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During a late four-on-four opportunity in the first period, their time was expiring and the period was near an end, but Sam Girard had a dream.
He threw on the brakes in his own end to shake off his defender and reset. He exited with the puck and carried it past the offensive blueline singlehandedly. Girard made a quick pass that went up and around Brent Burns to Logan O’Connor prepared to meet it with speed. O’Connor made Brady Skej drop to one knee and slipped the puck back to Zach Parise. Parise snapped the puck past a sliding Pyotr Kochetkov for his first goal in an Avs uniform.
Just five seconds later, Andrew Cogliano won the center ice faceoff and slipped the puck back to Girard. Girard pulled up to the red line and whipped a knucklepuck past Kochetkov from distance.
Parise and Girard scored five seconds apart to bring the Avalanche within one entering the first intermission. It marked the fastest two goals in franchise history.
On a night where effort was misplaced and missing, Girard was a beacon of hope. He finished with three shots on net and a team-high of four blocked shots. It wasn’t just that he went looking to be a factor offensively, he was reliable defensively and allowed just one shot-against at even strength (and only two in total).
He had the best Corsi-for-percentage in all situations at 65.63 including time on the penalty kill.
It’s no secret that Josh Manson’s game has elevated alongside Girard. The pair complement one another, and Girard’s puck moving abilities and overall agility enabled Manson to lean into that side of his game too.
Though Manson’s three shot attempts didn’t make it on net, it’s encouraging on the heels of his called-back goal in the New Jersey game. More importantly, his shut-down defense is a necessity on a night where things aren’t gelling.
Manson accounted for a hit, a takeaway, and three blocked shots as well as 1:46 on the penalty kill and only two shots-against in all situations.
The first goal-against on the first shot of the game was a brutal look for Alexandar Georgiev. After a stellar performance in New York, you hoped he’d turned a corner.
Bowen Byram and Jack Johnson were in the defensive zone prepared to face Martin Necas on the backcheck, so Necas took a shot from the high-slot. From what should have been a non-threatening distance with no screen in sight, the puck bounced off two parts of Georgiev’s body and dribbled in less than two minutes into the contest.
Now the Avs didn’t necessarily do everything they could to help Georgiev.
The Canes had a man-advantage after Devon Toews took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone. Carolina had possession of the puck, so they played on with the extra skater and a delayed call.
Burns made the stretch pass to Seth Jarvis at the defensive blueline and Jarvis skated the puck in. Jarvis angled the puck to Teuvo Teravainen around the boards and he sent a cross-slot pass to Burns opposite him. Burns tee’d up Necas between the hashmarks and Necas one-timed it in. It was Carolina’s second shot of the game.
This one was significantly more dangerous, but it set the tone.
Later a failed Cale Makar clear around the boards allowed the Canes to reset out high. Jaccob Slavin took the shot from the blueline and Georgiev made the initial block. Makar tried to sweep the rebound away, but Teuvo Teravainen swooped it up and passed to Necas at the crease. With Georgiev ready to face Teravainen as his shooter, Necas banged it into the open space.
It was Carolina’s third shot of the game and the third goal-against.
Obviously an o-zone penalty, a failed clear, and two high-danger chances pose realistic challenges to a goaltender, but it didn’t give the Avs enough of a chance to climb back in this one.
Colorado allowed six powerplay opportunities to Carolina (three of which were ruined man-advantages of their own), so that didn’t put Georgiev in the best place to succeed and the goal support wasn’t there.
Jared Bednar has said that the team needs to keep the high-danger chances-allowed to 15 a night.
On five high-danger chances through two periods, the Canes had four goals. Georgiev came up with saves later, especially in the third period, but by then, the game was too far out of reach.
The outcome doesn’t fall squarely on Georgiev’s shoulders, but it’s concerning coming from the starting goaltender. His performance has been contingent on the state of the team in front of him. When the Avs have a B-game/C-game, you’d like to see Georgiev meet them with his A-game.
Mikko Rantanen just hasn’t looked right since K’Andre Miller took him down in the Rangers game. It’s not clear if it’s injury or apathy, but it’s clear he’s not himself. Bednar has awarded Rantanen more ice time during stretches like this to help him fight through his struggles, and he finished with a team-high 27:02 tonight.
In that time, he managed just one shot on net and allowed the most shots-against of anyone on his line (eight).
Rantanen also posted just one shot in the New York game, and it’s unacceptable from a top player who also led the team in powerplay minutes.
Ryan Johansen was a traffic cone (with car dealership noodle arms) on Necas’ first goal-against.
Carolina started in transition. Parise was in the offensive zone to apply pressure on the forecheck. Miles Wood was just outside the offensive blueline and tried to wall-up Necas inside the zone. Necas cut between both Parise and Wood and escaped to center ice. Johasen was there, but Necas moved around him easily. Johansen lazily tried to swing his stick out to catch him. Unsurprisingly, Wood was the first forward back beating Johansen. It was an ineffective way to defend against a good Canes team in transition.
Then to add insult to injury, on their late powerplay chance in the first period chasing a three-goal deficit, Johansen took an interference penalty in the offensive zone.
His faceoff numbers were good coming out of the first period, but they declined in the middle-frame. He finished 56% overall but lost every d-zone draw.
He also went the entire game without registering a single shot on net. Collectively his line struggled defensively. Usually reliable, Miles Wood had a tough night on that side of the puck and Parise did too.
With the emergence of Manson and Girard together, Byram has seemed a little unsure of himself and his role.
He lacks confidence and isn’t doing the things that make him special (salivating to activate off the rush).
In 17:18 TOI, Byram didn’t register a single event (shots, blocks, hits, etc).
He struggled in his matchups tonight too. He registered the lowest Corsi-for-percentage of all defenders at even strength and allowed the most shots-against of any skater at even strength (nine).
His partner, Jack Johnson, allowed just three-against in all situations.
Though on the third pairing, Byram started the night with opportunities against Carolina’s best and soon was kept on a short leash as Bednar became more selective in his usage.
Byram really shouldn’t be faulted on the first goal-against, but the third Necas goal was not his finest moment.
Necas was his man at the netfront and Byram was caught flat-footed with his back to him leaving Necas to pivot to the crease by himself.
Though he’s on the third pair in name, Byram has been given great opportunities on both special teams. He’s still being given big minutes and needs to embrace the opportunity and believe in himself. It’s not a demerit. It’s just the price of being a defenseman on a stacked d-corps in Colorado.