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Avs-Lightning Game 21 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
November 28, 2023

Studs

Ryan Johansen

You score two goals in a game the Avs win, you’re a Stud. Those are the rules.

The Avalanche have needed that offense to come from other areas because they are not as prolific offensively through their defense (despite Cale Makar’s brilliance) as they normally are, so it’s vital that the man brought in to be Colorado’s 2C this year actually produce a little like it.

It’s been a slow start and the overall stat line is weird (9 goals, 1 assist) but nights like tonight when he’s on his game really showcase why the Avalanche liked his skillset this offseason. He got out and made a great play on the first goal and the second goal, well, that’s nothing more than following the play and being wide open when a rebound pops to him. They all count and the Avs need what they can get so everyone is happy here.

Alexandar Georgiev

He made a couple of spectacular saves in the game, but the most impressive thing he did all night was refuse to give in when the Lightning pushed. They made a couple of strong pushes throughout the game, as good teams do, and Georgiev pushed back.

He was Captain America standing in the middle of the chaos and telling Tampa Bay, “No, you move.” The Avalanche have gotten inconsistent goaltending far too often this year and been forced to outscore their problems. Not tonight as Georgiev made 37 saves on 38 shots on goal.

This was the kind of steady and excellent performance that a Stanley Cup contender wants to see from its top goaltender.

Cale Makar

Two more points as he continues rolling along. Those points put him just one behind Quinn Hughes for the lead among defensemen. Next closest is, well, Victor Hedman with 23. That’s a pretty big gap!

Anyway, the second Avalanche goal starts when Makar kickstarts an odd-man rush by pushing the play up the ice. I say this in this space a lot, but other defensemen simply do not do this. He’s a rare bird in the way he pushes play from his own zone and creates pressure on opposing teams.

He’s such an excellent skater and puck mover that teams have to account for him doing literally anything. He’s a pick-your-poison kind of player and how many times does this guy make teams pay? Constantly. He got a little lucky with his goal when it took a fortunate bounce, but that’s hockey.

Third period defense

If you look at the box score and see Tampa Bay with a 12-7 shots advantage, you might be tempted to think the Avalanche turtled hard and survived a big Lightning push. That wasn’t really the case.

Tampa’s first shot on goal came 8:51 into the final period and their first actual shot on goal designed to score (versus dump-ins for a line change) came 12:08 into the period. That’s great team defense by the Avalanche.

Even when the barrage started by the Lightning, they created just two high-danger chances in over 15 minutes of 5v5 play. That’s locking it down.

Add in the Avs scoring pretty quickly after Tampa Bay pulled their goaltender and you have a Colorado team that did not allow much in the way of hope for a late-game comeback in this game despite some turtle tendencies.

Duds

Bowen Byram

Another game, another penalty. Even worse, I think his play throughout the game left a lot to be desired. He’s doing very little offensively, which is magnified even more now that he’s primarily partnered with Josh Manson, and that is an element of the game the Avalanche simply need more from him.

That said, they also need more from him defensively, too. The split with him and Manson on the Anthony Cirelli breakaway goal looked more like a miscommunication more than anything and I’m still putting the bulk of that blame on Manson, but I think there was a split-second of misunderstanding that cost them. That isn’t on Byram, obviously, but really both of them. If we’re being honest, it’s also a world-class play by Hedman on the stretch pass.

Anyway, the penalties are a problem as he took two more tonight and is now leading the NHL in minor penalties. That’s unacceptable. There isn’t another word for it. If the Avs were healthier on the back end, I might suggest a healthy scratch just to let the kid reset some, but they don’t really have that luxury right now. He has to play his way through this, which could be great for him in the long run if he responds well.

The power play

This unit scored for the eighth straight game, so this is absolutely me nitpicking a little bit here, but also they had several chances to make it a 4-1 game and put a Tampa Bay team that had to get on an airplane and go play again tomorrow away for good long before the net got pulled.

It isn’t so much that they didn’t score, it’s that they weren’t even competitive.

Where did all of Tampa Bay’s dangerous chances come from in the third period? Shorthanded. They took the Avalanche power play to the woodshed to the tune of outshooting Colorado 6-0, outchancing 7-5, and generating a 6-2 advantage on high-danger chances.

I’m sorry, but what the hell is that? That’s begging a team to get back into a game if your goaltender isn’t coming up huge and getting the job done. A very discouraging end to what started as a great night for this unit.

Unsung Hero

Jack Johnson

For what it’s worth, I thought he was pretty bad again tonight. He passed a puck straight to a Lightning player that resulted in the breakaway for Nikita Kucherov but Georgiev made it a non-issue with another huge save. Goalies, man.

No, why I have Johnson here is the teammate aspect of it. In the final two minutes of the game after the Avs made it 4-1 and the competitive portion was over, Tanner Jeannot did what he was brought in to do, which is hit people and generally be a dollar store version of Corey Perry.

Johnson was the recipient of that hit and got up and decided to smoke someone, too, and lined up local kid Mikey Eyssimont. Tough break for the guy from Littleton, but I love that stuff from Johnson. His limitations are obvious but he knows the score out there. If someone is going to hit him, he’s returning serve. He isn’t taking it lying down. That stuff sends a message to the rest of the team that regardless of the score, the Avalanche aren’t there to get bullied.

I’m into it. Good for Johnson.

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