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Weekly Grades: Sweep of the Week Edition!

Colorado found four different ways to win their four games this week! But were they any good?

Colorado Avalanche v Dallas Stars Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

We’re back with the Avalanche weekly report card!

This week the Colorado Avalanche ended 2023 and started 2024 on the right foot, with four very different wins over the Blues, Sharks, Islanders, and Stars. But were they any good?

THE GAMES

Friday @ St. Louis: 2-1 W
Sunday vs San Jose: 3-1 W
Tuesday vs New York Islanders: 5-4 W
Thursday @ Dallas: 5-4 W

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Nathan MacKinnon: 3 Goals, 5 Assists

St. Louis bottled him up and ended his points streak at 19 games. Then Nate got back up on his horse and galloped to the top the NHL points lists and the national Hart Trophy conversation. He absolutely dominated, generating over 80% of the expected goals while he was on the ice in each of the next three games.

That’s obscene. What MacKinnon is doing right now is herculean, and it’s a joy to watch. I could knock him for failing to score against the Blues, but he more than made up for it with back to back overtime winners against the Isles and Stars.

That’s MVP stuff right there.

Grade: A+

STAR WATCH

Cale Makar: 4 Assists

Makar may not be the absolute force that MacKinnon is right now, but he’s still playing well – just not as well as we’ve become accustomed to. It’s common knowledge among fans and media that he’s playing through some kind of injury, and while his skating is back to looking like vintage Cale there is clearly something preventing him from spending every shift all over the ice like he has in the past.

That said, his three assists to prime the comeback against the Islanders made a huge impact, and he’s got the powerplay humming along at a fantastic clip. Val Nichushkin wouldn’t be second in the NHL in PP goals without Cale feeding him his veggies.

Grade: B+

Valeri Nichushkin: 3 goals, 2 assists

I’m doing it. I’m moving him up to the big section. This is where Landeskog would be, and Nichushkin is playing at Landy’s level right now. This was insane:

He drew the penalty on that play that led to Mackinnon’s OT PP winner, and scored two power play goals of his own that night.

Grade: A

Mikko Rantanen: 2 Goals, 2 Assists

Is it unfair that scoring at a point per game pace feels like a letdown for Rantanen? Maybe, but it’s not just the stats – he also looked a bit lethargic all week. His defensive work in overtime against the Stars was atrocious, but then again, they were only in OT because Mikko went hard to the net:

It’s a lucky goal, sure, but you can’t get that bounce if you’re not in the right spot at the right time and he obviously was. Rantanen is tough to grade each week because watching him you know there’s more to give, but he consistently shows up in key moments and looks good on the stat sheet.

Grade: B

MINDING THE NET

Alexandar Georgiev:

What an effort from Georgiev against Dallas! Betweenn that game and the St Louis win, it’s fair to say Georgiev stole two victories for Colorado when the team in front of him struggled. The worst goal in the Stars game was certainly not his fault:

But the worst goal against the Islanders was certainly on him. In that game, Colorado’s skaters dominated all facets of the game but Georgiev couldn’t seem to find the puck. This was brutal:

Do two great games offset one terrible one? I think so, especially when you add in a fourth game that was perfectly solid game against the Sharks. But the bottom line with Georgiev right now is he needs to find a way to make his off nights not so horribly off. B+

ROLE PLAYER HONOR ROLL

Jonathan Drouin: 3 goals, 2 assists

He’s put up 12 points in his last 11 games, including two goals in Dallas. He poked one home on the powerplay at the end of the second period to spark the Avs comeback, and then added this beauty:

But it’s not just the points with Drouin right now – his whole game is elevated. He’s making brilliant little passes in the neutral zone, dominating possession on offense, and defensively making the right reads consistently while using his feet to force turnovers.

He’s becoming a mini-Nichushkin out there as a successful reclamation project that managed to evolve from a guy with one skill to a guy making an impact everywhere. Should Mini-Nuke be the new nickname for JD? A+

DUNCE CAP IN MY DOGHOUSE DUNGEON

Ryan Johansen: He’s back in the doghouse folks! When Ross Colton had to miss time and bumped RyJo back up to 2C, the initial returns were surprisingly positive as he put up a goal and an assist in the 2-1 victory over St. Louis. The goal was even in a gritty area, somewhere RyJo has been rarely seen this year:

But it was all downhill from there, as he couldn’t tally against the Sharks, was one of only three forwards under 50% in expected goals against the Islanders, and got flat out turnstiled by Matt Duchene in Dallas:

Brutal. Dutchy is still good and RyJo isn’t a defenseman, but it’s never good when you look like Greg Zanon out there. Johansen just doesn’t have the motor left at this point in his career to play in Colorado’s up tempo, demanding style – on other teams with less active D he’d almost never be asked to defend a play like that, but on the Avs it’s a regular expectation that he simply isn’t equipped to meet.

Grade: D-

THE REST

Bowen Byram: Didn’t make it on the stat sheet and left the Dallas game early with a lower body injury. His underlying stats were quite good against St Louis and San Jose, but fell off hard against the Isles and Stars. B-

Andrew Cogliano: Highlight of the year around these parts when he tackled Kyle Palmieri to prevent a 2 on 1. B

Ross Colton: I included his worst play of the week in the Georgiev section. He was much better against the Isles. B+

Sam Girard: Love having his steady presence back on the blueline, but it would be nice if he could hit the net on his open o-zone chances. A-

Jack Johnson: 10 high danger chances against in Dallas. 10! For one player! The whole team only gave up 15. D

Joel Kiviranta: Barely played. C

Kurtis MacDermid: In 4 minutes of ice time each game against the Blues, Sharks, and Stars, he was on the ice for 4 high danger chances against. Why he play? D

Sam Malinski: Sent down to the AHL to make room for Girard, he only played the St Louis game and struggled in it. C-

Josh Manson: He’s truckin’ out there, hitting hard and whipping pucks on net. B

Ben Meyers: Also sent back to the AHL, but posted very good metrics against the Isles. The Sharks and Blues games were a little rougher on him. B-

Logan O’Connor: Not did he male the play to get the Avs to the extra session in Dallas, he was trusted with OT minutes. A

Fredrik Olofsson: Didn’t play much, but stood out defensively when he did. B

Devon Toews: I’ll let Mike Kelly tell ya:

But he did brutally misread this one:

Still, overall Toews is on his game right now. A

Miles Wood: Every week I think he’s played his best game in Avs uniform. Wood drew three penalties against Dallas and looked like the fastest player on the ice all week. Playing above his station right now in the top six, Wood is rising to the occasion – including this game winning tip:

He’s proving that contract he got wasn’t as crazy as people thought. A

TEAM GRADE FOR THE WEEK

Four wins is four wins, and they managed to do it in multiple ways. The Blues game was pure grit, grinding out a victory against a team playing like it’s still the clutch and grab dead puck era. Then when no bounces would go their way against San Jose, Colorado refused to succumb to frustration like they may have earlier in the season and found a way to win.

They then turned the dial up and found another gear in absolutely dominating the New York Islanders, and overcame Georgiev’s sabotage attempt in net to come back, force overtime, and win. Look at this shot chart. Even if you’ve never seen a shot chart before, you can tell this one is pure dominance by the Avs – they got way more green in way more places.

And then the Stars came out strong and got a lucky bounce to take an early lead, threw their absolute best effort at the Avalanche all night and largely controlled play, but Georgiev redeemed himself to keep the game close enough for another third period comeback led by Jonathan Drouin and capped off by Nathan MacKinnon.

The Avs haven’t shown that kind of backbone after a horrible bounce many times this season, and it’s very encouraging to see. A-