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Avs-Coyotes Game 35 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
December 28, 2023

Studs

Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon was easily the best player on the ice for either team tonight. He was dominating shifts with his speed and tenacity. He picked up a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to 19 games and is now only two points behind Nikita Kucherov for the league lead. He’s that locked in right now.

The only gripe I’d have here is that he was frustratingly pedestrian in overtime, which is antithetical to what you’d think such a special player capable of producing in a 3v3 environment.

Overall, this guy is giving you everything you could want.

Devon Toews

I kind of loved the game from Toews tonight. He made two wonderful defensive plays coming back on what could have been Arizona breakaways and was great with his stick. It was classic Toews stuff.

He snags an assist cycling a puck but was otherwise good offensively. It was his work in his own zone that really stood out to me. It wasn’t perfect, but on a night when his Cale Makar and Bowen Byram were both badly struggling with consistency, the Avs needed Toews to be a stabilizing force. He was for much of the night.

Logan O’Connor

The guy is kind of a freak, you know? There isn’t anything sexy about his game (except his speed, I suppose. Speed is sexy, right?) but he’s so hard-working and dependable and sometimes pucks just break right for the guy. He made the most of it on his wraparound goal tonight but his overall game didn’t see the significant dip in the third period that those around him had.

That’s where O’Connor has really started to flex a new comfort level this season. Even when the team around him is experiencing troubles, Jared Bednar knows he can toss 25 over the boards and chances are high he’s getting a positive shift. It hasn’t mattered who the linemates have been, O’Connor has been able to accomplish positive things.

It’s too bad his second 5v5 goal of the year tonight was (partially) wasted.

Duds

Valeri Nichushkin

I’m starting with Nichushkin because it so rarely happens that he has a bad defensive game that it is startling when it does happen. I didn’t think he was very good through the first 40 minutes but he was downright awful in the third period.

He wasn’t any good in the offensive zone and then defensively he looked lost. The Coyotes were able to take advantage of it a couple of times and left a few more chances on the ice where he was puck-watching and not marking an Arizona player. He also wasn’t his usual stout self along the wall, where he consistently uses his size and strength to win puck battles. Tonight, it was a lot of reaching and hoping. Hope isn’t a plan, as they say.

Bowen Byram

I really struggled with Byram’s game. He picked up an assist but it was a desperation assist when he nearly turned the puck over in his own zone and got lucky it turned into something the other direction.

That was the hallmark of Byram’s night. Desperation. He didn’t read the ice well at all and his defensive coverage was springing leaks most of the game. When you’re that poor on defense and provide nothing in the offensive zone, it’s a recipe for getting benched during 3v3, which is exactly what happened.

Bednar clearly didn’t trust Byram to play a smart game in overtime and that led to Josh Manson getting the opportunity instead, which also contributed directly to the Arizona game-winning goal because Josh Manson really isn’t suited for 3v3 hockey.

It was a tough spot for Bednar to be in because Byram’s game was that abysmal.

This shift

What in the world is all of this? Between Val Nichushkin, Bowen Byram, and (kind of) Cale Makar you have a bunch of decisions being made that are…baffling.

Nichushkin getting the puck shortly after the Coyotes dumped it into the zone and not only losing it but having it cleanly taken from him and moved around the net was the real start of the problems.

Nichushkin then provides no resistance when the Coyotes swing to puck back to his area of the ice. When the puck is passed through the zone to the goal scorer, neither Byram nor Makar is close to a Coyotes player. It’s hard to start how badly misplayed this entire sequence was by the parties involved.

It’s bad enough that I don’t even have confidence assigning blame here. They are all culprits.

That goal really got the Coyotes believing in the good vibes of a comeback and started the third period off in the wrong direction. A true mess.

Alexandar Georgiev

With 4:12 left in the second period, the Avs had given up 13 shots on goal and Georgiev had made 13 saves. He’d played really well to that point. After that, he gave up five goals on 14 shots. Arizona created just seven scoring chances and three high-danger chances in the third period when they scored three goals.

It isn’t hard to say that the Avs were once again one save short here. Georgiev really needs to string some quality games together. He was close to doing it tonight but when things went sideways, it felt inevitable they would lose. He was really good in overtime, too, which makes this all the more frustrating.

Unsung Hero

Josh Manson

Manson took Colorado’s only two penalties (only one led to an Arizona power play) and was a nightmare in overtime. Those are two things you can’t get around.

The rest of the night, I was wondering why I was watching Manson play the kind of all-around game that Byram should have been. He moved pucks aggressively through the neutral zone, pressed the advantage when Colorado had numbers in transition, and was a physical nuisance in his own zone all game.

I would’ve had him in the Studs category had that overtime fiasco not happened, but it did. He is responsible for his play on the ice but it’s fair to ask if Bednar set him up to fail and Manson, well, failed in a situation not suited for his game. You’d really love Manson to make a better play than that disaster he chose, however. Rough.

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