Colorado wrapped their three-game road trip out west with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Seattle Kraken. It pushes their winning streak to five games as they had back home for a challenging three-game slate before heading into the bye week/All-Star break.
Pavel Francouz in the shootout
Francouz was great again in this game, allowing a single goal to Ryan Donato in the second period. It was a softie, but if you only give up one goal in a game, you expect to win. Where Francouz really went ham was in the shootout, where he faced three shooters and stopped all three. This moved Francouz to 4-0 in shootouts with 12 saves on 12 shots. Here are all shootout attempts against Francouz in his career.
I loved Newhook tonight. I only clipped a couple of shifts but he was consistently part of Colorado’s attack as he spearheaded multiple clean zone exits. So much of Colorado’s transition strategy is built upon exiting the defensive zone with speed and Newhook was a facilitator in that regard.
When you watch the shifts below, however, you’ll see just how close Alex Newhook came to a multi-point night.
You see from this that Newhook came thisclose to multiple points. If things had gone his way entirely, it would have been a four-point night. He was that good in this game and arguably Colorado’s most consistently dangerous forward.
This sequence of events
Ben Meyers didn’t score again but he came awfully close to getting another goal (a theme emerges!), but this is a shift where had Devon Toews scored on the backdoor he wouldn’t have been credited with a point at all despite starting the entire play with his hustle.
On the second night of a back-to-back, this is completely expected. Seeing the turn in momentum, however, was pretty interesting. We mentioned it on the watchalong that right around the 12-minute mark of the third period, the Avs looked like they had lost their legs. Here’s the shot chart from the night and that’s roughly where Seattle really started to take over the third period.
This was always going to be a key part of the game regardless of score. If Colorado was ahead, it was time to hang on tight. If trailing, a comeback seemed pretty unlikely. In a tied game, however, the Avs just had to make smart decisions, not put themselves in bad positions, and clear pucks.
They did exactly that, got to overtime, and watched Seattle inexplicably punt on trying to win the game despite the Avs very clearly being out of energy by the end.
Seattle’s OT strategy
The first two minutes of the five-minute overtime were pretty normal. Seattle won a highly-contested opening faceoff, didn’t do much with it, then eventually lost the puck thanks to a great Valeri Nichushkin forecheck. He helped get a puck to Nathan MacKinnon, who was stopped by Philipp Grubauer.
Sam Girard also had a clean breakaway the one time the Kraken decided to attack but he was also stopped by Grubauer. The stop on Girard came exactly two minutes into OT. From there, the Kraken had possession of the puck for all but about ten seconds of the final three minutes.
Against a tired Colorado team whose legs were gone (as evidenced by MacKinnon being caught from behind on a potential breakaway), the Kraken attempted zero shots. Zero.
They circled in and out of the zone with the puck, constantly reloading and waiting for Colorado to make a mistake and give them an opening. The Avs held firm, Seattle played for the shootout against a team that couldn’t skate anymore.
Add in that they chose this strategy against a goaltender who had never been scored on in the shootout coming into this game, and, well, it really drives home the Kraken’s strategy in overtime as very questionable.
I wanted to put the video of in here so you could all relive it for yourselves, but I was worried I might have accidentally stumbled upon the cure for insomnia. Safety first!
Weird for Colorado’s top-pairing defenseman to be considered an unsung hero, but I thought his game was once again very good with Cale Makar not in the lineup. In fact, Toews has been so good this week without Makar flanking him, especially in the way he has activated offensively, that I’m legitimately wondering when the Avs come back from their upcoming break if they aren’t better off trying Bowen Byram next to Makar for a bit.
Toews proved tonight he can be the linchpin next to a rotating cast of partners, though he was primarily anchored to Erik Johnson. If you replace Johnson with the more mobile Josh Manson (EJ appeared to be really laboring at times tonight), you can see where things might really open up for the Avs’ defense.
Anyway, about tonight, Toews finished with positive shot-share metrics in over 22 minutes at 5v5. He was positive across the board, too, and not just in one or two of the categories I look at every game (Corsi, SOG, scoring chances, high-danger chances, expected goals for %).
When you watch Toews in a game like this, he’s the master of subtlety, making small decisions on the fly that open up options for teammates or add another dynamic element to Colorado’s transition game. He’s playing great hockey right now and if he can keep that up when Makar returns, the Avs will have a real chance to go back to being a dominant defensive team.