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Avs Game 1 Grades: Finnishing off the Flames

Evan Rawal Avatar
October 4, 2019

Led by four goals from their Finnish-born players, the Colorado Avalanche started their season on the right foot by taking down the Calgary Flames at home by a score of 5-3.

How did each player perform? Let’s find out…

Erik Johnson – C+:  The veteran of the Avs blueline led the team in time on ice with 23:14, a good sign after he saw his ice time drop dramatically in the playoffs. He made a great play on the Compher goal by entering the zone and being extremely patient with the puck, but like most of the defense, he was far from perfect and looked a little lost on the second Flames power play goal.

Cale Makar – C:  Makar was VERY high event tonight, to the point where he was on the ice for 39 shot attempts in his 16 minutes of even strength ice time. That might remind you of the guy he’s essentially replacing in Tyson Barrie. There were definite ups and downs in his first regular season game, including getting caught up ice on a breakaway but it’s rare to find a rookie who can handle 22 minutes and make plays as he can. He needs to be more aggressive shooting the puck, as he only attempted one shot tonight.

Matt Calvert – B-: A great pass on Compher’s goal in the second period, and showed his trademark high energy in the third period keeping the puck pinned in the Flames end. Much like the rest of the penalty killing unit, there’s room for improvement.

Valeri Nichushkin – B+: The biggest surprise of the night, as he stepped in and played quite well after a very average preseason. I’m not sure Rittich ever saw the first goal go past him because big Val was right in front of him blocking his view.

Nikita Zadorov – C+: Big Z will probably always be an adventure, but he was the only Avs defenseman to finish above 50% in CF (57%). Great play on the blue line before the Compher goal to show composure in a tough spot. The penalties need to stop, particularly the stick stuff, but you have to live with the physical penalties because that’s how he has to play. The first-ever five-minute fighting major where a guy shows no interest in fighting.

Tyson Jost – B-: I thought Jost was quietly solid tonight, leading the Avs in CF (65%) and putting the puck on net any time he could with four shots on goal. He did not see a single second of special teams ice.

Conor Timmins – C+: Really did not play a lot, which has to be tough, but hit a post early in the game after getting a long-range shot through and looked composed for the most part when he was on the ice. He did have some tough moments, including a turnover right in front of his own net, and roaming a little too far into the neutral zone late. He didn’t see the ice the last 10 minutes of the game after his foray into the neutral zone led to a 3 on 1. I liked a lot of what I saw, but like Bednar said after the game, he was up and down like most of the defense.

Ryan Graves – C: I thought Graves was a real roller coaster most of the night but came up big late in the game with some shot blocks. Had the lowest CF among the D at 38%. His work on the second Flames PP goal was not great, like everyone else on the ice. I’m not sure putting Graves, who is still trying to adjust to the NHL, with a rookie is a recipe for success, but the Avs don’t have a ton of options right now.

Nathan MacKinnon – B-: Very weird to say that a guy who attempted nine shots didn’t seem as explosive as you’d expect, but that’s how high expectations are for MacKinnon. He still looked very good and made a beautiful pass to Rantanen for his power play goal. You know that he’s got another gear to hit and that’s what’s so scary.

J.T. Compher – B-: Picked up a goal and made some nice plays coming back on the backcheck. If he’s going to be a center he has to be better in the face-off circle, as he only won four of his 12 face-offs.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – C-: Brought in to help the penalty kill and in the face-off circle, he took a penalty early in the game and was out for both power play goals for the Flames. He only won 42% of his face-offs, but his career shows that’s an aberration.

Samuel Girard – B: Although he wasn’t perfect and had some turnovers, I felt he was the best defenseman for the Avs. Great job getting his shot through on the first goal, and had a nice rush through the slot in the second period. He was skating and that’s what you want from him.

Joonas Donskoi – B+: Donskoi said he can be better, as he had the worst CF on the team (27%), but how do you argue with two goals in your debut? He creates a lot of chances with his skill and has proven to be solid defensively. He tends to overhandle the puck at times and got himself into trouble with that tonight.

Matt Nieto – A-: If there was an unsung hero in this game, it was Nieto. A huge shot block late in the game, a great backcheck to eliminate a breakaway and picked up an assist on the empty netter. He took quite a few hits to make some plays.

Nazem Kadri – B: The ideal number two center, and showed it tonight. Hit the post early in the game, but is very much willing to let the puck rip whenever he gets it as he attempted nine shots tonight. Showed his willingness to get his nose dirty, and was great in the faceoff circle, winning 12 of the 21 he took.

Gabriel Landeskog – B: His hand-eye coordination play in the neutral zone looked like a high stick to me, but if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, and he followed it up with a nice seam pass and let Mikko do the rest. He’s the grunt worker on that line, as he only attempted three shots overall.

Andre Burakovsky – B-: I’m pretty hard on Burakovsky but I thought he was fine tonight. Picking up an assist early has to get rid of some of the jitters, and he drew a penalty in the second period as well.

Mikko Rantanen – A: Who needs training camp? This guy is a freak. Drew three penalties, scored two goals and did some magical things with the puck when he wasn’t scoring. He lost his man on the Flames third goal but more than made up for it elsewhere.

Philipp Grubauer – C: A weird game for a goaltender to play in, and he said as much after the game. Faced only three shots in the first period, and one of them was put into the net by his own teammate. He looked shaky in the second period, but came up huge in the third, including a breakaway save on Monahan.

The Avs continue this homestand as they take on the Minnesota Wild this Saturday. The game starts at 7 PM MST.

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