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Avs-Blue Jackets Game 70 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
March 23, 2024

Studs

The Avalanche

This seems like a cop-out but this was a thorough 6-1 demolition of a bad Columbus team. The Avs were kind of pressed to start the game but only relative to what came after the Blue Jackets scored the fluky opening goal of the game.

Obviously, the final score ended 6-1 but the way this sausage got made was gruesome. In 55:08 of 5v5 time, these were the Avalanche advantages:

  • Shot attempts: 81-50
  • Shots on goal: 43-24
  • Scoring chances: 49-20
  • High-danger chances: 24-6

For the people who aren’t total nerds and don’t pour over these numbers every game, let me tell you that those are completely dominant numbers. Every single one of those numbers represents a new season-high for the Avalanche.

Colorado had drastic advantages in all three periods. There was no letting the foot off the gas because of the score. My theory is the team was bored with all these recent days off so Columbus was on the tracks while the train was coming in.

This game was only close because of a funny bounce and maybe (MAYBE) a little rust in those first few minutes…which weren’t even bad were it not for the lone goal against.

All four of Colorado’s lines had distinct territorial advantages. 12 of 18 skaters, including 9 of 12 forwards, had points. This wasn’t the top line bailing the Avs out when they couldn’t get help elsewhere.

No, this was a teamwide stomping of the Blue Jackets. Top to bottom, everyone got in on the action.

Sam Girard

I thought Girard was Colorado’s best defenseman tonight and I loved everything about his game except when he got absolutely robbed by Elvis Merzlikins. Girard still notched an assist later, but Girard was an offensive dynamo who deserved better in my eyes.

There were multiple shifts where he was attacking up the ice with his legs, dumping pucks into the zone and chasing them on his own. The confidence was sky-high from Girard. Seeing how dynamic his game can be when he’s plugged into the Belief-In-Self-O-Meter makes you realize why the Avalanche have valued him so highly.

About the only area of his offensive game that you feel consistently falls short (this is not a pun) is that his shot simply isn’t very dangerous from outside. He doesn’t often pick corners and struggles to get his shots through traffic. I know he frequently shoots for sticks and into traffic on purpose, but it rarely produces much, especially when he goes to his backhand which has no juice whatsoever.

Girard is a creative playmaker who is best at getting pucks from defense to offense and his legs are a true weapon. This version of him is my favorite.

Transition defense

One of the areas the Avalanche front office emphasizes finding defensemen that will fit their style is looking for guys who excel in defending controlled zone entries. Jack Johnson has his warts, but he continues to be great in this area and for less than a million dollars, the Avalanche take that value to the bank.

As the best transition team in the league this season, Colorado gets through the neutral zone faster and with more purpose than anyone else. Stopping Colorado’s speed will be paramount come the postseason, but it’s not just on breakouts and with Nathan MacKinnon skating past guys and doing hero hockey things.

Some of it starts with how the Avs defend their own blueline. Watch Sean Walker in the clip below aggressively step in front of a puck and transition the Avs from defense to offense. This puts the Blue Jackets back into transition defense and they never got to their assignments and the Avs took the lead for good on this play.

Nathan MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 33 games when Cale Makar beautifully defended the blueline and turned a puck from defense to offense. Columbus does a terrible job with the details in general and the Avalanche pounced all over it, but this is an area they especially tore Columbus up. It’s the first scouting point opposing teams will have when preparing for the Avalanche in Round 1.

Nathan MacKinnon

Some guys had played better but MacKinnon is chasing history here! His breakaway goal in the third period extended that streak to 33 games and surpassed Guy Lafleur and put him into a tie with Wayne Gretzky’s second-best effort. MacKinnon is now just seven games from tying Gretzky’s NHL record of 40 games, which was all of them back then.

That MacKinnon is even this close is absurd and creates a fascinating Hart Trophy chase. You have Auston Matthews chasing a 70-goal season, Connor McDavid 100 assists, and Nikita Kucherov a potential 140-point season and another Art Ross. If MacKinnon were to score in every single home game, how do voters sort through that? I’m still saying MacKinnon doesn’t quite run down Gretzky, but he does have the power of narrative on his side.

All of the other guys in the chase have already won a Hart Trophy and MacKinnon has famously fallen just shy in his career. Could it just be “his turn”?

Duds

Columbus

I don’t really have a good space to talk about opposing teams much and the Avs didn’t give me anything to nitpick in this game so I’m talking about the Blue Jackets. I will understand if you scroll on by.

Honestly, tonight made me kind of sad. The Blue Jackets have never had sustained success despite having an energized and engaged fanbase and a city that players genuinely speak highly of.

They have drafted some interesting young players as always, but injuries have once again taken a devastating toll on their ability to compete. Couple that with organizational dysfunction at the start of the year that led to the last-second ouster of Mike Babcock and the eventual firing of longtime general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and it’s been another lost season in Columbus.

They drafted a guy in Adam Fantilli who I think is going to be an absolute star and their first-ever franchise center, but he has battled injuries and, you know, being a teenager in the NHL. They are overloaded on the back end with too many puck-moving defenders that don’t complement each other well. Their forward corps is a hodge-podge mixture of players young and old.

Right now they lack a clearly defined future. Sure, Fantilli and young defenseman David Jiricek might be cornerstones of the future, but what kind of future will it be? It once again looked like a franchise a million miles from contending. Can the Blue Jackets be really good just once in my life? I’m rooting for one of the NHL’s underdogs.

Unsung Hero

Alexandar Georgiev

There isn’t a lot to say about Georgiev tonight but the bar got lowered through much of this season that I’m giving credit for an easy night of work because Georgiev didn’t make a mess of it. Technically two pucks got behind him but only one counted and they were both on wacky and weird plays.

We have consistently seen Georgiev struggle more on nights where his workload is lower. Lots of goalies have to battle the elements of an inconsistent workload when behind an Avalanche team that is locked in and dominating, especially early as he faced only 12 shots through the first two periods.

Georgiev was up to the task, however, and didn’t make anything interesting behind a team that had their foot on the gas the entire game. This was a throttling and Georgiev putting up a .958 save percentage is another encouraging step in the right direction. He’s up to a .916 in his last 14 starts dating back to the return from the All-Star break.

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