diving poke check to negate a breakaway, strong net-front defense, and an assist? Throw it down big man! A+
Josh Manson with a MONSTER hit on Connor Dewar. pic.twitter.com/1B6mCMuzLR— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 16, 2023
Put a ton of shots on net in all three games, 19 total! He was rewarded for it with four goals and three assists. He looked like the best player on the ice in all three games, even when Minnesota was dominating possession all night, absolutely flying around out there shift after shift, and making swift little plays in tiny spaces like this one:
Spreading the love! #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/1Sfd7EbJkd— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 15, 2023
I know that deke through Stamkos’ skates technically failed but still, the audacity to nutmeg someone at the blue line and the goal at the end of the play are just fantastic.
All that said, he was just under 50 percent in expected goals-for percentage in each game, meaning despite looking great and putting up points his opponents were getting the better of the play while he was on the ice.
Also fired away out there, with 13 total shots. Trouble is, 12 of those came in the first two games as the Moose only managed one shot against the Wild. He did not have his legs on the second half of the back-to-back, and he’s going to need to find a way to be effective in those games as there are a bunch coming this month.
The Florida game was his best by far – he logged both his assists for the week and put up his only positive underlying stat night in that contest.
He even missed an empty netter in Minnesota. He did keep his cool though, which was my big complaint last week so I’ll give someone else the dunce cap today.
MINDING THE NET
He started the week shutting down a Florida Panther comeback bid and ended it with a game-stealing performance in Minnesota while his counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury was busy letting in softies all night. Sandwiched in the middle was the Tampa game, where he was not able to prevent the Lightning from forcing overtime and then lost the shootout duel to Andrei Vasilevskiy.
No shame in that, Tampa is good and Vasi is great, but I think he’d like to have this one back:
Tony with the equalizer! pic.twitter.com/3iQwFJUOoo— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 15, 2023
I’m not saying that’s a MAF-level stinker or anything, just that Georgiev is good enough to snag it nine out of 10 times. He’s playing great right now and will have to keep it up with Francouz on the shelf again.
ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL
Dennis Malgin: Found his scoring touch! Put up solid underlying statistics as well and earned some powerplay time, but this goal alone to regain the lead against Tampa is worth an A on its own.
Making this day even sweeter! #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/rT7wxOyg31— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 15, 2023
The one against the Wild was a bit soft, but as Gretzky said you always miss a million goals if you don’t do any shooting out there. Something like that. A
DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON
No one deserved a dunce cap this week. MacDermid was a strong candidate after Tampa but he was fine in Minnesota. I’m choosing to be nice.
Bowen Byram: Ascended to the top powerplay unit against Minnesota and absolutely earned that promotion with assists in both games leading up to it. Didn’t love seeing our concussion boy get in a fight, but it is good to see him playing without fear. He dominated the underlying stats against Tampa but struggled the other nights. B
Andrew Cogliano: Perfectly placed shot to open the scoring against the Wild. B
J.T. Compher: Couple of assists in Florida, but his line is struggling to produce right now. C
Andreas Englund: Continued to avoid the big mistakes, though he could perhaps have made a stronger play to prevent Tampa’s second goal. Lost a ton of ice time when Josh Manson returned. B
Brad Hunt: Was demoted to the Eagles when Josh Manson was looking ready to return but brought right back up when EJ was ruled out. Continued to be just fine out there. C
Sam Girard: Couple of assists, but put up some really rough underlying stats. He didn’t do well in a top pairing role, and that’s ok – he’s a high-end second-pairing guy - but they do need more from him while Makar is out. C
Erik Johnson: Either broke his foot or tore a hamstring in Florida (I’m speculating of course). Hopefully, he’s not out too long – as much as he has slowed down, he’s still a third-pairing upgrade over MacDermid, Hunt, and Englund. Played well before the injury. C
Artturi Lehkonen: Goal, assist, and hard-nosed work on both ends of the ice. As he almost always does, put up mostly positive underlying stats. B+
Kurtis MacDermid: I spent most of the Tampa game ready to give Kurtis his flowers – he played sound positional defense, didn’t overextend for big hits, made simple smart choices with the puck, and won his individual battles. Then this happened:
Vlad Namestnikov dangles through the opposition and tallies for a sensational goal, knotting this one up at 3!#GoBolts pic.twitter.com/CQI8WOJvXZ— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) February 15, 2023
!??!?! If he makes a better pass to Compher maybe that decision ends up fine, but he missed him badly and JT had no chance to make a play. Just put that puck off the glass, my guy, please! C-
Alex Newhook: Hasn’t been able to get back to the quality play we saw from him in January. Held off the stat sheet and his underlyings were mediocre to poor all week. C-
Valeri Nichushkin: Looks to have his legs under him again, with some excellent backchecking to help seal the Florida and Minnesota wins and get the Tampa game to OT. B
Matt Nieto: Potted a nifty goal in Florida and then disappeared for a couple of games. C+
Logan O’Connor: Finally broke his scoring drought with a shorty in Florida! I was so excited to make him “Role Player of the Week,” but then Malgin got two, so. Sorry LOC. Great week though, man! I assume he’s reading this. B+
Evan Rodrigues: Not a lot of good happening for him out there with Mikko and JT. He had been excelling on the top line, so might be worth swapping him and Val at times. C-
Devon Toews: Somehow I barely noticed him putting up a goal and two assists while shutting down guys like Braden Point and Kirill Kaprizov. He makes it look so easy. Tampa did dominate play in his ice time though, and he got bumped off the top powerplay. B-
The powerplay continued to struggle, going 1-of-8 on the week. It looked a little better though, and I was happy to see Bowen Byram get a chance on the top unit in Minnesota with Makar out and Toews playing a little too conservatively in the Tampa game.
They got the one goal in Florida on a broken play that MacKinnon simply buried. It counts, but it was hardly the tic tac toe passing work this unit should be capable of.
Nathan MacKinnon bangs home the bouncing puck for a power play goal, Colorado leads 4-2!#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/vICsG7o6Bj— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) February 12, 2023
It counts, okay? They then got blanked in Tampa, though a lot of that was Vasilevskiy being a monster. An aside – why call him Big Cat when Thundercat is right there? I should be like the Pokemon Name Rater but for hockey players. Hire me for that job, please.
Tampa also blocked a lot of shots, which is good work by them but also means the Avs were taking predictable shots.
What I liked in the one powerplay chance in Minnesota was seeing Byram out there being a little unpredictable. There was one particular play where the puck came out to him up top and MacKinnon was all ready with the one-timer but Byram tapped a no-looker over to Rantanen who nearly beat Fleury with a blast. Toews is a phenomenal player, but he lacks offensive creativity. Byram is out there making things happen, and that’s a needed change while Makar is out.
In short: Improving process + Terrible results = D
They got luuuuucky in Minnesota. A couple of posts, a couple of shots that skittered wide, and a couple of great stops from Georgiev kept the Wild from going 2-for-2 with the man advantage. More importantly, those mostly happened in the first period when it would have given the Wild an early lead.
That aside, they blanked the Panthers and Lightning and only let one Joel Erikson-Ek deflection in the net. Ideally, Georgiev wouldn’t have to work as hard as he did on the first PK chance, but overall this unit is pulling its weight nicely.
In short: Mostly Great Process + Great Results = A-
Kind of a struggle at evens this week folks. The Florida game was tightly contested, with neither team able to pull away in terms of possession. Colorado of course pulled away on the scoresheet, so that part was good.
Then Tampa came to Denver and picked Colorado’s pockets all game, controlling the puck from basically the drop to the buzzer. The Avs pushed back in the second and managed to hold on to an early lead to get to OT, but make no mistake: they did not play well in doing so.
And in Minnesota in the second half of a back-to-back, they really struggled. It looked ugly on the ice and looks even uglier here.
They’re going to be playing a bunch of back-to-back in the coming weeks, so finding a way to play a strong possession game without their legs is going to be important – they won’t get to put three goals behind Marc-Andre Fleury on just ten shots every night.
In short: Pretty bad Process + Pretty Good Results = C
CLIP OF THE WEEK: NATE HITS 23 MPH
Nate is one fast Dogg.
Dogg doing Dogg things.#GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/7sXLmYH193— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 16, 2023
It’s funny to me that Avs Twitter uses the Nate Dogg nickname when MacKinnon has specifically said he doesn’t like it. It’s also funny that this goal went in. Marc-Andre Fleury is so old (how old is he!?) and hasn’t been able to close his five-hole since Mt Vesuvius blew it open!
MAF is so old (how old?!) his first save was Private Ryan!
MAF is so old (old?!) he got the nickname Flower for discovering roses!
…Ok that one wasn’t my best but that’s old though, roses have been around a long time.
TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK
The underlying play was not very good, but they picked up five of a possible six standings points, got Josh Manson back, and broke some depth-scoring droughts. All in all, that’s a good week y’all! B+