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Avalanche finally win a goalie duel as Pavel Francouz shines again

AJ Haefele Avatar
January 20, 2022

As this Colorado Avalanche season has gone on, it’s been a lot of different ways of winning for the home squad here in Denver. Historically, teams will tell you that more is learned from the losses and those painful lessons can only be acquired by falling down and getting up.

After winning the President’s Trophy last year as the NHL’s top regular season team and starting the postseason 6-0, the Avs fell flat and lost four straight. Because of the shocking turn of direction, this year was setting up to be a season full of the team trying to prove they had the mettle to get through the postseason.

Of course, there’s nothing a team can do in Game 37 of the season that will leave no doubt this year’s team is different, that another crushing postseason disappointment isn’t on the horizon for a fan base dying to see the Avalanche once again ascend the Stanley Cup mountain.

Tonight’s 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks, however, certainly had a different feel to it. It’s been a theme of Colorado’s since the calendar flipped to 2022 that the Avs seem to find different ways to win in different situations. Instead of rinse and repeat any particular formula, the Avs seem more comfortable than ever playing the game they’re in, not the game they wished they were in.

Is that emotional maturity or an inability to impose their will on their opponents? Keep in mind that even though they are 9-0-1 in the ten games they’ve played in January, they’ve gone beyond regulation against bottom-feeders Chicago and Arizona and required a third-period comeback to beat another dreg of the league, Seattle.

Yet here they were, in Anaheim against a feisty Ducks team experiencing a revival of their own after floundering the last several years, watching backup goaltender Pavel Francouz outduel All-Star Ducks goalie John Gibson.

Shots on goal finished at 34-28 in favor the Ducks, suggesting Anaheim had outplayed the Avs. When you dig a little deeper into the numbers, however, you see that despite the Ducks having the power play advantage (4-2), the Avs finished with the advantage in scoring chances and high-danger chances.

The Ducks got more pucks through traffic and Francouz was nothing short of great, stopping all 34 shots on goal and getting Colorado’s second shutout of the season, the first of which came just two games ago against the Coyotes.

All of this to say it was a different look for Colorado. They’ve made too frequent a habit recently of falling behind and having to climb out of a hole. That didn’t happen tonight, obviously, but the game’s first goal wasn’t scored until 1:31 remained in the second period.

The empty-net goal from Nazem Kadri that iced the game with 1:09 remaining in the game came after the Avs had to kill their fourth penalty of the game earlier in the third. The team’s biggest weakness this entire season has been a combination of goaltending and penalty killing, which naturally have a symbiotic relationship.

With Francouz on top of his game, the penalty kill gets credit for getting the job done but in reality, that unit also had a very good game. Francouz had to make just four saves while the Ducks had the man advantage while Gibson had to make four saves on those same Ducks PPs because the Avs put so much pressure while short-handed.

Instead of the world-class offense once again exploding for a huge night and leading the way like we’ve seen so frequently this year, the Avs gutted out a tightly-contested low-scoring dogfight with an opponent who is much more comfortable in that scenario than you’d think the Avs are.

That’s where you can start to wonder if the DNA of this year’s Avalanche club is just different. They’re doing things this regular season they simply didn’t last year. No conclusions to draw, of course, because we’re all only as good as what we accomplish tomorrow, but what the Avalanche have put in front of the world this year is enough to start dreaming on.


  • Loved Francouz in this one. His puck-tracking was great and the big rebounds that occasionally plague his game were nowhere to be found. I thought tonight was a good example of why shot-blocking can be overrated. You have an NHL goaltender back there. If he’s seeing the puck, you should be able to trust him to stop it. Blocking shots can be great, but we’ve seen how many occasions of pucks taking odd bounces off well-meaning defenders and into their own net? It happens regularly. On the other side, the Ducks had 16 blocked shots and it was all good. The only puck that got by Gibson was a wobbler that took a bounce off the ice. Gibson won a game in Anaheim last year against the Avs in similar fashion, so we’ll call this one a karmic evening of the score.
  • Sam Girard has had a tough season to really break down and describe, but tonight with the elite top-pairing merely having a solid game and not a crazypants one, Girard stepped into the void and came up with the big play. That’s the stuff you love.
  • Part of the reason the Avs are having to find different ways to win is their depth scoring is experiencing the regression we expected. Tyson Jost continues to hum along at his career rate so that’s fine, but J.T. Compher is still sitting on just the one goal since the turn of the calendar and it was the goal he scored off the elite play Mikko Rantanen made to let Compher shoot into an open net with the goaltender looking the other direction. He added an assist on Nazem Kadri’s empty-net goal. That’s it. Alex Newhook is down to three points in his last 13 games. Logan O’Connor has two points in his last 14 games. Colorado’s defensive scoring continues to mask the absolute nothing it is currently getting from the fourth line beyond Jost.


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