We’re back with the Colorado Avalanche weekly report card! This week was all W’s, as the Avs found different ways to win each of their four games. Very nice!
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mikko Rantanen: 3 Goals, 5 Asssists
So much to love from Mikko this week, with eight points on the scoresheet and dented egos littering the ice behind him. He shrugged off defenders like a man among boys, and his puck possession play contributed directly to dominant team metrics all week. Plus, he got his tip game back – he hasn’t been a consistent net-front presence much of this year (and that’s fine, he’s obviously scoring other ways), but in the playoffs, he’ll need to be.
That’s great to see - from the stolen pass through the tip-in goal this was perfect gritty hockey. Especially if Gabe Landeskog isn’t able to get back in the lineup, this version of the Moose will need to get loose for the Avs to make another playoff run.
Nathan MacKinnon: 2 Goals, 6 Assists
People who want to pick nits with Nate missing defensive assignments and turning pucks over will find some fodder this week, but eight points in four games while winning his primary on-ice matchups every night is superstar stuff. And he burned the Leafs in the shootout, too.
He’s scored in nine straight home games and had at least one assist every game this week. And this isn’t even playoff Nate, he has another gear to get to!
Cale Makar: 2 Goals, 5 Assists
That OT winner in Arizona was pretty!
Seven points and he was excellent defensively all week. That’s our Norris Trophy winner playing up to his potential, and it shows in the win column. Great to have Cale back at full strength.
MINDING THE NET
A fantastic week for Georgiev, with multiple highlight-reel saves every game – even the Arizona game when he literally didn’t face a shot in the third period or overtime. The highlight was surprisingly just 17 saves against Toronto, in a game the Avalanche skaters limited chances incredibly well but the Leafs were extremely dangerous in the few opportunities they were able to get Georgiev didn’t blink. Oh, and this versus Arizona:
Wow. As well as Colorado played all week, they really needed Georgiev to make huge saves like that one in close games against Arizona and Toronto, and he did.
The best part of him playing against Ottawa was ultimately Georgiev getting some rest, but he also made some incredible saves when the Senators were trying to mount a comeback. Unfortunately, along with those incredible saves were some incredible muffs as a couple of the goals that got through JoJo were less than stellar. B-
ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL
Lars Eller: The game-winning goal in Ottawa was hilarious, but his defensive play is no joke. He won his matchup against John Tavares and William Nylander – that’s enough for an A all on its own – then shut down Alex Debrincat the next night. Plus, he’s bolstered a Colorado penalty kill that is absolutely dominating right now. A
DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON
Artturi Lehkonen: Don’t be injured! Bad boy! He got a beautiful tribute in Montreal, led all forwards in xGF%, and scored twice before breaking his finger. A for awesome, F for finger.
Bowen Byram: He and Girard absolutely dominated the Canadiens. And wow, Bo led the team with 94% xGF! Unfortunately, he was around 50 percent in the three other games. B
Andrew Cogliano: You gotta love this new shutdown line with Eller and LOC. It works! B
J.T. Compher: Managed just one goal on the stat sheet, but his defensive contributions can’t be overlooked. Playing between Nichushkin and Lehkonen/Malgin instead of with Mikko is going to depress his offense, but it’s good to see them excel at the puck possession game. With Lehkonen on the shelf, he’s going to need to find some scoring touch again. C+
Brad Hunt: Continues to hold his own out there, and actually led the defense in xGF% against Toronto and Ottawa. B
Alex Galchenyuk: Made it back to the NHL! Good for him. He barely played though. C
Sam Girard: That Montreal game was insanely good, and he showed out in Ottawa and Montreal as well. He is so much better when not tied to an anchor like EJ or JJ. B+
Jack Johnson: Great PK work, and he and Hunt dominated the bottom of Toronto and Ottawa’s lineups. He really struggled in the Arizona game though. C+
Dennis Malgin: A great goal in Arizona and strong play in Montreal got him the bump up to Lehkonen’s second-line spot in Toronto and Ottawa. He earned that look with a great run of recent play. Didn’t do much offensively in that spot but he was solid defensively. B-
Alex Newhook: Not seeing the ice much as fourth-line center. Must have done something wrong in Bednar’s eyes as it seemed like he’d be the guy to fill Lehkonen’s role. C
Valeri Nichushkin: Goal and an assist in Montreal, but otherwise pretty quiet. B-
Matt Nieto: The fourth line is not playing much. C
Logan O’Connor: Continues to work his butt off, and it is working. B
Evan Rodrigues: He fits on the top line with Nate and Mikko, even if he’s not piling up stats along with them. B+
Devon Toews: When this team is playing shutdown defense like it did this week, you know DT is a huge part of it. Tacked on an assist as well. A
POWERPLAY: 6 Goals on 12 Chances
Colorado scored a powerplay goal in all four games this week and went three for three in Montreal, with an overall success rate of 50 percent. That’s FANTASTIC! Even better, they’re looking good doing it, with the movement and creativity that fans and pundits have been clamoring for all season. It’s almost like they read this column.
They continue to have some really ugly failed entries from time to time and nearly gave up some shorthanded chances on blue-line turnovers, which they absolutely need to clean up. But I’m nitpicking. This was an excellent week for the powerplay.
In short: Improving process + Great results = A
PENALTY KILL: 8 Kills on 11 Chances
They gave up goals! No! Of course, they were a garbage time goal in Montreal and a couple of weak ones that slipped through JoJo on the second half of a back-to-back in Ottawa, so perhaps that’s not so terrible.
Most importantly, against Toronto’s dangerous unit the Avs killed all three powerplays and allowed just one high danger chance while generating one of their own. Last week was better with the complete shutout of course, but this Toronto game and the Arizona game were nearly perfect and the Montreal goal barely counts.
Ottawa was a slightly different story. With tired legs, the Avs took five penalties – too many – and gave up two goals – also too many. They also limited Ottawa to just two high-danger chances across five PKs, which is excellent. Both of them, unfortunately, went in. With Georgiev in net, most likely one or both of those get stopped. So I still feel pretty good about the PK in this game.
In short: Phenomenal Process + Great Results = A-
The Avalanche ended last week with a loss in a dominant defensive effort against LA. This week, they kept that dominant defense going and won every game. Hell. Yeah.
They started strong in Arizona, but just couldn’t stop hitting Connor Ingram with pucks and ended up needing Cale’s heroics to win in overtime.
But look at that beautiful graph. From start to finish, Colorado had the puck and didn’t give it up. This chart doesn’t show it, but they literally did not allow a single shot in the third period. That’s insane. That’s destruction. It’s almost like they’re Stanley Cup Champions playing against a roster of AHL bums. Oh right, that’s true.
Then they hit the road and hit it hard, destroying another mostly AHL roster in Montreal.
They took their collective foot off the gas as the game wore on and allowed the Habs to mess around and score a couple, but with a back-to-back coming up, it frankly made sense to conserve some energy.
Toronto was the big test this week, and the Avalanche decided their test strategy was gonna be shutdown defense.
It worked. A lineup with Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander managed just 16 shots at even strength. Colorado’s puck possession game was on point, as they seemed to have the puck the entire night, and if not for a great night from Ilya Samsonov they would not have needed overtime and a shootout to get the W.
With tired legs the next night in Ottawa, the Avs needed a hot start to build a lead and defend it and they did exactly that, though the Senators didn’t take it lying down.
When your worst game of the week looks like this – a pretty good game – that’s an excellent week. Ottawa did almost tie it up at the last second but Johansson said no:
Evan Rodrigues on Jonas Johansson’s big save: “Everyone on the bench thought it was probably going in. Incredible save. … Game-saving save.”— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) March 17, 2023
Great stop JoJo! Made up for the weak ones earlier for sure.
In short: Great Process + Great Results = A
CLIP OF THE WEEK: Eller’s Stupid Game-Winning Goal
How does this possibly happen?! Mads Sogaard just left the puck for Lars to push home?!?
The best part really is Ottawa challenged this for Goalie Interference, which obviously it wasn’t... but they couldn’t challenge for “come on that can’t really be a goal right?” so they had to try something. And that it ended up being the game-winner is just *chef’s kiss*!
TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK
Four wins are four wins, and they did it with dominant defense and puck possession, goal-scoring from up and down the lineup, and a resurgent showing from the powerplay. This team is kicking into gear folks, get hyped! A+