Cale Makar

There are some games where Makar can drift through them without doing the stuff that makes you shake your head but he still walks out with a point or two.

Tonight was not that. Not even a little bit. This was the kind of game that Makar puts on an absolute show and shows why he’s better than Karlsson, Josi, Fox, pick a Hughes brother. Those guys are all fantastic players, but when they each have their A-game working, Cale Makar is the most dynamic defenseman I’ve seen in my entire hockey-watching life.

That was the Cale Makar we got tonight. The one that makes you wonder why we never had an And1 era in hockey. One goal and two assists is great. Three points on a night where the Avs score three goals and it’s easy to say, “Well, there ya go.” Somehow, it still doesn’t properly convey the dominance on display tonight.

Add in that Makar hit a post and was about two inches from a social media-breaking wraparound goal and the three points almost feels like the universe having mercy on a Coyotes team that has played with more heart than anyone could have expected. Had they just folded up shop at the deadline as many of us expected, Makar would have had that five-point night and we all would have been treated to a “Remember when?” kind of night.

Still ended up pretty good, however.

Nathan MacKinnon

While MacKinnon didn’t quite take over the game in the way Makar ultimately did, there’s no denying that MacKinnon enjoyed flexing on an overmatched Arizona squad that couldn’t really contain him, especially when he really got revved up and started trying to put the game away in the third period.

A goal and two assists of his own, MacKinnon is now up to 93 points in his pursuit of that ever-elusive 100-point season. With 11 games to go, the math is certainly favoring MacKinnon as of this moment.

His goal in the first period got the Avs kickstarted in the right direction after just a so-so start to the game. Colorado really began tilting the ice heavily in their favor after the opening goal of the game and MacKinnon riding shotgun while Makar did Globetrotter stuff is why the Avs have the “That Dude” advantage in every single head-to-head matchup in the NHL.

When both guys are humming, well, the Avs tend to win. A lot.

Alexandar Georgiev

Another game, another show of love from me for Georgiev in net. The only goal he gave up is to a white-hot Clayton Keller who is chasing Coyotes history right now and he walked in all alone after Sam Girard fell in the neutral zone to help create the opening for the mini-breakaway.

Georgiev didn’t have a ton to do after that as Arizona managed just 10 shots on goal in periods two and three. We’ve talked on the podcast plenty about how goaltenders who play behind dominant defensive teams have a unique challenge of trying to stay in rhythm despite not regularly stopping shots and Georgiev has shown the mental fortitude over and over this season to suggest he’s got this.

He did, once again, have the Avs in this one. He’s putting together a pretty impressive season.

Special teams

Pretty consistent pattern for Colorado winning games this month. They win the special teams battle, Georgiev plays well, their star players make more plays than the other team’s star players, the Avs win.

Obviously, the schedule hasn’t been extremely taxing in terms of the quality of competition, but that isn’t Colorado’s fault. They can only beat who is on the schedule and right now they’re doing a good job of taking care of that business.

Winning on special teams has been a thing that has certainly helped propel the Avalanche forward. They scored a power play goal in their 10th straight game tonight, tying the second-longest streak since the team moved to Colorado (the record is 14 games, in case you were curious). In that time, the Avs have gone 13-for-31, a success rate of 41.9%.

It went 2-for-2 tonight when the game was still in question with the first goal starting the game off and the second goal putting it at 3-1 and essentially sealing Arizona’s fate. Pretty good from that unit.

Then there’s the penalty kill.

Boy, was there ever a penalty kill. The Coyotes got one opportunity on the man advantage tonight and they recorded a whopping zero shot attempts in two minutes. Meanwhile, the Avs had two breakaways, one from Val Nichushkin that resulted in him hitting the post despite having Karel Vejmelka cleanly beat and the other breakaway resulting in Andrew Cogliano getting hooked right on the hands and the officials deciding not to call it after Cogliano tried to tuck the puck into the five-hole as Vejmelka slid side to side.

No dice, but Colorado’s PK was absolutely dominant in just the one chance to flex on ’em. This has been a unit to watch for the Avs in recent weeks. Very strong efforts.


Arizona’s lone goal

There’s really nothing wrong with the play that resulted in Arizona’s lone goal until Sam Girard fell down in the neutral zone. After that, Bowen Byram skated across to try to force Nick Schmaltz to try to make something happen.

Schmaltz responded by finding Keller open as Girard had gotten back on his feet but couldn’t catch back up to the streaking Keller. Arizona’s top point producer made no mistake and the response was pretty predictable. Lots of Girard hate after he fell down and Byram went into scramble mode.

To me, that’s just one of those things that happens. There have been plenty of goals with that pairing on the ice this year where you can point to a poor read or poor execution or just getting outplayed sometimes, but this was one of those unfortunate things that happens.

It was literally the only high-danger chance given up by Byram and Girard tonight and it went into the net. If you were genuinely curious why Girard’s plus/minus is what it is, the on-ice save percentage is a good place to start.

Mistakes like that happen, but an enormous number of them have gone into the net this year. Has to be frustrating when the rest of Girard’s game was so good, but there’s no denying his role in the one single play you could really struggle with tonight, accidental or not.

The ref who blocked a shot

Remember in Vancouver earlier this season when Andrew Cogliano was trying to clear a puck from his own zone and the official had inexplicably put his entire body up against the glass, inadvertently stopping Cogliano’s clear, which turned into a goal for the Canucks and helped spark the three-goal outburst that won them the game?

I couldn’t help but think of that moment tonight when Mikko Rantanen, 47 goals into a chase for Colorado’s first 50-goal season since Milan Hejduk’s prime, had a shot at the open net blocked when an official just…skated in his way.

It was a shocking lack of awareness from the official. They have a chaotic and crazy job trying to minimize their impact on the play and we see the occasional play like what happened with Cogliano in Vancouver and sometimes a clearing attempt will hit a linesman or something, but I can’t remember a time when an official away from the boards just…skated in front of a shooter with an empty net.

Look, in the end, it’s all good. Everyone got a mild chuckle out of it and nothing changed, but I also couldn’t help but wonder what the fallout might have been had the game gone differently. You know, had it been a one-goal game and that blocked attempt got turned around and Arizona rolled down and scored, tying the game. The nightmare scenario.

Given officials are literally the only members of the hockey world who are immune from public accountability, what happens? Does the NHL submit another “Our bad, sorry lol” missive as they did a few years ago when they cost the Avs a game-tying goal on an incorrect application of the rules during an offside review? What’s the recourse there?

Again, all good given the outcome, but that’s the kind of thing that should never ever ever ever happen again.

Unsung Hero

Valeri Nichushkin

He ended up with two assists so it’s not like he was THAT unsung of a hero tonight, but he was one of Colorado’s very best players tonight. He was attacking with his particular brand of verve on the forecheck, disrupting Arizona’s (at times) pathetic breakout attempts and chewing them up in the neutral zone when they did manage to leave their own zone.

This was a Nichushking master class on how to take over a game via subtlety, not the way MacKinnon or Makar tend to do it. This was a devil-in-the-details kind of showcase from Nichushkin. There isn’t much sex appeal in winning board battles and making great reads on the forecheck. It’s very effective, but it’s not the kind of work that shows up on postgame shows, you know?

That was his night. He had two assists but also generated five shot attempts, four scoring chances, and two high-danger chances…all on his own at 5v5. In all situations, he racked up seven shot attempts on six scoring chances and four high-danger chances.

For comparison, Arizona as a team had four high-danger chances all game. Nichushkin on his own matched that number. So, uh, pretty solid night for the chu-chu train.


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