What better way to start off your Saturday than with the Colorado Avalanche humiliating the Detroit Red Wings on national television? Lately, games between these two teams have taken a big step back from the tightly contested battles of the 1990s and early 2000s. Before today the Avalanche were 9-0-0 against their former rivals in the last five seasons. The Avs made their tenth in a row over the Red Wings look easy today.
After a back-to-back that finished less than 40 hours ago, it was reasonable to expect the Avalanche weren’t going to come out like gangbusters to start this hockey game. And they didn’t. But that doesn’t necessarily matter when you have as much talent as they do.
Denis Malgin might not have received a point on this goal, but he sure played a big role in its creation. Malgin gathered the puck in the neutral zone, took it into the Red Wings' end, and did an excellent job avoiding checks as he waited for his linemates to join the play. The Avalanche established possession due to this patience and it led to a Devon Toews one-time blast from the point sneaking past Ville Husso to give the Avs an early cushion.
It was a good thing the Avs got that cushion because the rest of the period was not as pretty. On a play that became far too common for Colorado in the first frame a defender, with plenty of time and space, made a poor puck decision that Detroit’s aggressive defensemen were able to pounce on. This time it ended up on the stick of Pius Suter who walked in on Sam Girard and fired a picture-perfect shot past Girard and off the post and in to level the game.
Those were the types of shots Detroit was going to have to make to beat Alexandar Georgiev today. He was locked in after his two days rest and kept Colorado in the game during their tumultuous first period. The Avs struggled to get pucks out of their zone, constantly being stymied by Red Wings defenders hard pinching along the boards. Georgiev bailed them out and kept them at a tie going into the first intermission.
For the Avalanche things didn’t continue as they did in the first. They got their legs under them and were much crisper with the puck. This led to several shifts of continuous pressure in the offensive zone. However, those shifts didn’t lead to any goals for Colorado, but yet again talent doesn’t care how it gets done.
Cale Makar gathered the puck in behind the net in the defensive zone and zipped a pass right to a breaking Denis Malgin. Detroit’s defenders tracked Malgin leaving the zone and stayed on him aggressively, forgetting about a man named Nathan MacKinnon. With all the pressure and eyes on him, Malgin laid a perfect behind-the-back pass into space for MacKinnon to skate into with speed. And when Nathan MacKinnon has speed no one is going to stop him, and no one did. He blew by the defense to create his own breakaway where he beat Husso low blocker to break the tie.
Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon weren’t done yet though. When given the opportunity on the exceedingly rare 4-on-3 these two shined again.
Nathan MacKinnon’s one-timer often fails to find the back of the net, but one might argue it breaking the stick of a penalty killer is the next best thing. That’s what happened when Mo Seider’s stick combusted after taking all of an 88 mph MacKinnon one-timer. This allowed the Avs to regain possession and Cale Makar abused the space he was given to create even more space for Bowen Byram. Makar fed Byram after sucking all the Red Wings' defenders to the middle of the ice and Byram’s one-timer went against the grain to beat Ville Husso as he was sliding over.
The Avalanche had a nice two-goal cushion entering the third period. They could have just geared down and parked the bus to get their win, but they wanted more. Especially Lars Eller.
After an unfortunate trip from Andrew Cogliano, the Avalanche were on the penalty kill. Through about a minute and a half of it, they were looking good. Jack Johnson flipped a puck to center ice that looked like it was going to finish the kill, but as we’ve seen Lars Eller doesn’t like to stop on the play. He pursued the puck and even fell on top of it to protect it. As soon as Val Nichushkin joined him in the offensive zone Eller dished the puck off to him and the Avs had a two-on-one. Nichushkin elected to shoot the puck and made a nice shot that Husso stopped. But the rebound came right to Lars Eller, who waited for the Detroit defender to overcommit and sniped a shot high glove.
At this point the Avalanche probably felt pretty comfortable, but why not make sure? The Avs top line did just that.
Nathan MacKinnon received a pass from Jack Johnson in the neutral zone with speed (remember what that means) and cut through the offensive zone to zip a pass right to Evan Rodrigues. Rodrigues made his way toward the net, got around a defender, and gave Mikko Rantanen a pass so good on the backdoor Rantanen had to top it with an even better finish.
That goal put the game to rest and it was pretty clear both teams just wanted to get it over with as they practically coasted to the final buzzer to give the game a final score of 5-1 for the Avalanche.
The only negatives from this game were from the first period, and those were entirely to be expected. Not much to say about this game other than the Avs are just hot and they’re playing like it right now.
MacKinnon, Makar, Malgin, Toews, and Georgiev really headlined this game for the Avs. However, it’s worth mentioning the performances of Byram, Eller, Rantanen, and Rodrigues too. For Makar and MacKinnon this was just playtime. They did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and if several tip plays had connected on the Avs’ first powerplay of the game they each would have ended with four points instead of three.
Denis Malgin just fits in so well on this Avalanche team. He’s fast, he’s skilled, and he can forecheck hard. He has some weaknesses to his game but he’s kept those pretty quiet ever since arriving in Colorado. Even before he started producing as he has been lately you could see the fit, now it’s just starting to click. All we have to see now is if he can keep it up.
Toews was a chaos monster tonight. In the best way possible. That is all. I made my thoughts known on Georgiev’s first period known above, but it continued for the other forty minutes of this game. He wasn’t tested quite as much, but he made it look pretty easy when he was. Georgiev was in a zone today. He swallowed up everything and was getting a little sassy with his glove. Exactly how you want to see your starter play after a well-deserved break.
Eller, Byram, Rodrigues, and Rantanen were all some of the better players in an overall solid showing for the Avs today. Each one of them played their role perfectly and got rewarded for it with an assist or a goal, or both. Rantanen especially has turned it up to bull moose status this road trip. Not only is he physically dominating guys but he’s mentally dominating them too. Guy knows how to piss dudes off.
The Avs finish their Eastern road trip a perfect 4-0-0. They have a nice little homestand coming up next week that they will certainly need to keep this level of play up for starting with the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT.
In the meantime have a good weekend and Mile High Hockey will have you covered for the game.