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Avs-Bruins Game 41 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
January 9, 2024

Studs

The Avs

This might feel like a cop-out but this is my space to write stuff in so go with me on it. Boston is once again one of the league’s best teams and they walked into this game with relative health against an Avalanche squad with no Artturi Lehkonen, Miles Wood, Josh Manson, or Bowen Byram. Those would all be important role players for the Avalanche in a playoff series so not having them against the Bruins had the potential for the Avs to look outmanned once again (not nearly as badly as last season, but still an obvious disparity).

The real difference that you noticed tonight was the trust from Jared Bednar and his staff. They were obviously not sold on the depth guys being able to handle the moment as the game got into the later stages and eventually overtime.

Four Avs forwards played at least 26 minutes with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each breaking 30 minutes. Devon Toews was 10 seconds shy of joining Cale Makar as playing 30 minutes on the back end. Nobody else at forward or defense cracked 20 with Sam Girard coming the closest with 18:34.

Bednar can be overly reliant on his horses at times but tonight was an extreme example. Even with that disparity, which really got out of hand late in the game, the Avs played a wonderful defensive team game as they allowed only 22 shots on goal through the end of regulation. Boston averages just a shade over 30 shots per game, so the Avs accomplishing that against their gritty, physical group while missing some of their most important role players is very impressive.

This was a damn good win and it took the entire team doing work to get it done. As much as the stars played, Colorado’s Holy Trinity combined for three points, all on Colorado’s first goal. Otherwise their depth got them to overtime and Nichushkin across the finish line.

Devon Toews

I wanted to separate Toews specifically because he was tasked with a hell of a job tonight in shadowing Bruins superstar David Pastrnak. One of the things Bednar has consistently done in his tenure coaching the Avs is not shying away from using his top guys against the other team’s top guys instead of always trying to get them into a mismatch advantage.

This was on display tonight as it seemed Toews was asked to be in Pastrnak’s pocket all evening. You couldn’t ask for too much more from Toews as Pastrnak managed four shots on goal, just one in each period. Toews was his usual disruptive self with his stick but he was also excellent with his physicality along the boards.

Toews played 20:34 at 5v5 tonight, just over a full period, and the Bruins managed only six shots on goal against him. Six! If you extend it out to even strength, where Toews played over 24 minutes, that number goes up to…seven.

I would venture that in a spotlight matchup, this will be one of the best games Toews puts on tape this season.

Valeri Nichushkin

I’ll be honest. He drove me a little nuts tonight. It felt like he was thisclose to being involved in more dangerous plays and creating something bigger, but he’s been moved away from MacKinnon and Rantanen and successfully driving a line on his own.

How many wings can you name in the NHL who are capable of playing more than 26 minutes in a game against one of the NHL’s best defensive teams and being such a force that he nearly is a game-wrecker all on his own?

Playing 9:28 of 5v5 time alongside Ross Colton and Logan O’Connor, the Avalanche outshot the Bruins 9-2 and created a 5-0 advantage in high-danger chances. That line deserved a much better fate in terms of finishing those chances.

Except for that shootout-winning goal, I mean. That was a pretty nice finish.

Sam Malinski

It’s really hard being effective in call-up opportunities. We talk a lot about guys being in rhythm and comfortable in their roles and all but Malinski stepped in with uncertainty surrounding Josh Manson’s availability.

He paired with Caleb Jones, a guy he hasn’t played a ton with this season, and had his game rolling all night. His last two appearances before Sam Girard returned were among his worst of the season but tonight he flexed the skill set that makes it easy to dream on his future.

The shimmy at the blueline and the shot that gave the Avs a 3-2 lead both evoked images of Makar, but Malinski is his own guy and both he and the Avalanche are learning on the fly just who that is. Being able to step into the lineup in a situation such as this is incredibly useful for everyone involved and that he ended up with the fourth-most ice time on the Avalanche defense speaks volumes to the growing trust there.

Duds

Logan O’Connor’s OT penalty

LOC was fantastic again this game and his goal where he scares Kevin Shattenkirk into accidentally running into Pavel Zacha was both hilarious and classic LOC. That motor never stops and his finish in beating Swayman was great.

But for the second consecutive game, LOC was called for a penalty in a crucial situation. It was his penalty against Florida last game that gave the Panthers a two-minute 5v3 and tonight it was his holding call that gave the Bruins a power play with 1:58 remaining in overtime.

4v3 penalties are tough to kill off, especially with a star goal-scoring monster such as Pastrnak waiting for a one-timer opportunity. LOC was awesome in this game…except this one play.

The Ryan Johansen hate

Going a little different direction with this one, but the frustration with Johansen has been well-earned to this point in the season. That said, I thought he was really solid tonight and he cleanly won the faceoff that resulted in Malinski’s goal. Good for Johansen as I appreciated his efforts against the bigger Bruins squad.

Unsung Hero

Alexandar Georgiev

The much-maligned netminder still posted a sub-.900 save percentage but you can miss me with the idea that he wasn’t good tonight. I certainly didn’t love his start but how do you not love the way he finished? He was perfect in overtime and the shootout and I would bet that I wasn’t the only person who was uneasy with Georgiev in those spots.

He rose to the occasion, however, and you have to give him his credit there. The shootout is what it is, but his play in overtime was exceptional. The Bruins didn’t create any incredible scoring chances on their 4v3 power play, but Georgiev also did not provide additional opportunities.

Look at Boston’s second goal and you’ll see a weak rebound that got away from him a bit and turned into a goal that you can argue he shouldn’t be allowing. Then look at the chances in overtime and you’ll see Georgiev swallowing them up. No rebounds makes no goals against a much easier task. He went head-to-head against Jeremy Swayman, who was damn good tonight, and emerged victorious.

I’d love to see him post less than three goals against, but being one save better than the other guy is always going to be good enough for me.

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