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Avs-Blackhawks Game 4 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
October 20, 2023

Studs

Everyone

This was one of the few nights I didn’t really think anybody on the Avs was actually bad. There were mishaps on occasion, of course, because it’s still an NHL game and no game is ever perfect but all four lines had great moments somewhere in the game and there wasn’t a standout poor skater. There have been very few of these in my time writing this piece and/or previous game grades but I would say this is about as complete an effort as you could ask for from the Avalanche.

The fourth line

This line, man. The Cogliano-Olofsson-O’Connor trio has been together for three games (Cogliano was hurt in the first game) so the returns on them will be a bit skewed because two of those games were against San Jose and Chicago, two of the worst teams in the NHL season. Still, anytime your fourth line gives you 7:40 on the ice and a 12-3 shot attempt advantage, you’re feeling great. They generated five scoring chances and only gave up one, which is the kind of ratio Jared Bednar dreams about getting from those guys.

Then there was that whole shorthanded goal there where Cogliano and O’Connor combined for the second shorthanded goal in the last two games, both by O’Connor. We’ve seen a very comfortable and confident O’Connor so far this season as it looks like his game might be taking another step forward.

This isn’t specific to tonight but I did look it up and thought you would appreciate this as much as I did. Through three games, this trio has played 18:01 together and has a 24-11 shot attempt advantage with a 9-5 shots on goal advantage. They’ve been outscored 1-0 at 5v5 but, as noted above, are currently outscoring power plays 2-0 (both have been without Olofsson but I’ll give him partial credit for fun).

Colorado’s depth struggled last season to find an identity and through four games that has not been a problem at all. It does really help things that this is a group being deployed as an actual fourth line and not the third line minutes they actually played last season when Colorado’s depth was significantly more unsettled.

Tomas Tatar

A lot of guys played well tonight, but this was one that I loved seeing. Tatar had just been okay to this point and was on his way to another unspectacular night when Jared Bednar made the change to put Jonathan Drouin alongside Miles Wood and Ross Colton and drop Tatar alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

The change produced two goals tonight as each line scored. Unfortunately, the Wood goal was called back after a wonderful feed from Drouin found his stick for a deflection when it was determined that Colton was a split-second offside on the zone entry. A shame that they didn’t get those points but something to keep an eye on because those guys popped.

So did Tatar, though, as he immediately looked the most comfortable he has in an Avs uniform when alongside the horses at the top of Colorado’s forward lineup. Tatar made a nifty little play to MacKinnon for the fourth Avalanche goal of the night and finished with two assists but could have easily had two more with the quality of chances he helped create alongside these guys.

There’s the natural caveat to not overreact to a tired and bad Blackhawks team but this might be the spark that gives Colorado that long-desired balance in the lineup. Funny enough, the shoot-first Tatar finished with two assists but was also the only Avalanche forward who failed to record a shot on goal. Hockey.

The penalty kill

Another four penalties called on the Avs isn’t ideal but the Avs remained perfect on the season on the PK at 17-of-17. It’s just not that they’re killing penalties or scoring another shorthanded goal (that does make winning games easier!), but tonight the shot suppression was outrageously good.

In eight minutes on the PK, the Avs allowed just five shot attempts, two on goal, two scoring chances, and one high-danger chance. Those are the types of numbers that most teams exceed in a single power play, let alone in four tries at it.

For comparison’s sake, Colorado spent 5:06 at 5v4 tonight and registered 12 shot attempts, eight on goal, and had nine scoring chances and six high-danger chances. That’s the kind of process you’re looking for when you’re allowed to have more players on the ice than the other team.

Colorado’s PK was awesome once again.

Gabriel Landeskog

How great was it seeing Landeskog on the bench during morning skate messing around with pucks (not in uniform obviously) and then coming out in a suit for player introductions?

He’s been out of sight but certainly not out of mind and it is a reminder how special this Avalanche team COULD be if he were to get healthy enough to resume his career. The lasting image of him raising the Stanley Cup wouldn’t be the worst way for him to go out if things don’t go well in his recovery but you could just feel his presence.

Landeskog is such an important part of the emotional center of this team but also such a sound and consistent two-way player that it feels like we’ve gotten robbed not getting to see him alongside Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin in this top six.

I miss watching him play. The Avs miss having him on the ice and in the locker room. He’s not going to play this season but it was damn nice to see him back in the building. Get better soon, 92.

Duds

Connor Bedard

This isn’t to dunk on the kid, of course, but he has outsized talent and is going to be one of the premier players in this league very soon. This was just his fifth game in the NHL, however, and at the end of a lengthy road trip so all the elements were there for a disappointing night.

Oh, and the NHL’s best defensive pairing in Devon Toews and Cale Makar. With the Avalanche getting to hunt matchups, Bednar chose to do what he usually does and played best versus best. It was an insightful experience for Bedard, who was held without a single shot attempt in 19:37 of ice time.

In case anyone was curious, Bedard went his entire junior career (three years) without playing a game where he was held without a shot attempt and his first four NHL games saw him piling up scoring chances and shot attempts even if the points were slow to come.

I said on the pregame show that it was a promising first week in the NHL, but tonight was the beginning of the second week. This was a fun one for the Avalanche and a hard lesson for Bedard in just how far he and his teammates have to go to be competing for a Stanley Cup.

Bowen Byram’s penalties

Two more penalties from Byram in this game. He had two in the third period of the season-opening game in Los Angeles when it was a one-goal game. He had the first penalty of this game and then got called for Holding in the second period tonight.

There isn’t a lot for me to say here other than you’d like to see those penalties stop because he has five penalties in the first four games with his only clean sheet coming in San Jose. That has to change as the season goes on but it has been telling that Bednar and Nolan Pratt have not been scared to go back to Byram despite those issues as he still played over 17 minutes. Just tone down the hockey crimes, okay?

Unsung Hero

Alexandar Georgiev

I usually reserve this space for someone who was either overlooked for whatever reason or a guy who played a big role in the outcome of the game but also had some kind of negative impact on the night, too.

The only reason I have Georgiev down here tonight is because his shutout was “only” 18 saves. As far as shutouts go, it wasn’t one filled with a litany of highlight reel saves along the way. He did make an amazing save on Nick Foligno’s breakaway in the first period and a few very nice stops along the way but his workload was pretty easy tonight.

The biggest test for a goaltender on nights like these is staying focused and locked in when he’s seeing inconsistent action in his end. Georgiev aced that test and got his sixth shutout in an Avalanche uniform. He has allowed just four goals in four games to start the season.

The high-scoring Carolina Hurricanes come to town Saturday night and should provide a tougher test than the Blackhawks but that’s Saturday’s problem. Georgiev continues to be the secret sauce to Colorado’s success.

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