One step forward and two steps back. Last contest, Colorado lost both Val Nichushkin and Martin Kaut to injury.
The stress of holiday travel even affects NHL teams. Staffing issues delayed the charter flight and the Avs did not touch down in Arizona until hours before puck drop. The team skated before they flew out. This morning, Jared Bednar got on Altitude radio to talk about the latest injury updates.
Based upon his radio interview and pregame availability, here is a summary of those:
- Gabriel Landeskog is not close to returning.
- Nathan MacKinnon skated with the team this morning and is close.
- Darren Helm also skated with the team this morning, Bednar said he hoped for a return from MacKinnon or Helm in the “near future.”
- Val Nichushkin is somewhere between day-to-day and week-to-week, the injury stems from his past injury and Bednar wasn’t sure how long they’d shut him down for.
- Martin Kaut (UBI) is week-to-week pending more evaluation.
- Pavel Francouz (LBI) is also going to be “on the shelf a little bit.”
- Bo Byram (LBI), “He’s continuing with his treatment. I think that the original assessment of his injury probably needed a longer timeline. From what we’re understanding, he’s working through it, trying to get his way back to the ice.”
- Josh Manson’s (LBI) timeline was 4-6 weeks. He’s nearing the one-month mark and is not ready to get on the ice. There hasn’t been a setback. Said he’s in a similar boat as Bo Byram.
The time off allowed much-needed recovery time for someone like Andrew Cogliano who returned to the lineup. As a result of Kaut and Francouzs’ injuries, the Avs recalled goaltender Jonas Johansson and Charles Hudon.
In spite of it all, the Avs have won four straight games, three of which have been outside of regulation. Low-event hockey has meant close games.
Colorado attempted to shake off the slog after allowing a few dangerous chances, but Arizona was the first to score at 3:55: Shane Gostisbehere up high from Jakob Chychrun.
Cogliano drew a tripping call and the Avs were awarded a powerplay chance. J.T. Compher worked the puck back to Cale Makar after the faceoff. Makar sent it to Evan Rodrigues who fired a one-timer from the right circle in.
An unfortunate stick check from Logan O’Connor tipped the puck right off of one Coyote’s stick and onto another’s. Bjugstad was already streaking into the neutral zone and Devon Toews and Cale Makar attempted to challenge him in the corner. Lawson Crouse escaped with the puck and walked to the netfront and backhanded it in past Georgiev.
It was a sloppy period. Despite being the team to generate the least amount of chances in the league, Arizona outshot Colorado 12-10 and generated seven dangerous chances to Colorado’s three.
It was a bit more of the same to start the second period. At 4:36, Andreas Englund took a slashing penalty. On the subsequent kill, Arizona cycled the puck around to Nick Schmaltz planted at the side of the netfront who tapped it in.
At 11:23, Makar was set up with a great pass from J.T. Compher clear across the slot. Makar ripped a powerful shot past Ingram.
Just under the midway point, Mikko Rantanen captured his own rebound but a coach’s challenge deemed the play offside and the Avs remained down by one goal. It seemed like the Avs were beginning to build momentum – a path back to winning in sight.
Artturi Lehkonen took a tripping penalty, and Colorado went on their second kill of the game. Just after it expired, a feed from Crouse allowed J.J. Moser to fire it from the right point past Georgiev. This was a deflating moment. Though the Avs closed in the Coyotes (shots 12-10 in this frame), Arizona still created the most dangerous chances, and now they had a two-goal lead.
At 3:43, Arizona’s AHL call-up Michael Carcone scored to widen their lead. A puck bobbled away from the Avs in the offensive zone and led to a 3-on-1 the other way. It was a textbook tic-tac-toe play.
About two minutes later, hard work and a good shift from the Avs forward group led to a goal. Erik Johnson took a shot from the point, and Rantanen deflected it in.
Seven minutes into the third period, Colorado took a delay of game penalty. They couldn’t climb back into this one. Their momentum was too easily dashed. With under a minute left, Clayton Keller sealed their fate with an empty net goal to make the final 6-3.
Diagnosis: poor netfront coverage and puck management – The reality is that Alexandar Georgiev didn’t have an “A” game. Two of Arizona’s goals come from up high and can be chalked up to effective screens and traffic. You rightfully want a goaltender to be able to track pucks in those moments. On the other side of that, three of Arizona’s goals happen inside home plate. Not only does the league’s worst at generating shot attempts outshoot the Colorado Avalanche, they were able to operate between the hashmarks too easily. The heat map corroborates this diagnosis.
Bednar has talked about the defensive side of the game being of the utmost importance in the face of scoring woes.
“I didn’t like our start,’ said Bednar. “Sloppy right away and just giving too much room. Our checking game wasn’t in order right from the get-go. We dug ourselves a hole. I thought it got better at times, we started to create. Maybe because we created more on the offensive side, and they’d had better o-zone possessions, we spent a little less time defending. The urgency in our game didn’t pick up until the third period and it was too late.”
As mentioned, it’s not as though Alexandar Georgiev’s performance is without criticism. Bednar put it succinctly when he said, “I thought he was like the rest of our team. Probably not good enough.”
Evan Rodrigues – Rodrigues was the lone bright spot of the game. Since his return, he has been one of few players (Rantanen) to find the back of the net. The value of goal scoring is important, but he’s done more than that. He led the team in shots on net, scored on the powerplay, and won five of his seven faceoffs. His line of Alex Newhook and Denis Malgin had the best percentage of total shots and Corsi for percentage.
It was not a good game. Rodrigues put it best when he said, “We didn’t play horrible, but we didn’t do enough to win the game. We’ve been playing really good hockey (before) coming into the break. We just (need to) hit the reset button.”