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Avs Game 31 Grades: It was 4-1

AJ Haefele Avatar
January 9, 2022

Darcy Kuemper – INC

I certainly haven’t been easy on Kuemper this year but I don’t know how you can really look at any of those goals and say they were Kuemper’s fault. His pulling was more about changing the momentum in the game and trying to kickstart the team than anything else. I’m not bagging on Kuemper for this one.

Pavel Francouz – A

Francouz, however, kicked ass tonight. He came in and the only goal he gave up was on a broken Darren Helm coverage. Comebacks are usually about the goals but Francouz made a handful of saves on high-quality scoring chances in the third period that could have thwarted all the work to come from behind. He came up huge and deserved the star he got.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel – A

I absolutely loved NAK’s game tonight. He was ferocious on the forecheck, bodying Leafs defenders throughout the game and creating multiple scoring chances for his linemates. If any of them could finish anything, the Avs probably never trail 3-0 to begin with. An assist to go with three SOG and six hits while avoiding the penalty issues that plague him? That’s a great night for NAK.

Andre Burakovsky – C

I thought he had his legs again tonight and was finding his way to some opportunities but…missed the net a bunch of times again. I didn’t think it was a bad night for Burky and I’ll take this kind of game from him versus the complete ghost he can be at times.

Bowen Byram – C+

There were some puck management issues in the first period but also some explosive plays pushing the puck into the offensive zone and getting good scoring chances. Ultimately, a mixed bag from Byram with more good than bad. That turnover in the first when Nylander stripped him was brutal stuff, though.

J.T. Compher – B-

This felt like vintage Compher to me. I didn’t notice a lot, he just sort of existed for a lot of the game and then found a way to make an impact when it dropped on his doorstep. Acceptable.

Samuel Girard – B

There were times in this game I thought Girard had been their best D. He was moving pucks well and he wasn’t getting eaten up defensively. He’s a sublime passer when defenses give him a little space. Saw the tornade a few times tonight, too, and they each actually worked.

Darren Helm – D

I actually liked Helm at even strength and thought he was off to a nice start in the game. In just seven minutes of TOI, however, the big mistake he made on Toronto’s only PP of the game made the biggest impact of anything he did. He looks totally lost on the PK.

Erik Johnson – D

He made the big mistake on Toronto’s first goal when he missed the net and cleared the zone with a poor shot. He compounded the mistake by never picking up Kerfoot trailing the play and slid his way out of the play when he took a poor angle on the crossing pass. Ugly. I did like some of his physicality on Matthews.

Tyson Jost – C

No major mistakes tonight and that’s a nice step forward from some recent performances. I’m not longer a believer that Jost is cursed and more of a believer that he simply cannot be NHL goaltenders consistently enough.

Nazem Kadri – A

This is an important game for Kadri on a personal level. He came through. Not only is he finding a way to continue producing offense at an elite rate despite being on the second line, but he’s avoiding the dumb stuff that has plagued his career. Contract-year Kadri is a lot of fun.

Gabe Landeskog – A

I loved Landeskog’s game again. He nearly botched the third goal but he did just enough to get it across the line. I liked his physicality and work ethic. When he’s going like he did tonight, he really helps set a tone for the Avs.

Kurtis MacDermid – INC

What do you even say about a guy who played 3:12? There’s a reason we felt it noteworthy when he hit five minutes of TOI earlier this week.

Nathan MacKinnon – A+

He scored in his second straight game but registered zero assists. He added 12 shots on goal and generally dominated play when he was out there. Toronto had absolutely no answer in the second half of the game as he took over and Matthews and the Leafs shrank from the moment.

Cale Makar – A-

So here’s my truth: I didn’t think Makar was great this game. Multiple passes were into skates and he wasn’t driving the puck hard to dangerous areas like he does when he’s at his best. That’s why he’s special, though, because he was this good (1g, 1a, 72% CF) when he was clearly having an off night. Against one of the better teams in the NHL? Gurl, plz.

Ryan Murray – C

I just don’t feel like I noticed Murray much at all. Is this a blindspot for me? We all have biases somewhere and that I don’t ever seem to mind Murray’s play much suggests maybe I’m not paying close enough attention.

Alex Newhook – D

One of the worst games we’ve seen from Newhook since his recall. Got eaten up at even strength and didn’t generate anything dangerous offensively. He floated and watched everyone else get involved on the PP. A forgettable night.

Logan O’Connor – C+

I thought LOC was just okay. His work on the PK was great but still not enough. He’s not thriving in an expanded role but he’s certainly battling and surviving. That’s impressive in itself.

Mikko Rantanen – A+

He gets so soft and cute sometimes that you forget that when one of those cutesy little plays works, he ends up with an assist on a highlight reel. His play on the game-tying goal was as next-level special as you can get. Wow was that no-look pass between his legs something to behold.

Devon Toews – A-

I could take everything I said about Makar and apply it to Toews, except add that Toews scored in the game-winning goal. It was a perfect hand-off and he was patient in picking his spot and waiting for Campbell to open up shop. He did, and Toews took advantage. Yahtzee.


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