Sam Girard & Bowen Byram
I’m putting them together in this because I thought they were especially great as a pairing. The shot metrics are awesome, of course, and they combined for three points (Byram two of them) and two of the five goals scored. It was an all-around great night for Colorado’s second pairing and the kind of night that reinforces how dangerous this Avalanche squad is when the defense is largely healthy as it is right now.
These guys can take over games and change the flow entirely. We saw that tonight when Byram went for a little skate and then scored Colorado’s first goal. He finished with seven shots on goal and could have easily had one or two more goals on the night.
Girard’s game flourished in both ends as his best play of the night was a wonderful backcheck to break up a potential breakaway right after an Anaheim penalty had expired. He also scored Colorado’s fifth goal and his career-high sixth of the season on a puck that just bounced its way to him. He’s earned a little good fortune this year.
Colorado’s top line
The Avs top trio scored two goals, numbers two and four, for the Avalanche tonight and they are both…ridiculous.
The first goal is mostly about Nathan MacKinnon’s individual brilliance. Let’s check it out first.
Some major “caster curse” energy on that goal as the clip includes the Ducks broadcast pumping Anaheim’s tires for stopping Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche in the first period and MacKinnon immediately proceeds to turn Scott Harrington inside out before surprising John Gibson with a perfect shot that caught Gibson leaning ever so slightly.
The key on that goal is MacKinnon’s individual brilliance, of course, but it’s very simple hockey that leads to it. They didn’t have anything via transition so they entered the zone, rimmed the puck, and went to work. MacKinnon got the puck down low and did the rest.
The second goal was something I did not fully appreciate on the live viewing, but look at the absolutely ridiculous shift Colorado’s top line/D pairing puts in here.
The entry is fine, it works. Then the Avs go to work. Mikko Rantanen misses a backdoor tap-in with him on one knee and choked up on his stick. You have great board work by several of the Avs, then an incredible save at the blue line by MacKinnon.
Eventually, MacKinnon gets the puck, watches the Anaheim defense drift toward him as they all lost Val Nichushkin on the backdoor and MacKinnon’s makes a perfect pass. Nichushkin puts it in and the game immediately stopped being competitive at 4-1.
That’s the kind of difference-making shift you expect from a top line comprised of world-class NHL players. Ridiculously good hockey.
Colorado’s third period
After the meltdown in Arizona on Sunday afternoon that saw the Avs blow 2-0 and 3-2 leads and have to win in a seven-round shootout, Colorado’s approach with a multi-goal lead in the third period against another bottom-feeding team was something to keep an eye on.
It was especially enhanced with the Avs on the SEGABABA and Anaheim having totally fresh legs. Instead of sliding in a shell in the game’s final frame, Colorado tied Anaheim in shots at 5v5 with 10 apiece but had more scoring chances (9-6) and high-danger chances (5-2). That’s an enormous leap from yesterday afternoon in Arizona. Hell, the Avs even added a goal when Girard scored in the third period.
It was a great response to the problems we saw in Arizona yesterday. A mature team’s response.
The first goal of the season on a night where he finished with as many shots on goal as penalty minutes (2). He was good and fun tonight. That’s a fun combiation when possible, which surely isn’t very often.
That one pass from Cale Makar
There…really wasn’t too much to ding in this game, so we’ll just admit that the turnover from Makar that became Anaheim’s only goal of the game was a brutal misplay, wildly uncharacteristic, and Makar immediately turned his game up a few notches after it was done.
It will be an anti-highlight for the Miro Heiskanen crowd looking to drag Makar down, but that’s about all the meaning we can get from it.
In a 5-1 game where the Avs outshot the opposition 44-30, it seems a good situation to drop Johansson in this spot. He wasn’t brilliant and he wasn’t asked to do too much, but 30 saves on 31 shots for Colorado’s third-string goaltender is the kind of steady performance teams desperately crave when they have to dig into the netminder depth.
The first goal of the game is far more about the turnover by Cale Makar than anything to do with Johansson. In the rare occasions when the Ducks pressured after scoring the game’s first goal, Johansson was there. He made key saves at various scores to either continue allowing Colorado to build to the blowout it became or to stave off any machinations of a comeback.
Johansson was rock solid and for a team on a SEGABABA, that’s a huge win for the Avs. Getting four points out of Johansson with tired teams in front of him and on the road is the kind of overlooked performance from a 3G that this space demands a little love for, so I’m here letting JoJo know we saw him in this one.