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Avs Game 81 Studs & Duds: Scraping By

AJ Haefele Avatar
April 14, 2023

Studs

Evan Rodrigues

The Avs got Artturi Lehkonen back from the broken finger he suffered while dominating Montreal and it meant dropping Rodrigues from the comfortable job alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to one flanking J.T. Compher and Lehkonen.

It wasn’t a dominant night for Rodrigues but on a night where none of the Avs really looked like they were going full steam ahead, it was ERod who made two game-changing plays to push the Avs to the brink of their third consecutive division title.

Shortly after giving up a short-handed goal to now trail 2-1, Colorado remained on a power play to try to salvage something from what had been to that point a disastrous effort with the man advantage. Rodrigues made a crisp cross-ice feed to Mikko Rantanen, who hammed home his Avalanche-record 55th goal of the season to tie the game and give the Avs second life.

The Avs capitalized on that renewed energy when Rodrigues made a slick move through the neutral zone and then wired a puck that David Rittich couldn’t track. That was it. A 2-2 game found its game-winning goal and an ENG by Lehkonen would seal the deal.

When your stars aren’t going, you need help from the complementary players and Rodrigues stepped nicely into that role tonight.

Lars Eller

One of the other depth players who really came to play, Eller had fingerprints all over this win. Despite two assists, it could have been an even better night had he managed to finish on the penalty shot he drew in the third period.

Still, he kept things good and proper with a low-event night and that saw him come out on the good side of the events that did happen.

Same with Rodrigues, his production tonight was much-needed as the stars above him struggled mightily, especially at 5v5. Eller has developed a pretty interesting chemistry with Alex Newhook in recent games and the dynamic offensive play of Newhook combined with the defensive consistency of Eller is creating an interesting matchup problem for opposing teams.

The power play

It wasn’t great. Colorado’s stars weren’t very engaged in this game, then they turned around and gave up a SHG to go down 2-1.

So why are this unit here?

When the Avs absolutely needed it, they got it from Mikko Rantanen. This is what makes the Avalanche such a problem for opposing teams. The second Rantanen or Nathan MacKinnon or, when he’s back in the lineup, Cale Makar gets into a groove, the opposing team is just in trouble.

Tonight, it was Rodrigues that made the play and Rantanen the finish. His shot is special and among the top five in the NHL and we saw that again.

All in all, this unit wasn’t very good, but with the Central Division possibly on the line, these guys rose to the moment.

Duds

Nathan MacKinnon

I’m honestly just assuming MacKinnon is treating this like de facto preseason games at this point. He’s accomplished what he wanted in the regular season with home ice secured and the 100-point milestone breached. You can tell when MacKinnon is rocking and rolling and right now, this version of him, just isn’t doing that.

He’s not pushing the puck through the neutral zone and creating panic in the defense that he then picks apart when they break down, especially in transition. None of that is happening. Tonight was a night full of going through the motions against a bad defensive team that was lacking almost all of their high-end talent.

But three shot attempts in 20 minutes of ice time? Nah, no way. He’s not taking this seriously. That isn’t even an indictment of him; if they don’t care that much about winning the division, then neither do I.

I’m not even slightly concerned about a game like this meaning MacKinnon won’t be ready when Round 1 opens next week. He will be.

Injuries

This season has been an exhausting one from the perspective of injuries. Basically at no time this year have the Avs not been down at least two regulars from their preferred lineup. Injuries are a normal part of things, of course, but what the Avs have faced this year with nearly 500 man-games-lost is historic for a Cup-defending team.

No Cup winner in the last ~25 years has dealt with the injury issues the Avs have this season. Game 81 with the team actively trying not to get hurt and just get to the postseason? Two more injuries as Andrew Cogliano finally seems to have found an injury he couldn’t rebound from immediately and Denis Malgin is was also hurt and did not return to the game tomorrow.

On the same day the Avs announced Gabe Landeskog will miss the entire postseason on top of missing all 82 regular season games, two more lineup regulars get hurt. We don’t know the timelines of the injuries for Malgin and Cogliano but this has gotten completely out of hand and I’m over it. It’s just ridiculous.

The war of attrition is always part of the luck required to win a Stanley Cup but the Avs have not been on the right side of that good fortune for a single day this season. I’m just venting now so I’ll move on.

Unsung Hero

Alexandar Georgiev

I kind of loved his game tonight. I didn’t think he was spectacular but once again he was dealing with a really blah version of the Avalanche in front of him. While that team didn’t really give up a ton of shots or scoring chances, it required him to stay sharp when those chances did arrive.

Hell, the SHG on an odd-man rush that was scored against him looked like it was going to be stopped but Kevin Stenlund accidentally hit the puck twice in his shooting motion and the double tap is what directed the puck into the open part of the net. Hockey is incredible like that.

Anyway, I am continually surprised by how fresh and locked in Georgiev appears to be despite the gigantic workload that he’s taken on. He might be Colorado’s second or third-best player going into this postseason. He’s been so good that if the Avs were serious about winning the division tomorrow, he’s the guy I would start (no offense to Francouz, of course).

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