You know, sometimes you can just see it coming.

Hockey is the ultimate game of randomness, but a few games every year you just know a team is in for a tough night. Even though this one didn’t involve a back-to-back, it was obvious that Colorado going into Boston, where the Bruins were a perfect 13-0 to start the season, was going to be a tough task after the lineup saw yet another player exit the lineup due to injury.

Josh Manson suffered an undisclosed injury and flew back to Denver after playing just over 10 minutes two nights ago against the Buffalo Sabres and is considered week-to-week. With his injury, the Avs came into tonight’s game down eight players due to injury. If you count Martin Kaut’s illness, it was actually nine.

For those counting at home, that’s injuries to six regular skaters (Manson, Landeskog, Nichushkin, Helm, Byram, Rodrigues) plus three of the guys used as replacements (MacDermid, Kaut, Bowers).

So when Artturi Lehkonen was suplexed by Charlie McAvoy early in the first period of tonight’s frustrating 5-1 loss to the Bruins, everyone was a little on edge. That edge turned to exasperation when Lehkonen took another shift or two and disappeared for the rest of the night with an injury of his own.

Colorado’s formula of relying on their top line, top defensive pairing, and elite power play to get them wins simply couldn’t match up against the Bruins, who moved to 20-3 on the season.

On one hand, it was nice to see the Avs back on the ice and flying around and dominating the game. The downside was it was the Bruins cosplaying last year’s lightning-quick Avalanche squad, reminding everyone of what a special group Colorado had last year.

Hell, they might have a special squad this year, too, but we have yet to see a single game of them all on the ice together so we don’t really know. Down Lehkonen, the Avs rotated just about everyone next to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen as they really put the “put anyone next to those guys and they’ll produce” to the test.

For the second time on this road trip, they didn’t produce. Unlike in Winnipeg, however, it was a much more spirited effort. At times, anyway. MacKinnon had a number of scoring chances that came close to beating Linus Ullmark, but it felt like the Avs’ stars were swimming upstream all night.

On the other side, however, McAvoy and David Pastrnak were the models of how easily the game can come to its best players when they are in the groove. They made plays together and apart, combining for four points with Pastrnak scoring twice along the way. Despite Boston’s best efforts in the final minutes, he was unable to net the hat trick.

Exposing how bad Colorado’s depth problem really is, Trent Frederic added two goals of his own. That’s a guy with 17 goals in 139 NHL games scoring two on you.

It’s just like that right now.

It was nice for Andrew Cogliano to score one in the third period, especially since it was a goal that involved him actually shooting a puck. While it’s his fourth goal of the season, the first three were either pucks deflected in by his stick or a random body part, so seeing him beat a goaltender cleanly was nice.

Beyond that, I mean, what else is there to really say about this game? The Avs got down 2-0 in the first period as Colorado’s penalty problems continued. The penalties and big mistakes were largely from depth players who otherwise wouldn’t be in the NHL or Colorado’s top guys who are clearly starting to suffer from the fatigue of having to carry an impossible load.

Boston appeared to make it 3-0 in the second period and when the goal was waved off, they didn’t take long to make it 3-0 for real. After that, the game hit a lull where the Bruins took it easy, the Avs couldn’t really find any footing, and then scored with enough time in the third period to make Boston care again.

Once the Bruins ticked back up their energy, they potted goals on back-to-back shifts and slammed the door on the Avalanche. It was just like watching the Avs from last year, only Colorado was on the other side as the latest team to get chewed up by the buzzsaw that is the Boston Bruins right now.

Lehkonen’s injury status was not updated after the game, per usual Avalanche protocol. At this point, who even wants to hear the news? It’s not like the Avs have gotten a lucky break with any of their injuries this year. They’ve had two players who had offseason surgery need follow-up surgeries after the original operations didn’t clear up the original problems. The only day-to-day injury they had was Sam Girard, and he ended up missing six games across nearly three weeks. It’s all been multi-week problems.

Colorado ends this four-game road trip in Philadelphia against a Flyers team that is one of just two other teams that can make the argument they are as beaten up as the Avs this season.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Not many thoughts from me tonight. What is there to really say right now? If this Avalanche team was entering the postseason, they would be hard-pressed to get out of the first round. Hopefully, this team gets healthier before then because right now the margin for error basically doesn’t exist.
  • Jacob MacDonald put up some incredible fancystats a few years ago in the COVID-shortened season (the 56-game one) and it had people wondering if maybe the Avs weren’t utilizing him enough. I think we’re seeing they probably had it right. He’s a fine depth guy, but pressed into action every night is a tough ask and his work defensively is just a mess right now. Colorado’s defense was not built to withstand injuries. Like, any. Being three deep right now is a low-key nightmare for them. It’s not “panic trade” time yet, but they probably aren’t too far off if they can’t get some better luck there.
  • He didn’t play a great game, but I just couldn’t help but feel awful for Pavel Francouz. Putting him in this game was strapping your backup goalie to the train tracks just as the train is coming through. Alexandar Georgiev’s last two starts were pretty iffy and Francouz hadn’t played in a bit, so this might have just been a bit of balancing the playing time and helping Georgiev reset, but Francouz sure took the proverbial bullet tonight. He’s a pro and won’t get too down on himself, which is very valuable in his role, but it was hard to watch all the same.
Author

A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj

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