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The Avalanche need a lot better from some key depth pieces against Seattle

Players like Nichushkin, Newhook, Manson and Georgiev have more to give.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Seattle Kraken at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t a pretty game for the Colorado Avalanche against the Seattle Kraken in Game 1 of the first round of the 2023 Playoffs. A lot of things didn’t go well for the Colorado Avalanche, some they couldn’t control, but a lot they could. With Gabriel Landeskog confirmed to miss the entire postseason some players need to pull a lot more wait for the Avs if they want to be successful. Here are some of those guys, what they can’t continue to do, what the Avalanche need from them, and some options the Avalanche have to get that out of them.

Alex Newhook

Based on Game 1 there aren’t many complaints I have with Alex Newhook. He wasn’t stunning, but he was far from the most disappointing player for Colorado. My only note for him is that he needs to be better at getting shots on the rush on the net. This is more based on what we saw from the second year forward this year and last postseason.

Newhook only played 12 of the team's 20 playoff games in last year's run to the Stanley Cup, and in those 12 games, he provided just four assists, with zero goals. The Avs can’t win with that this year. Newhook struggled to fill the net consistently this regular season, scoring just two goals in the final three months of the season. Looking at the four months of the season there’s reason to believe he has more of a scoring touch in him seeing as he scored twelve of his fourteen goals before February, with one of them being against the Seattle Kraken.

The key for Newhook is simple. Get shots on net and finish the high-danger chances he has. Down the stretch, he struggles to finish on great looks or even gets shots on net at times. Newhook is a career 10.6 percent shooter, so as long as gets quality shots on net he will be able to provide some depth scoring that the Avs desperately need to make a run again this year.

Josh Manson

In his brief time in Colorado, Josh Manson has been a monster. He’s been physical, reliable, and even found a bit of an offensive touch. Even in his brief stint back from injury this February he was able to be a key piece to the Avalanche’s stellar blue line. In Game 1 he did not show much of what makes him successful.

There’s an obvious reason for that though. That was Manson’s first game since February 27th and he clearly was a bit rusty. He probably doesn’t even need to be mentioned here given how consistent and trustworthy he has been. The same reason I didn’t mention Devon Toews here. However, I am briefly mentioning him because he was actively harming the Avalanche in Game 1. Manson took two penalties and made a costly error that led to Seattle’s third goal and took a lot of wind out of Colorado’s sails.

As long as he is still showing signs of rust Manson needs to stay smart and at the very least keep from actively hurting the Avs. Personally, I would like to see him paired with Sam Girard. Something we know has and can work very well, but I don’t think Bowen Byram is a big difference and this fix is more about Manson tuning back up, not the player he’s paired with.

Alexandar Georgiev

After a 40-win campaign in his first season as a fully-fledged starter, it’s hard to have much uncertainty with Alexandar Georgiev in net. But with him losing the goaltending matchup in the first game and Phillipp Grubauer putting up quite the performance it’s safe to say the Avalanche will need more from the Belarussian goaltender.

In the past few years the Avalanche haven’t gotten many stolen games from their goaltender in the playoffs, but with a depleted lineup this year they will. But when they don’t get it they need their goaltender to go save for save with his counterpart, something Georgiev wasn’t quite able to do last game.

I have no worries about Georgiev being able to hold his own in the coming games of this series and potentially beyond. With that said it is still fair to be a little worried given the less-than-stellar game in his first-ever playoff start. Georgiev can’t have another one of those games, especially if Grubauer keeps his level of play up. This was a big matchup advantage for the Avalanche going into this series, and it’s not one they can lose.

Valeri Nichushkin

Here’s the big one. Literally and figuratively. The previous three players all have solid reasoning as to why they may have been a bit disappointing. Valeri Nichushkin does not. He had one of the worst games he has ever had in an Avalanche sweater in Game 1. He will have the occasional night where his puck handling or finishing touch may be off a touch but you can usually rely on strong forechecking and smothering defensive play. Nichushkin did none of that in Game 1.

This isn’t just a one-game thing either. As an Av, he has consistently lacked offensive jump in the first two rounds of the postseason. In 33 playoff games (in the first two rounds) Val Nichushkin has registered just 13 points in 33 games. That's a far cry from his typical production for the Avalanche. He’s in a much bigger role now and he needs to produce a lot more than depicted above. They are leaning on him to do a lot of the depth scoring at 5v5. He’s their third-best forward and he needs to start playing like this if the team is going to be successful, otherwise, he’s not going to have the chance to crank his play up on the bigger stages.

Many others, myself included, believe a good way to help boost the second line and Nichsushkin would be two swaps Artturi Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen. Lehkonen and Nichushkin have not worked well, despite the obvious assumption they would. Separating those two and giving Nichushkin someone else to help drive the play offensively and set the big Russian winger up for scoring opportunities would be a big boon to the Avs's top six. I think it needs to happen, but even if it doesn’t Nichsushkin still must be better.