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Avs-Ducks Game 23 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
December 3, 2023

Studs

Bowen Byram

I wrote after the loss to Arizona that despite Byram’s obvious miscues I felt his game was moving in the right direction and I feel this was a small vindication of that. He scored two goals in the first period and had chances for the hat trick throughout the game.

Both goals were a result of exactly what I liked from him against the Coyotes and obviously continued tonight: attacking up the ice and activating. Byram’s appeal as a player is in his two-way game, not solely as a defender, so the total lack of offensive highlights most nights was a significant hole in his game.

This was a much better individual effort from Byram on that side of the puck and, if I’m being honest, when he’s this good offensively, it just isn’t as important what he does defensively. That said, he was solid in his own end as well and maybe the most important part of the game tonight: he stayed out of the penalty box.

The ongoing absence of Sam Girard necessitates that Byram play more as he did tonight, even though it isn’t fair to expect two-goal nights very often (or again at all this year). He’s become a key part of Colorado’s defensive success and the version of him tonight would be a real boon for Colorado.

Devon Toews

He scored an awesome goal with a great shot that should have really put the Ducks on the ropes but the Avs couldn’t finish them off. He also blew the coverage on the first Anaheim goal when he was defending the exact pass that got through. You’d like to see a better play from him there, but that’s life on the PK sometimes.

Beyond the goals, I thought he was really good moving pucks and being a conduit for the Avalanche offense. He showed some of his offensive limitations in the overtime session because he’s not a natural fit for the chaos of 3v3 but he is a stabilizing force on the defensive side, so I liked that part.

This is more of a feeling putting him here because I thought he was good and got better as the game went on. He made smart decisions and his denials when Anaheim attacked were consistently sound. His game worked for me.

Ryan Johansen

This probably won’t be a super popular pick here, but it’s my column! This was a night I felt Johansen should have gotten more ice time because I liked his effort. When he has his motor engaged, you can see the pieces of his game come together and the speed issue is far less of a mitigating circumstance than on other nights.

The area I wish he’d seen more action was on the Avalanche power play, where he could be more of a playmaking force. More 5v5 minutes were probably fair, too, but I thought that Johansen had the legs going tonight and I’m not sure I’ve disliked a game he’s had when he is moving well.

I will add that I didn’t love his game on live viewing but when I picked through it a second time, he jumped out as someone who did some things better than I realized. This is more of an appreciation for a guy I thought had the potential for a much better game.

Duds

Cale Makar

This is entirely about the injury that caused him to not finish the game. He didn’t play poorly at all in my eyes but he is absolutely vital to Colorado’s success or failure this season. Be okay, Cale.

Jared Bednar

I don’t often have specific things to get on Bednar for but this one is pretty easy. He doesn’t control any of the play on the ice but he is the man you point to for who is on that ice and tonight I had some issues.

We saw Bednar rely far too much on Makar last season when the defense had injury problems and Bednar didn’t trust other guys very much or the Avs were trailing and trying to catch up or whatever the reason was that night and Makar even admitted that he had to save something in the tank to get through games.

Makar’s ice time has been regulated way better this season and he’s playing better than ever. My personal opinion is they are directly related.

As such, looking at the ice time of Colorado’s top line tonight is absurd. There’s playing your best guys a lot and there’s Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Valeri Nichushkin playing at least 27:28 (that was Nichushkin). MacKinnon was 25 seconds shy of playing 30 minutes.

Those are the kinds of minutes that guys get in the playoffs when they get into overtime, not a regular-season game on December 2. We’ve given Bednar a lot of credit for the way he handles practicing on off days, but the idea is to keep his players fresher for the games that happen beyond 82, not to play his top forward line 25 minutes per night.

The 5v5 time is even absurd with MacKinnon and Rantanen breaking 20 minutes. At 5v5! The Avalanche went 0/3 on the power play and the second PP unit played less than 30 seconds in those six minutes on the man advantage. Give your guys a break, man!

I just want to see more even minutes distribution is what I’m saying. Last year, I got it. They were struggling to ice legitimate NHL players at way too many spots in the lineup. Right now, they have a truly electric third line that played only 7:58 together at 5v5. Their fourth line that has been badly struggling for a while now and was bad once again tonight played 7:33.

Even if they have a problem with the “second” line led by Johansen (that trio played only 5:43 together at 5v5), that just isn’t enough time for the Ross Colton-led third line that has been very good and set Byram up for his first goal of the game and should have had another had Colton finished on either of his looks in the third period.

This is almost an entire article on its own about what has been a growing problem (MacKinnon has been playing around 25 minutes per night the last five or so games), but it seems like the Makar problem from last year all over again. Diminishing returns are hitting a little.

Mikko Rantanen

After all that about how I don’t think Bednar is putting his best guys in a very good position, I am still saying Rantanen was bad tonight. Awful, in fact, despite a great pass to set Toews up for his goal.

Rantanen is a world-class goal scorer with an astronomical career shooting percentage because he is special when it comes to putting the puck in the net. How does a player who has a wicked one-timer, a lethal wrist shot, and one of the very best backhands in the world work himself into such a shy state of shooting the puck?

He should be a focal point on the power play, not a third option, and he needs to engage his own aggressiveness a bit more often and defer a little less to his also world-class playmaking. That’s fine, that stuff has probably always been true.

It’s the engagement that drives me crazy. He looks completely disinterested in playing. He rarely skates hard and seems to take it easy through large portions of games. I’ve long said that criticizing effort is a landmine of misreading things, but we’ve seen Rantanen when he’s engaged and we’ve seen him…like this.

Maybe nothing highlighted the frustration with his game more than his lackadaisical play in 3v3 and then downright sleepy shootout attempt with the game on the line. He has been casually dominant in the past in his career, but that is not the case right now. It’s simply casual, despite his always-impressive point production. Tonight was bad.

Unsung Hero

Ivan Prosvetov

I’ll say this: I don’t think Prosvetov was very good tonight and the third goal he gave up is, simply put, a bad goal. It’s not from a sharp angle, through a ton of traffic, or well-placed. It’s something that won’t even get scored in practice very often. It shouldn’t happen. He also got put on the moon in the shootout by Leo Carlsson.

The other goals, though, he didn’t stand a chance on and when the Avs were at their worst in the first period, he put them in a position to win the game. Colorado was up 2-0 and then 3-1 at one point and to see them lose those leads because of their discipline issues was certainly disappointing.

This wasn’t a great night for Prosvetov but I thought he held his ground at times. Maybe it’s my own low expectations right now, but I just felt bad watching him in situations he was predictably going to struggle in (read: shootouts).

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