Timing is everything in life, right?
When Colorado’s game against Nashville yesterday was postponed due to the flooding of Bridgestone Arena, it opened the door for a scheduled victory for the Avalanche.
For those unfamiliar, scheduled wins/losses are all about one team being rested playing a team on the second night of a back-to-back and travel being involved. While the Avs technically traveled because they flew to Nashville and back, Colorado’s game was scheduled so early in the day that the cancellation came about early enough for the Avs to get back in plenty of time.
Dallas, meanwhile, went into overtime late last night against the Winnipeg Jets before getting on a plane to Denver. By the time they landed, the Avs had comfortably arrived back in Denver about 12 hours earlier.
When the puck dropped on the game tonight, the other obvious advantage was in net.
Jake Oettinger played last night in the clash of the titans against Winnipeg’s star netminder, Connor Hellebuyck, and got the night off tonight. It meant Scott Wedgewood, who has been fine as a backup in Dallas, slotted in but instead of going against Avalanche backup Pavel Francouz, he had to go toe-to-toe against Alexandar Georgiev.
In case you missed it (you haven’t), Georgiev has had the kind of start to his season that sees his name alongside, well, Hellebuyck and Oettinger when talking about the best netminders to start this season.
Coming into tonight, Georgiev had made 12 starts. Only two of those saw him finish with a save percentage below .900 and those were his first and third starts of the season. While the assumption was that Georgiev might flourish under a greatly-reduced workload behind the vaunted Avalanche defense, things simply haven’t worked out that way thanks largely to Colorado’s ongoing injury issues.
Arguably Colorado’s two best defensive forwards, Valeri Nichushkin and Gabe Landeskog, have missed the bulk of this season with a combined seven games played, all by Nichushkin. Injuries to known depth guys, call-ups, and whatever you want to call Evan Rodrigues, have left Colorado completely tapped out with an AHL-laden lineup.
Behind the myriad of absences, Georgiev has faced the kind of workload he thought he was leaving behind in New York. Counting tonight, 10 of his now-13 starts have seen him face more than 30 shots on goal.
In tonight’s 4-1 win over the Stars, Georgiev rose to the occasion again, giving up one goal against the league’s top road power play on a play that required multiple wild bounces of skates to dribble past him.
The story of Georgiev’s excellence has been nothing easy, nothing free. There have been very few softies along the way and he’s routinely making difficult saves. Tonight, he made 41 of those saves on 42 shots.
Where Colorado began the year as the league’s worst team at killing penalties, the Avs got a major test of their progress tonight. Nursing a 2-0 lead they built in the first period off goals from Nathan MacKinnon and Josh Manson, the Avs put themselves behind the eight ball with five straight penalties in the second period.
While Joe Pavelski got credit for a bouncing puck that ricocheted off seemingly everything (and everyone) on its way past Georgiev for the only Stars goal of the night, Georgiev ultimately stopped 15 of 16 shots while Dallas had the man advantage.
Coming into this game, the Dallas power play was second in the NHL – behind only Colorado. The Avs scored on one of their PP tries (MacKinnon’s first-period goal where Jamie Benn overskated a puck that should have been an easy clear) but hung on for dear life as a combination of self-defeating nonsense and questionable officiating led to the wild ride in the middle frame.
Somewhere in the middle of the penalty parade, the Avs extended their 2-1 lead from an unlikely source.
Dryden Hunt got his first goal in an Avs sweater when he backhanded a rebound from an Alex Newhook shot between Wedgewood’s legs. Martin Kaut got the second assist on the play for a scoring line the Avs have badly needed, especially with Rodrigues now facing a multi-week absence of his own.
In fact, between Newhook’s skating and puck skill and Hunt’s physicality, the pair seemed to find a little chemistry and absolutely tore apart their matchups tonight. Kaut, for my money, was a notable contributor to this duo, but it’s becoming clear he’s going to be a guy whose accomplishments will be more of the understated variety (his willingness to take a hit to make a play is standing out nearly every night).
Nursing that 3-1 lead going into the third period, you could see Dallas lost their legs and the Avs were able to completely take control of a tired team and shift the game into a coast for the finish line. They did just that, adding an Andrew Cogliano goal along the way to give us our 4-1 final score on the night.
The universe broke Colorado’s way and opened up the door for them to take two points from the team leading the Central Division at the moment. Colorado walked through that door behind the stability and presence of Alexandar Georgiev.
It was just another easy-looking win for Colorado’s newest netminder.
- I loved Hunt’s game tonight. I thought Newhook really popped in all the ways you expect Newhook to, but it’s easy to project that Newhook will be part of this lineup as the year goes on. He’s here to stay. Hunt, however, has more work to do. It’s been a struggle because he hasn’t gotten a significant bump in ice time despite the injury issues. That makes it hard to carve a real role, but it is notable he continues to be a lineup mainstay even as the chaos around him continues to unfold. Anyway, tonight was a great example of what the Avs brass saw in him when they claimed him off waivers from the Rangers. He skated hard, played a physically taxing style, and was actively involved throughout. Dallas tried to ratchet up the anger halfway through and he responded in kind. There are plenty of guys on rosters around the league who can get by showing their skill two out of every 10 games. The other eight, however, guys need to show what they can do to help a team win. Hunt’s game tonight was the kind that easily projects to postseason play, where every shift is angry and physicality is demanded of everyone at all times. Hunt answered that bell tonight as he continues to try to build a case for why he belongs on this roster if the injury problems ever subside.
- Not going to declare his problems solved or that he has fully arrived or anything, but we’ll file it away in the “I’m just saying” category: Alex Newhook 0 points in eight games to start the season, seven points in 11 games since.
- Josh Manson, what a game? Goal, assist, three penalties, recipient of a cross-check that appeared to be getting called but wasn’t because, as the ref said, “no injury, no penalty.” Wild night for Manimal.
- Upon reveal, I didn’t love the retro jersey. I still don’t, really, but I knew immediately they would pop on the ice and boy did they ever. The entire kit really pulls it together for me. I do really love how “Colorado” the jersey feels.