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Avs-Blues Game 36 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
December 30, 2023

Studs

Ryan Johansen

With no Ross Colton in the lineup, Johansen slid back into a position of opportunity alongside Miles Wood and Jonathan Drouin. The collection of new guys produced Colorado’s goals tonight as Drouin threw a puck at the net that turned into a rebound goal for Johansen and then Johansen won the faceoff that led to the Devon Toews game-winning goal while Wood battled for position in front.

It’s a patchwork group but Johansen has to be given credit for his efforts. Everyone can look and see the frustrating fit that Johansen has been in Colorado and his two points in 14 games coming into this game reflected those struggles. Getting two points tonight when Colton was unable to go is a veteran guy stepping up when his team needed it.

A timely good night for Johansen.

Jonathan Drouin

He doesn’t find his way into my writing very often but Drouin has been finding his game more and more recently with eight points in eight games and 15 over his last 24. That’s a solid second-line player’s production and it has come in different roles with different linemates but he’s averaging 15:50 of ice time since the 11th game of the season.

Tonight was a really solid Drouin game as he moved well and was effective with the puck. The aspect of his game that was the greatest question mark coming into the year was his defensive acumen and it has steadily improved over the year.

What I really loved tonight was what we’ve seen him do more and more of: he lurks high in the offensive zone and into the neutral zone and reads the defenseman trying to break out of the zone and he gets his stick involved. He was disruptive in this one and one of the few forwards that the Blues struggled to generate chances against.

The penalty kill

Colorado’s PK got the job done in a game it had to kill off four penalties. With the closeness of the game throughout, all four were in big moments. The first two came in the opening ten minutes of the game, the third came at the end of the second period, and the fourth happened halfway through a tied game in the third period.

The PK rose to the occasion and got the job done. Was it great? Honestly, it was not. The Blues have a bonkers bad power play this year but in eight minutes of PP time had 18 shot attempts, nine scoring chances, and three high-danger chances. The quality was again limited there but no goals against were scored.

St. Louis was able to create some really good looks but could not convert, managing only five shots on goal in those 18 attempts. It was a lot of missed nets as the Avs only blocked four shots on the PK, but every shot that doesn’t get through is a save your goaltender doesn’t have to make. They did enough as a unit.

Alexandar Georgiev

This is what we’ve been wanting to see! Georgiev was not tested a ton tonight but if we’re being honest, he wasn’t tested a ton in the last game either when he gave up five goals on the last 14 Arizona shots.

The team defense in front of him was better than it has been in its consistency and limiting of quality chances but Georgiev gave nothing away either with 28 saves on 29 shots. He was solid in every aspect of his game tonight and the only goal against was a breakaway so clean it might as well have been a penalty shot.

It wasn’t a dominant performance but he was one save better than his counterpart and that is what he has been unable to consistently do in the closer games. This feels like a game for Georgiev to build his confidence.

Duds

Kurtis MacDermid’s goalie interference

Ahhh MacDermid, everyone’s favorite lightning rod for conversation. The reality is that it was a good call. MacDermid clearly interfered with Jordan Binnington on Josh Manson’s game-opening goal. It was an easy challenge and its expedience speaks to the ease of the decision.

The real disappointment here is that MacDermid’s great play along the wall kickstarted the entire scoring chance to begin with. He intercepted a clearing attempt and turned it into offense. It was a great job and then he initiated contact with Binnington and the goal was called back. Such a bummer because it was a great play.

Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon’s point streak ended at 19 games but he had the primary assist on the only Blues goal of the night as his blind pass to the middle of the ice was received by Robert Thomas, who went down the ice by himself and scored a nice goal on Georgiev. The frustration with the pass is that there was no Av in the area. Thomas was completely alone and MacKinnon didn’t even bother checking before he did it.

It underscored what a poor night it was for Colorado’s superstar center. Is this what it looked like when Clark Kent was failing a test in high school? You get so accustomed to the exceptional from MacKinnon that when he has a night full of poor reads and bad passes it makes it look so much worse than it really was.

Cale Makar’s penalty shot

I’ll not spend any time on the call itself, but Makar might want to try to come up with some kind of move to make. He never sold anything but going high glove and with his lethal wrist shot, Binnington sat on exactly that and made the save.

A goal there would have been cooler than what happened, so I am politely asking Makar to work on a shootout move in the unlikely event he is ever in that situation again (lol).

Unsung Hero

Bowen Byram – Josh Manson pairing

I didn’t want to separate these two tonight because I think they were awesome together as a duo. They were easily the best pairing on Colorado’s side and I think the key was that they got themselves physically engaged immediately.

Manson was called for what I thought was a silly Roughing call but the physicality displayed by both halves of this pairing had a clear impact on how the Blues tried to attack them the rest of the game. Despite having the advantage in choosing matchups, the Blues kept their top line led by Thomas away from these two and I am fully convinced it is because they were absolute menaces.

That line is a little softer and with Byram and Manson engaging early and often with the body (the two combined hits for them tonight made me laugh because…come on), the Blues chose a different direction. Fair enough, but these guys were Colorado’s best duo all game. Manson had a goal pulled off the board and then was credited with an assist on Johansen’s goal and continues a very strong run of form in the last few weeks.

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