Alexandar Georgiev

What do you say about the only Avs player who even bothered to show up for the first period of the game? He was Colorado’s brightest star tonight and the biggest reason the Avs walked out with two points.

I’ve no problems with the first two goals on him and even the third, which I think he could have played better, my frustrations on the play begin well before Georgiev even gets involved. He made a number of huge stops on Grade-A chances in this game, including just moments into the game when suddenly Arthur Kaliyev was completely alone with the puck in the slot. Georgiev stopped him.

A lot of weird stuff happened in this game as the ice was terrible and the universe’s sense of humor was set to 11, but Georgiev controlled what he could and locked it down. When the team in front of him finally started playing well, he didn’t do anything to undo their quality work or his own. Steady as he goes. He probably only plays twice more this season but if he wins both, he would tie Patrick Roy’s 2000-01 season for second-most in Avs history. Not a bad debut season and tonight was certainly one of his very best.

Brad Hunt

Called up on an emergency basis when it was announced Bowen Byram was sick, Hunt made the trek from San Jose, where the Eagles were playing this weekend, and slid right into Colorado’s lineup.

What makes a guy like Hunt so valuable is you are pretty comfortable with what you’re going to get from him. His biggest asset as a positive beyond the typical veteran intangible stuff is his ability to wire a puck. Put out there for an offensive-zone draw, Hunt took the puck from Lars Eller and smoked it past Pheonix Copley. Just an absolute laser that found its way over Copley’s shoulder.

In a game where few did, Hunt also held his own at 5v5 against the Kings. They didn’t take advantage of him and beat him up in shot metrics or in any other way. Hunt was just fine and his goal was a major jolt for the Avalanche.

Denis Malgin

Two goals to give him a career-high 12 on the season. Kyle Dubas might lose his job this offseason for a whole lot of reasons, but somewhere on the list should be giving away Malgin for Dryden Hunt 1-for-1. Whoops.

The first Malgin goal is total nonsense. He just gets lucky. It happens sometimes.

The second goal is part of what Jared Bednar has talked about in liking about Malgin’s game. Malgin wins the puck along the wall, always a nice thing when you’re about a player who is generously listed at 5’9″, but then he goes to the net. The puck does all kinds of things from there with a couple of curious bounces, but the Avs made the most of it and Malgin made the easy play in going to the net.

A player with limited size is always going to be questioned on how he can handle the harder elements of the game such as battling for the puck and a willingness to go to the net. On the same play, we see the diminutive Malgin do both. It’s nothing special to watch, it’s just good, quality hockey and it pays off when he gets a look at open net on the backdoor.

Again, nothing special about it, but it’s effective. It’s how you play within a system.


Nathan MacKinnon

He’s Colorado’s best player and the heart of the offensive engine in Denver. He does so many special things and is such a dominant force with the puck on 9 out of every 10 nights that when that one night where he isn’t rolls around, it just looks so…weird?

MacKinnon was largely a bystander tonight, watching the other lines get on the scoreboard as he struggled to maintain possession of the puck or do anything positive with it at all. I was actually amazed when I checked after the game and he had two shots on goal.

There were so many puck management problems from MacKinnon, but this is the one that really kills me. It’s the third period of a game he has contributed nothing positive to and his team has taken a 4-2 stranglehold on the game despite his total no-show. Expectations for him on the night have shifted from “Do something crazy to win this game” to “just don’t make any egregious errors to let them build a comeback” and what do we see MacKinnon get involved in?

This is a total trainwreck. He gets the puck and doesn’t think he has any offense, so he retreats high in the defensive zone. The Avs, and MacKinnon especially, do this a lot as they reload and look for additional opportunities. It’s fine. The big downside is you cannot make a mistake high in the zone because you’ll cede an odd-man rush immediately.

MacKinnon’s blind, turnaround shot attempt slips harmlessly off his stick and to a Kings player, creating that odd-man rush I mentioned. MacKinnon initially retreats into the neutral zone to try to tamper the threat, and then inexplicably attacks the puck in the center of the ice. It’s an all-in decision that if it works, puts the pressure back on LA. If it doesn’t, as in this case, it creates a 4v2 for the Kings.

The player MacKinnon attacked in the neutral zone slips by him and attacks the net, forcing Sam Girard to back off Kempe, who is carrying the puck. The respect Girard has to pay to Gavrikov creates the separation for Kempe to shoot and he beats Georgiev. I mentioned above I would like to see Georgiev play it a little better, but that’s a great shot and an atrocious puck management job by MacKinnon.

Andrew Cogliano

It’s just an unnecessary hit to the head of Kempe in the final seconds. Intent doesn’t really matter to me when it comes to headshots. Just don’t hit guys in the head. It’s dangerous and can really screw guys up for a long time.

The Department of Player Safety is basically impossible to predict so I have no idea if that will be a suspension or not, but if it is, then so be it. Cogliano has to be more in control of himself in that moment. He’s one of the trusted veterans on the ice trying to close out a one-goal game. He just can’t be making that kind of play. It’s so reckless and unnecessary.

Here’s probably the best look at it.

As far as egregious headshots go, it’s pretty low on the list, but my point remains the same: just…don’t do it.

Not getting a stick on the penalty kill

Here’s the situation. The penalty kill starts, Devon Toews gets his stick broken on an obvious slashing that goes uncalled. Instead of Toews going back to the bench to get a stick because it’s the second period and the bench is on the other side of the neutral zone, J.T. Compher gives his right-handed stick to the left-handed Toews.

While this exchange is going on, Sam Girard wins a puck in the corner and sweeps it behind his net. Toews, with the wrong-sided stick, is unable to get enough on the clearing attempt to get the puck out. Compher gets a chance to bat it down the ice with his hand but it goes directly to a Kings player. LA maintains possession of the puck for the rest of the power play, which ends with a one-timer that Toews accidentally kicks into his own net.

You can watch the whole sequence unfold before we get into it.

I think it’s an interesting conversation about whether or not Compher should have gone for the stick. If he leaves, it’s a temporary 5v3 for the Kings. With him there, though, we watch the Kings close the space, and freely pass the puck right around him, and he serves no purpose in this capacity.

Because the sequence ends in a goal, it inevitably brings back the question: should he have gone for a stick? The second period wrinkle here is why I think most coaches and players would advise doing exactly what Compher does, which is trying to make the best of a crummy situation. If this happens in the first or third period, Compher’s commitment to getting a new stick probably only takes two or three seconds. With the bench being where it is relative to the defensive zone in the second period, Compher’s commitment is probably more like eight seconds.

Is there a right decision here? Hindsight is supposed to be 20-20, but even when talking through it this still feels like a 50-50 decision. I’m partial to just getting the stick and taking the chance, but my job isn’t on the line so it’s easy for me to feel that way.

Unsung Hero

Valeri Nichushkin

Well, I was just mentioning on the podcast recently that while this version of Nichushkin remains effective and a quality player, I’ve also struggled with the limitations his lower-body injuries have had on his ability to pick up speed in open ice and the lack of burst that has helped him create separation in the past. It just isn’t there, and that means Nichushkin has to find a different way to be helpful.

I think that’s been a struggle for him at times but the assist he gets on Malgin’s second goal is just old-fashioned outworking the opponent, winning the puck, and making a play. Go watch the Malgin goal posted above again. When J.T. Compher tries to move it, it ends up in the air and a true 50-50 proposition for Nichushkin and Phil Danault, one of the best defensive centers in the NHL.

Danault appears to have first crack at it when the puck lands pretty much on his stick, but when he goes to move it from his backhand to his forehand, it bought time for Nichushkin to just…knock him down and take the puck for himself.

Nichushkin does that, sees Malgin heading to the backdoor and hits him with a pass that dribbles through a little traffic. It got there, though, and Malgin did the rest.

Nichushkin also had a sequence later in the game where he tried to do it all himself but couldn’t quite finish off the opportunity. In a game where few Avs really rose to the occasion, I loved that Nichushkin only got stronger as the game went on. He was great with the extra attacker, too, when the Avs were defending the 6v5 opportunity for the Kings at the end.


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