Colorado’s top line
Nathan MacKinnon rather remarkably recorded zero points tonight but was an incredibly important driving factor in multiple goals. Mikko Rantanen scored a goal and recorded an assist. Artturi Lehkonen was the third guy on the line most of the night and scored two goals. Evan Rodrigues was a part-time participant on the top line and snuck in an assist of his own. Pretty remarkable results from these guys.
Two things I want to point out on video, however. Look at the first shift of the hockey game and tell me Colorado’s star players were in a “We are not losing this game” mindset from the very jump.
Those guys arrived in Seattle with the idea of doing some damage.
Erik Johnson’s goal was pretty fortunate with the shot hitting Eeli Tolvanen’s stick and bouncing past Philipp Grubauer but the hard work that led to the scoring chance was just pure hustle. Watch MacKinnon in particular lose his footing twice and still manage to be a problem in the corner before Rantanen picks the puck out of the scrum and make a perfect pass to Johnson.
The entire sequence started with Cale Makar, which leads me to…
Colorado’s top D pairing
After using Byram-Makar and Toews-Girard the last few games, the Toews-Makar duo got back together and boy did they do some work together.
Both players finished with two assists (Toews was given a third after a scoring change took away the assist for Eller and gave it to Toews instead) and were instrumental in the ice-tilting dominance that occurred while they were out there. This was the vintage dominant version of Colorado’s elite top pairing that we’ve become accustomed to seeing the last few seasons.
On the ice together, this duo rocked Seattle to the tune of a 13-2 shots on goal advantage at 5v5. They had an 11-3 scoring chance advantage. They absolutely dominated the Kraken tonight.
The Toews shot-pass to Lehkonen that gave the Avs a 3-1 lead was just great hockey by everyone involved. Look how the entire team is involved in this process.
Colorado obviously has special players who are capable of an extremely high level of play, but it’s when those players boil their game down to the basics and execute the most basic of gameplays that the Avs really flex their muscles a bit.
This goal is a great example of this as they don’t do anything particularly special. It’s a chip from Toews into the neutral zone, a bouncing puck and then the Avs get control and get to work in the offensive zone. They eventually work the puck around and the frenetic pace they whip the puck around pulls apart that airtight structure Seattle relies on and it leaves the middle of the ice open for Toews to get that puck to Lehkonen.
It isn’t going to revolutionize the game, but watching Colorado master the basics at that level? That’s the goods.
Colorado’s team defense
At 5v5, the Avs allowed just four shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of the game. That is special stuff.
Tied 1-1 after the first, the Avs put the clamps on Seattle as they outshot the Kraken 14-4 and outscored them 2-0 in the second period. That was the separation the Avs needed to finally get a chance to play with a lead for a bit. The results were consistent with what we’ve seen all series.
Seattle simply isn’t built to try to erase leads and when the Avs have had the lead and the Kraken have chased the game, Colorado has been able to play smart, efficient hockey and lock down the Kraken offense.
The Avs only briefly trailed in this game and it showed. They were the aggressor with the attack mentality, which is one of the hallmarks of the Avalanche at their best.
I struggled a lot with Compher’s game. As the Avs flew out of the gates and seemed to be getting going early, Compher struggled with his new role playing right wing next to Lars Eller. The adjustment period was to be expected but at times it was fair to wonder if Compher was aware the game had begun at all.
He had an assist taken off the board when Bowen Byram’s game-opening goal was called back due to offside, but that was the best play Compher made all game. At times on the power play, he wasn’t ready when a quick passing play went his direction and the puck either hit him or skittered away.
I’m not sure why that unit continues to focus so heavily on trying to get the puck to Compher. Surely, Seattle is dedicating fewer resources to stopping him than the other guys, but Compher didn’t seem prepared for the chances to come his way at all.
I say that and it’s fair to note that Grubauer’s best save came on Compher on the doorstep off a great passing play from Makar and Compher got a quality shot off only to be robbed by a brilliant save from Grubauer. Still, both Lars Eller and Evan Rodrigues felt like they were going all-out tonight and Compher’s lack of impact felt very noticeable next to those guys.
Compher is essentially getting top-line minutes as he’s regularly breaking 20 minutes per game and is doing very little with the opportunity. Given his playoff history, he has classic G7 hero written all over him and that would be a very nice follow-up to what I thought was a pretty poor Game 6.
The power play
So, here’s the thing. Colorado finished the game 0/5 on the man advantage so I’m calling it a dud. The numbers are pretty wild, though, and figured I’d share and let you decide if the power play has ACTUALLY been bad or if it has just been bad at finishing.
The Avs had 9:10 of time tonight with a 5v4 advantage. They generated 19 shot attempts, 12 shots on goal, 12 scoring chances, and two-high danger chances. The save by Grubauer on Compher was easily the best scoring chance in my eyes, but the Avs came seriously close to breaking through on this unit.
The generation has been there all series. Among playoff teams, the Avs are fifth on a per-60 basis of creating scoring chances on the man advantage. If you’re familiar with PDO at all (it’s used as a proxy for “luck”), Colorado’s PP PDO is currently .780, which is the lowest number I’ve ever seen for that stat. Obviously, small sample alert there, but given the quality of chances Colorado has created and the quality of players creating them, it’s almost impossible to believe this team only has one power play goal through six games.
If that changes in G7, Seattle is probably in trouble. If it doesn’t, the Kraken will be a very hard out.
Officiating review process
We saw an extremely confusing process play out in Game 4 of this series as Cale Makar was assessed a major penalty, had it reduced to a minor, and was subsequently suspended following the game.
In this game, Seattle Kraken forward Jordan Eberle absolutely smokes Andrew Cogliano from behind. Cogliano is facing the boards the entire time and even though he moves as Eberle is making contact, he never turns his body at the last second to try to bait Eberle into a boarding call. Eberle sees nothing but Cogliano’s numbers the entire way. Let’s watch the play in real-time with a couple of replays and then talk about it.
We saw the fact that Jared McCann was injured and ruled out immediately for Game 5 play a role in Makar’s suspension. While Cogliano left the game, he would return to finish it in the third period. Will Cogliano getting lucky on the injury front prevent Jordan Eberle from receiving the same suspension that Makar got?
I’m betting that is exactly how this plays out because I don’t trust the Department of Player Safety to suspend a guy for Game 7 when the player he hit didn’t stay hurt. That said, I would love to know the reasoning for why this wasn’t considered a major in-game and at least given a second look before moving on. It is textbook boarding, he finishes his check and the only positive you can say for Eberle is that he doesn’t add an element of charging to the play by taking an extra stride or two.
Strikes me as ridiculous but the Avs just haven’t been on the right side of these types of things, certainly not this year, so my expectations are pretty low. I’d love to be wrong, but the injury factor gives George Parros too easy of an out here.
He’s made some mistakes and he’s left some offense on the ice, but Rodrigues has been actively involved this entire playoffs. Even though it wasn’t his regular line tonight, Rodrigues snagged a shift at the end of the first period with MacKinnon and Rantanen and made a great little play picking up a rebound and tapping it to Rantanen for the tying goal.
He picked up his fifth point of the series on that assist. His work along the wall also led to Colorado’s “other” first goal of the game, but it was also his skate that crossed the blueline to make the play offside and bring Byram’s first career postseason goal off the board.
I’ve loved the heart and speed Rodrigues has played with this entire series and even though he’s been a little mistake-prone at times, he’s also making things happen when he’s on the ice and the MacKinnon line desperately needs some kind of help along the way.
Did you know that after Game 6, Rodrigues now has 11 points in 15 career playoff games? I found that very interesting.