Colorado’s stars

I guess I didn’t really feel like putting Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar all in here separately so, I didn’t. They’re in this group. Makes sense, right?

MacKinnon had three assists and he does great work along the wall on Colorado’s second goal but didn’t pick up a point on it. He was pretty great today.

Rantanen finished with a goal and two assists. Like MacKinnon, just a great day for the big guy. He was moving really well and impacting the game in a lot of areas. This was the all-around performance you love. I’m not going to ding him for the penalty late because I thought it was a trash call.

Makar, like his friends above, was just a cut above the rest today. It started early, it continued late. His shot share wasn’t as good as it normally is but as the team lost its legs late, he was out there doing his thing to kill time and get to the end. It wasn’t perfect, but all three of Colorado’s well-compensated stars led the way to tonight’s win.

Lars Eller

This isn’t about the goal, which we should all be able to agree was nothing short of utter nonsense. If that happened to the Avs, I’d be saying it was complete garbage from the officials. It should have been icing, then it should have been blown dead. It wasn’t, the Avs got the break and it turned into the game-winning goal. Very frustrating for Ottawa, huge for Colorado and good for Eller.

Why Eller is here, however, is he once again shouldered hard matchups chosen by the opposing team’s head coach and delivered quality results. While his head-to-head wasn’t quite as sparkling as last night when he ate up John Tavares and Auston Matthews, separately at first and then later together, he did handle the Pinto assignment to middling results but produced great numbers against the Stutzle line, which is Ottawa’s best.

The goal was great, but a second consecutive night of Eller taking on the top two lines of the opposing team and coming out on the winning side continues to showcase the value the Avs saw in Eller when they acquired him at the deadline. Eller has taken the spot between Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor and tied these three together to become an extremely important part of Colorado’s potential playoff success.

I will be very interested to see how Bednar utilizes Eller when the Penguins come to Denver next week.

Evan Rodrigues

It wasn’t that Rodrigues was overwhelmingly good tonight, but after what felt like one of his more disastrous games of the season in Toronto, this was a very good way for him to respond to the growing adversity.

It sure felt like his February (one point in 10 games) put him on a path of “here we go again” after his second-half wobble in Pittsburgh last season, but in March so far Rodrigues has five points in nine games after his goal tonight.

How Rodrigues scored was just as important as the goal itself because it was via transition with a perfectly placed shot. For a player who has really struggled with confidence recently, that should help get him off the mat a bit. Especially while Artturi Lehkonen and Gabe Landeskog remain sidelined, Rodrigues is a very important player for the Avalanche.

To see him respond to a bad night last night with this kind of performance suggests he could be turning the corner and hardening his mindset just as the postseason approaches.

Devon Toews

I don’t have a lot to say in this space other than I felt Toews had an exceptional game. Every time I seemed to find him on the ice, he was erasing an opposing player or moving a puck to a teammate or making the right decision at the right time to cover or take a hand-off or whatever it was.

The deeper you look into his shot metrics, the better they got. I just thought Toews deserved a shoutout for a really well-played game.


The officiating

There were eight power plays awarded in this game and I probably only agreed with three of them actually being called. Combine the parade of phantom penalties with the completely inexplicable handling of the sequence that created Colorado’s fifth goal and the third team on the ice had their fingerprints all over the result of this game.

Ottawa fans have every right to be upset with how things played out leading into the third and Avs fans have every right to be upset with how the third played out, especially the Toews tripping call that showed on replay his stick not even coming into contact with the Senators player who fell down. It was one of the most all-around poor officiating performances of the season.

Everyone was justified in being mystified and upset with how multiple situations were handled.

Colorado’s fourth line

I didn’t like it during the game but the more it sat with me after it ended, the worse it started to feel. Upon rewatching it, it got even worse.

Alex Newhook had a penalty (one of the several questionable calls, but still) late in the first period that resulted in Ottawa cutting Colorado’s lead to 2-1 going into first intermission. He then had a terrible read in the second period that helped spring Shane Pinto for the goal that made it 3-2.

Matt Nieto go into the action in the third period when he sent a cross-ice pass on a 3-on-2 rush that never had a chance to be completed and was intercepted, turned up the ice and cashed the other direction to make the game 5-3 and give the Senators life early in the third period.

Nobody on the line broke seven minutes of ice time and the line played a major role in two goals against and a penalty that resulted in a goal. That’s an abundance of damage done in very limited ice time. An unacceptable performance from a line comprised of three guys who are all fighting for ice time.

Unsung Hero

Jonas Johansson

Hard to put him in “unsung hero” status because the save he makes in the dying seconds of the game is being heralded as a possible “save of the year” candidate, but the rest of Johansson’s game prevents me from putting him in with the “studs.”

That isn’t to say he was horrible because I don’t think he was, but more that he just wasn’t…very good? I found myself wanting a little bit on goals two and three from Ottawa. I just didn’t think he played them very well as he isn’t the kind of athletic goaltender who can get that far out of his net and challenge shooters that way.

But when the team in front of you scores five goals, just don’t let in that fifth behind you and you’ve done your job that day. It got shaky with Johansson at the end and he creates the huge rebound that he then has to push so hard going from left to right to stop, but he does exactly that.

It wasn’t a sparkling performance and probably won’t inspire Jared Bednar to give him another start really soon, but when the Avs absolutely had to have a big save, Johansson delivered.


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

1 Comment

  1. Thanks again AJ! I can’t help but believe that the officials knew they screwed up by not whistling the play dead which resulted in Eller’s goal. They we’re looking for anything (real or not) to call against the Avs in the third to make up for it. Just garbage all the way through. Glad the Avs prevailed!

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