Lars Eller

Let’s start this section off by saying I wouldn’t say anyone on the Avalanche side of the ice was a “stud” tonight. That said, I’m not going to leave the section blank or anything, and I really did like what Eller brought to the table tonight.

It’s obvious Eller doesn’t play at the breakneck pace the Avalanche used last season, but I also think it’s fair to say that this year’s team doesn’t play at that pace as a group either. His more deliberate style produced some of the more consistent results throughout this game as he grinded away and won little board battles throughout the ice.

It’s not an exceptional night, but on a night where few Avs separated themselves, Eller showing well in his shot-share statistics matched what my eyes saw: an effective player who was comfortable playing the way Seattle wanted the Avs to on a team full of guys who liked very uncomfortable.

Colorado’s penalty kill

Seattle had three power play opportunities and even if we ignore that their third attempt was spent hanging on to the puck and trying to play keep away instead of trying to score another goal, the Avs’ PK was still exceptional.

In the four minutes of Seattle actually trying, Colorado allowed four shot attempts, two shots on goal, one scoring chance and one-high danger chance. That body of work resulted in zero goals.

One thing I will not that is winning faceoffs to start PKs in this series might be especially important because Seattle lacks a dynamic puck carrier to bring the puck through the neutral zone and gain entry. Instead, they use a multi-layered entry that involves up to four passes to get into the zone.

That’s a LOT of moving parts to get correct, so every PK clear could be especially good for the Avs in this series because the Kraken have to work awfully hard to get back into the zone and set back up. Just something to keep an eye on.


Josh Manson

Jared Bednar said after the game that Manson was rusty. Hard to argue otherwise. He took two penalties in the first period, the second of which really killed what had been some real Avalanche momentum building up.

To top the penalties, Manson looked wildly uncomfortable with the puck and then added an egregious misplay behind his own net that helped create the third Kraken goal and all but annihilate any hope Colorado had of a third-period comeback.

Manson was extremely penalty prone in his limited games this year so he needs to get that under control immediately. The rest of his game I’m fine chalking up to rust, but his game needs to get up to speed immediately because he played just 10 minutes tonight and they all felt disastrous.

Devon Toews

The turnover he makes early in the first period that creates Seattle’s first goal is shockingly awful for anyone, but for a player whose hockey IQ is his most notable attribute, it was almost unbelievable watching it play out in real time.

Things would get better for Toews, but only because they couldn’t get any worse than a ghastly turnover that creates the first goal against. He struggled managing the puck all evening and looked rattled under the forecheck pressure from Seattle.

I haven’t seen Toews play this poorly since his final series as a member of the New York Islanders when Tampa Bay’s forecheck caused similar puck problems and directly led to Islanders management deciding he was the odd-man out when their cap crunch forced difficult decisions that offseason (which was the catalyst to him landing in Colorado). Extremely unexpected from him.

More freak injuries?

Every sign under the sun was leading to Jack Johnson getting the Game 1 nod over Erik Johnson, a surprisingly justifiable decision based on the last few weeks of play from both of them.

The team even sent out the official lineup for the game with Jack Johnson in and Erik Johnson the healthy scratch. The only real drama during warm-ups was whether or not the team would run 12/6 or 11/7 with Andrew Cogliano a no-go for the series opener tonight.

When the team seemingly decided on playing Ben Meyers in a traditional 12/6, it appeared settled that Erik would sit. Somewhere along the way, Jack Johnson suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury and couldn’t go.

Erik Johnson slid into the lineup and showed the exact deficiencies that made going with Jack Johnson appealing in the first place; EJ’s lack of mobility is a striking difference and he can’t close out on foot races anymore and getting danced around by puck carriers when they have any kind of space to work with. It was a nightmare G1 for EJ and an incredibly frustrating continuation of Colorado’s injury luck to lose a guy during freaking warm-ups to injury.

Unsung Hero

Cale Makar

Like the Studs section, there really isn’t a great fit for here tonight but Makar ended up being a good fit for a couple of reasons. Makar has been a notoriously slow starter at the beginning of seasons and when returning from injury.

His last game was April 1 as the team held him out of the last few weeks out of an abundance of caution. Having Makar healthy for the postseason is critical. The downside is Makar has to work through his history of slow starts in games that mean an awful lot.

That said, I kind of loved Makar’s overall performance tonight. His timing from the point was a bit off and he was a little hit/miss with his one-timer attempts, but his physicality was there and he didn’t mind raising the temperate of the game when tested by Kraken players. He had a couple of big hits on the night and a couple of puck carries that were quintessential Makar.

He may not have been all the way back tonight, but he was close enough that if I’m Seattle, I’m not looking forward to Game 2 from the reigning Conn Smythe winner.


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