The Avs dominated their second straight team at Ball Arena as they easily dismissed the Detroit Red Wings in a 6-3 beatdown that was 5-0 at one point. Unlike against Ottawa, there were a few things I’d consider “Duds” in this one, so it’ll be a more thorough piece.
Let’s talk superstars.
Two goals, one assist and a nice reminder what a special talent he really is. We’ve talked a lot about how his (over)use has held back his offense from finding a different level because he’s had to keep something in the tank to get through 30 minutes. Well, it turns out if Makar dominates early enough to help the Avs build an insurmountable lead, he gets a few shifts off!
The first highlight is pretty straightforward. Cale Makar throws that patented wrister in the right spot, it gets lost in traffic (welcome back, Valeri Nichushkin!) and finds its way in. Vintage Makar.
The second clip is what makes Makar who he is, which is the most dangerous offensive defenseman on the planet. The wristers from the outside are all good and well, but it is Makar’s attack mentality that really separates him from the pack. Watch him step into space the defense is leaving.
When the play appears dead, Makar comes flying back into the zone like a forward on a forecheck and he dislodges the puck from Dylan Larkin and moves it to Nathan MacKinnon, creating an entirely new offensive-zone possession.
After great board work by Artturi Lehkonen, the Avs get another look as Makar again steps into space. It comes back out high and Makar ends up giving away possession…and then chasing down the play to help erase any chance.
Makar’s second goal is definitely a pick play with MacKinnon. Sometimes that gets called, in this case, it didn’t, but again pay attention to the way Makar attacks open ice. No other defenseman in the world does it as he does.
Maybe my favorite clip is the last one. At the end of a lengthy shift, Makar just wires a puck around the board to Evan Rodrigues. You’ll see that clip several more times, but remember that Makar is the one who starts it.
He’s a superstar for a reason.
Colorado’s “other” superstar had a four-point night with an even distribution of two goals and two assists. He was a dominant player again as he controlled much of the game when he was out there.
When MacKinnon and Makar both bring the “A” game, the Avs are extremely difficult to beat.
Colorado’s first goal gets started with a won faceoff by MacKinnon and then the Avs take advantage of terrible team defense by the Red Wings, in particular David Perron. If you read back my piece after the Florida Panthers game, you’ll notice I highlighted several instances where the Panthers attacked Colorado’s strategy of moving forwards out high in the offensive zone.
That first goal, the Avs do that but Perron never tracks Artturi Lehkonen and the Avs use their numbers advantage to get him the puck wide open in the middle of the ice with space. He fires a wrister that goes in as MacKinnon is colliding with Husso. The contact takes place outside of the crease, which is why the subsequent goaltender interference challenge was unsuccessful.
A rarity in these clips is an excellent defensive play by MacKinnon. At the end of a long shift and tired, MacKinnon finds himself backing up to defend a two-on-one led by Larkin, Detroit’s best player and fastest skater. Because he’s been defending all shift, Larkin is also out of gas, but MacKinnon makes an aggressive decision to force Larkin to make up his mind.
The pressure MacKinnon puts on Larkin causes Larkin to shrink from the moment entirely and what should have been a deadly scoring chance ends in a weak dribbler on Pavel Francouz.
Then you see some great offense from MacKinnon and Rodrigues, followed by MacKinnon abusing Andrew Copp for a breakaway goal. MacKinnon made this one look easy.
Another player (among many, mind you) that really jumped off the ice to my eye was Rodrigues. He finished with two assists, both of which are great plays, but he also helps create a scoring chance for Ben Meyers (more on him later) with an excellent chance.
These highlights are purely Evan Rodrigues reading the ice, reading the defense in front of him, and executing a perfect play.
Watching Rodrigues on the second PP unit draw out Mo Seider, who abandons the front of the net and leaves J.T. Compher completely alone, and then make the perfect backdoor pass to Compher was simply excellent playmaking on display.
His assist to MacKinnon on essentially the same play catches a tired Larkin again as he is slow to react to MacKinnon’s pace as he hops off the bench. MacKinnon goes to the back post, Larkin fails to make any real attempt to stop him, and Rodrigues outwaits the passing lane and hits his mark. Hockey is easy when you play it like that.
Colorado’s Special Teams
A perfect 3/3 on the penalty kill without surrendering any truly abysmal scoring chances is great. Going 2/4 on the power play after that unit has cratered entirely in the last month is a major step forward.
In just 6:04 of PP time, the Avs scored two goals, registered 11 shot attempts, nine shots on goal, eight scoring chances, and six high-danger chances. They dominated and deserved to actually finish off a play into an open net. The Avs have been due there.
Their zone entries were good as MacKinnon and Alex Newhook were the primary puck carries doing work but Nichushkin had two separate neutral-zone reloads where he got back into the zone with ease and helped set up chances.
The Avs’ special teams have been…sore subjects for people in the last week. We’ll just appreciate what was hopefully a step forward for both units.
Detroit’s first goal
On live, I was so confused about how Pavel Francouz ended up with four players in his immediate vicinity. Well, let’s see how it happens.
Detroit goes to cycle the puck down low and Andreas Englund picks up Andrew Copp. He then leaves Copp alone and goes after the puck. He doesn’t provide any real resistance to Detroit’s plans, however, and then doesn’t switch out to take Copp’s shooting lane away.
Instead, Englund stays to battle at the netfront and instead relies on J.T. Compher to go from the back post all the way across the ice to try to disrupt Copp’s shot attempt. A simple hand-off from Englund in front of the net would’ve allowed Compher to slide to the near post and cover the man Englund eventually took. Englund then would’ve been able to challenge Copp’s shot, which just found its way in through some traffic.
Detroit took the space Colorado’s defense gave them and burned them.
Detroit’s second goal
The Avs just need better from Pavel Francouz here. That isn’t a particularly special shot and it beats him cleanly. Another fine Frankie performance otherwise.
If you watch the clips above (and even the one below), you’ll find Larkin losing puck battles, footraces, and generally getting outworked and outplayed by several different Avs in this game. He’s too tired to press Detroit’s advantage in the first period and only produces a weak wrister that Francouz had no issue handling.
He loses a race to Husso’s backdoor on MacKinnon’s second goal. He gets outworked by Ben Meyers. He gets outplayed throughout the game.
It’s a totally pie-in-the-sky combination but with Larkin a pending UFA at the end of this season, it seems like he’d be an amazing fit in Colorado’s system thanks to its emphasis on Larkin’s best skill, his skating.
That price tag is likely to be far too much to make it worth it for the Avs, but they’d be crazy not to at least inquire. If Larkin was trying to show anything at all to Avs’ management, that mission was surely not accomplished.
This was a space where people felt strongly I could include a role player who I thought separated himself from the back a little bit in games. Some games have been tougher to find a guy, but this one I really loved we saw from Meyers.
There are no goals here but you’ll see Meyers outworking Larkin for a zone exit. He shows off his relentless work ethic in creating scoring chances, and generally zipping around the ice with his quality skating on display.
Here he wins board battles, draws a penalty in transition, gets a shot on goal that results in a Detroit icing attempt, and then another hard-working shift on offense. I loved his little head fake as he headed into the corner and dusted Jake Walman, who also found himself on the wrong end of several of these highlights.
It’s not a big thing from Meyers, but a closer examination reveals a more productive night than the negative Corsi night might suggest.