Alexandar Georgiev

What do you say about a guy who made another 38 saves and was beaten only by two excellent shots? You say, wow, that guy certainly put his team into position to win the game. I’d have loved a save on the first Oilers goal, but I’d also love to win the lottery and be rich and work only on days I feel like, you know?

The point being that Georgiev gave the Avs everything they could realistically ask for in this game. He was great in his 60th start of the season. I can tell you that when the Avs acquired him, I didn’t think there was a chance he would start 60 games. Obviously, an extended absence from Pavel Francouz played a role in that, but the other aspect of this is that Georgiev earned that level of trust despite being an unproven full-time starter.

The wear and tear is always a topic of discussion, but Georgiev looked as stout as ever tonight against Edmonton, which is an extremely encouraging sign heading into the postseason. The playoff feel to this also lends credence to a more confident approach to how Georgiev will fare in his debut postseason attempt at being The Man in the Crease.

If tonight was a hint of things to come, he might be one of Colorado’s best playoff performers.

Team Defense

The shot metrics aren’t great in this one as the Avs failed to generate a ton of quality against the Oilers and really test Stuart Skinner the way you’d like to see a Nathan MacKinnon-led offense do, but the defense from the entire team was excellent.

When you consider that this defense will very likely be swapping out Brad Hunt and Jack Johnson for Cale Makar and Josh Manson next week, this is an extremely encouraging result.

The first period had a little more of a back-and-forth element to it, but both teams closed ranks and tightened the screws over the rest of the game. From the start of the second period to the end of the game, Colorado allowed just four high-danger chances to the Oilers, the team with the league’s runaway MVP and three 100-point players on it.

I re-emphasize they accomplished that without Cale Makar, reigning Norris Trophy winner whose defense might have actually been even better this season than last. Colorado should feel very encouraged that they gave up a single point, at 4v3 at that, to Connor McDavid while primarily matching Toews-Girard against him.

Penalty Kill

It sucks to give up the goal in overtime, but this unit was fantastic during regulation. It killed three penalties, including a double-minor to Devon Toews that left them without one of their most reliable penalty killers.

During the 5v4 attempts, Edmonton’s number 1 all-time power play generated just four scoring chances and one high-danger chance in six minutes. That’s an incredible job by Colorado’s PK unit, especially when you consider that four of those six minutes were without Toews.

Edmonton loves to spread teams out and force them to deal with McDavid in space, which is what the Oilers did but Colorado’s counter was just more effective. The Oilers love to play low-to-high on the power play and utilize the black hole effect McDavid has when he has the puck (he sucks everyone in to him) and then he exploits the additional space to find one of the many killer threats on the ice, which usually begins with Leon Draisaitl.

The Avs played with an excellent amount of discipline on the PK, didn’t get involved in chasing the puck, and maintained their structure. When they do that, they are an extremely effective PK.

The move that Bouchard puts on J.T. Compher right before winning the game? That’s the kind of biting on a fake the PK didn’t do all game until the very end. Even though the PK was on the ice for the game-winning goal, this unit should walk out feeling very confident it can shut down whatever team ends up their Round 1 opponent.


Bowen Byram’s overtime

I don’t think Byram had a great game, but I also don’t think he was a disaster or anything. The penalty he was called for earlier in the game appeared to be, at least on the replays shown on ESPN, completely made up.

To the OT, however, and you see plenty to be disappointed in with Byram. Val Nichushkin gathered in a puck and slipped it to Byram, who walked in completely alone with a great chance to end the game. He missed the shot wide, meaning Skinner didn’t even have to make a save to keep the game alive. He just…missed.

He followed the puck into the corner, where he did a good job to win the battle and regain possession, but then his attempt to move it high into the zone to a teammate ended up in a turnover that forced him to get back. He did, but found himself trailing McDavid and he hooked McDavid on the hands…twice. He might have initially saved the game with the hooks, but as soon as Edmonton went to their fourth power play of the game, this one a 4v3, you knew it was very likely over.

It was just the type of mistake compounded by mistake that is the hallmark of young players, which Byram very much still is. While he flashes absolute superstardom at times, it’s hard to remember that Byram has played in only 89 regular season games in his NHL career. Add the 20 postseason contests from last spring and you have a player three years into his career but with only a season and a quarter’s worth of games played.

That experience is a huge difference-maker, especially for high-end players as the Avs hope Byram becomes, in stopping the mistake at one and not turning it into three, especially with the game on the line.

Byram’s overtime shifts recently have been chaotic and this certainly qualified.

Something to keep an eye on

There isn’t really a good place for this, but is something I want us to watch in the next two games and, obviously, going into next week when the postseason begins. Tonight, Jack Johnson played more than Erik Johnson. Quite a bit more, actually, as Jack had 19:04 TOI to Erik’s 14:20. Jack had just one extra minute of short-handed time (4:16 to 3:10) but three extra minutes at 5v5.

My expectation is certainly that Erik is still ahead of Jack on the pecking order, especially because Erik gives Colorado a perfect split of left-handed and right-handed shots when Makar and Manson return next week, but time on ice is almost always a dead giveaway on which player a coaching staff prefers.

We’ve joked about the “rotating of Johnsons” in the past but I wonder if we do open this postseason with Colorado having more of an open mind about which Johnson is in the lineup on any given night and not just having it be a set-and-forget answer of EJ.

Jack has consistently played more minutes than EJ recently so I wonder if we’re headed for an interesting turn of events here.

Unsung Hero

Lars Eller

The Avs didn’t necessarily get Eller for what he can do in a best-of-seven against the high-flying Oilers, but if tonight was any indication as to what he could bring should that matchup come to fruition, Colorado has a major advantage in the middle of its lineup in Eller.

We saw him playing with the kind of pace that isn’t the norm for him but his style of creation, the dump-and-chase game with a consistent forecheck and cycle-heavy preference, was pretty darn effective against the fleet-footed Oilers.

Largely matched against Edmonton’s bottom two lines, Eller ate greedy tonight with a 7-2 shot-on-goal advantage at 5v5 and didn’t allow any high-danger chances while limiting scoring chances to just two.

That’s the kind of defensive eraser the Avs are looking for from Eller. His play against weaker opponents has been a little more inconsistent but once he settled in after a rough first handful of games, he has flexed his muscles a bit against the playoff-bound teams.

Tonight was another game where I really loved his game.


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