After getting blown out 5-1 to open consecutive games, tonight’s contest was an intriguing one for the Colorado Avalanche. Would they continue this downtrend defined by defensive breakdowns? Or would they return to their previous hard-nosed defensive form over the last six games in shutting down everyone but the best player in the world?
The answer lay somewhere in the middle. This was closer to Colorado’s excellent defensive performances during their 6-game win streak than to the last two seven-goal debacles (but not that much closer), yet the defining moment from this game was still a defensive debacle.
During a period in which the Seattle Kraken largely controlled play (they had 58.56 percent of expected goals in the first per Natural Stat Trick), the person who was able to dent the only scoreboard that matters was Nathan Mackinnon, as he gathered a loose puck and did that thing where his hands move 10 times faster than everything else around him, then fired a wrister over former teammate Phillip Gruabuer’s glove.
This was Colorado’s best period of the night (66 percent expected goals), but Seattle struck first as Jaden Schwartz out-muscled both Bowen Byram and Sam Girard for the puck to set up a deflection for the Kraken’s first goal.
Colorado answered right back two minutes later, as Denis Malgin (AKA “Mr. WHO SAID THE AVS DIDN’T MAKE ANY GOOD TRADES THIS YEAR!”) hit the jets and got behind the defense as Cale Makar sprung him for a breakaway goal.
It is typical for most NHL teams to lose the Corsi battle in the third period when they have the lead. The entire tendency around the league is to focus on defense more than offense and that generally results in the trailing team having more chances (and more wins for the leading team).
What happened in the third to the Avs is not that. There is a difference between sitting on a lead and getting sat on (the latter being Colorado’s 30 percent Corsi figure), and Aleksandar Georgiev’s heroics were practically the only thing pushing the Avs to the finish line. There were a lot of chances for Colorado to give the lead-up before this goal, so you cannot be too hard on Nathan MacKinnon here. That said, this might be his lowlight of the season. Losing the puck behind your own net then watching the other team score a goal from your defensive coverage area is about as ugly as it gets (peep his reaction after the goal).
It’s 3-on-3 and the Avs are changing defensemen, so you can’t be too hard on them for this specific play, but it is very fitting that they lost this game on the umpteenth breakaway attempt for Seattle.
I can’t summarize it any better than Jared Bednar did: “I didn’t like our game tonight. Again. It was an improvement on giving up seven ... but ... I would hope so.”
Bednar frustrated with the effort. But not upset with Georgie “he was our best player tonight” pic.twitter.com/TfoWIi0Qm3— Darren McKee (@DMacRadio) March 6, 2023
The Avs are officially in a slump. They’ve been steamrolled by three playoff teams in a row, and the main reason tonight looked better (other than an “I would hope so”-level of improved effort) was Alexandar Georgiev. Given the injury epidemic the Avs have experienced this year, you can pretty effectively argue he has been their best player in the aggregate after Mikko Rantanen. Speaking of Colorado’s superstar, Jared Bednar really wasn’t happy with him either.
Some very specific criticism of Mikko. He’s got to be mentally tougher. Bednar said he has already addressed it. Ouch… pic.twitter.com/7SuEYPA7AW— Darren McKee (@DMacRadio) March 6, 2023
The good news is that the Avs are out of the tough stretch of the season, and into the Tank for Bedard minefield that is the final quarter of the season which I wrote about back in January. They captured more points than I assumed they would from this difficult stretch (66 percent vs 60 percent), and the pace for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference has fallen off by a game or two since that article was published (109-111 to 105-107). Despite this week’s turbulence, the Avs are still in control of their own destiny in the West.
Colorado continues their homestand this week starting off with one of the first teams tanking for Bedard, the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT.