Colorado opened their three-game road trip with a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames, inching them closer to a playoff spot.

Studs

Alexandar Georgiev

He missed three straight starts as the team gave him a chance to reset following a long stretch of starts. Pavel Francouz performed well in his absence, but against three lower-tier teams. Georgiev got the net against the Flames, a team with which the Avs are currently competing for a Wild Card spot.

He responded with a strong night. While it didn’t appear he was on the tip-top of his game with some puck-tracking issues and a few squirrely rebounds, the only goal against was a screened snipe on a power play by a noted goal scorer in Tyler Toffoli.

This was a strong effort from Georgiev with 34 saves on 35 shots.

Devon Toews

No Cale Makar? Well, Devon Toews came within inches of having a three-point night. Activating as aggressively as, well, Makar, Toews helped generate a lot of offense while also playing next to a rotating cast of partners throughout the evening.

His underlying numbers don’t jump off the page because of the turtle in the third period, but watching him control the ice while he was out there was enough. He ended with two assists and might have been robbed of a third when Artturi Lehkonen’s power-play goal barely caught a piece of Mikko Rantanen on the way by him as Rantanen missed on his chip attempt.

Artturi Lehkonen

He scored two goals from the area the Avs have struggled most to get goals – right around the crease. He crashed the net twice and found paydirt. He wasn’t as loud as we’ve seen him on other nights when his forecheck is dialed in and he’s being ultra disruptive, but he replaced that with good old goal-scoring instead.

Valeri Nichushkin

I don’t think he’s fully there yet and the reality is that the constant irritation of his scar tissue may be a thing he fights for the rest of his career. It’s just not an area of the body he can avoid frequently bothering, so how he adapts will be important moving forward.

Tonight, however, he was downright excellent. He was all over the ice, generating shots for himself or stifling plays in the neutral zone and turning them into possessions for the Avalanche.

That two-way excellence was turned way up tonight as his underlying numbers really jumped off the page.

Mikko Rantanen

He was great at imposing his will on this game, from his physicality to the consistent effort we’ve begun to see with him driving his own line now.

Two goals more goals pushed him into fourth place in the NHL with 31 in just 43 games. He may struggle to chase down Connor McDavid for the league lead, but he’s starting to emerge from Nathan MacKinnon’s shadow as an elite star.

Duds

This one shift by Andrew Cogliano

I don’t think Cogliano had a bad game overall, but this was the kind of shift that you can safely deem a nightmare in nature.

He loses the puck high in the offensive zone, creating an opportunity for the Flames going the other way. At the end of the shift, he takes a lazy penalty as he was caught flat-footed and reaching, resulting in taking down the Calgary skater. An ugly sequence for the vet.

The turtle

I know this is human nature, that teams do this all the time and are wildly successful overall in doing it, but sitting on multi-goal leads in the third period and letting the other team just come at you in waves is awful to watch.

Given the Avs played the majority of this game with a three-goal lead, you can understand why the sense of urgency lowered as the game wore on. Again, it’s just human nature. But also you’d love to see a little more of a staunch push back as the Flames got going. It’s not a huge thing, but the Avs haven’t had a lot of practice protecting third-period leads lately. It’d be good to see them get back into the groove of closing games a little more comfortably than we saw tonight.

Avs players shooting at the open net

We saw J.T. Compher give two shots at it immediately after the Flames pulled Markstrom from the net and he missed both times. The second one wasn’t even close. Nichushkin took several shots at it, too.

All the attempts the Avs threw at an untended goal, the one they made work never actually went in when Nikita Zadorov slashed Rantanen’s stick out of his hands and Colorado’s fourth goal was awarded after a brief discussion amongst the officials.

It didn’t burn them, but it wasn’t the prettiest way to finish that game.

Unsung Hero

Erik Johnson

Between the well-deserved love for the Toews-Makar pairing and the constant focus on Sam Girard’s play, Erik Johnson seems to get lost in the shuffle of Colorado’s defense at times.

Tonight, EJ had to kick it a little more old school and play more minutes with a rotating cast of players. He had more than two minutes with each of Andreas Englund, Brad Hunt, Toews, and Girard. His shot metrics broke even on the night and he was involved offensively and defensively.

There weren’t a lot of highlight-reel caliber plays from EJ, but he was steady and reliable in a game where they needed everyone on the blue line to up their game just a touch to help alleviate the pressure of Makar’s absence.

Author

A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj

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