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Avs-Panthers Game 40 Studs & Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
January 6, 2024

Studs

Josh Manson

I think Manson’s game has been pretty solid for a few weeks now as his physicality has ramped up and he’s been contributing offensively and both of those things continued tonight.

Manson’s goal was total nonsense as it took several chaotic elements happening within seconds of each other to create the goal, but it still counts and Manson got the credit. Cool. Ball Arena is one of the tougher buildings when it comes to how they award hits to players and only 27 were credited between the two teams. The lone player with more than two hits was Manson, who had five.

That matched what the eyes were saying because he was all over the Florida puck carriers and made life miserable for them. That physical element is a huge addition to Colorado’s talented back end and should be a difference-maker for them in games when they actually get some saves.

Jonathan Drouin

I didn’t have strong feelings about Drouin but his third-period goal is once again a different type of goal. Look at his last five goals. Lots of variety here, which is important.

You have:

Transition goal
Rebound
Deflection
Snipe
Solo effort

It’s all very encouraging from Drouin, especially in that his couple of similar goals all occur right around the net. That isn’t his reputation but he’s putting in the work and finding results. It’s too bad his game-tying goal early in the third period didn’t lead to more.

Duds

The details

One of the big separators in teams that are good trying to be great is how much they limit beating themselves. In this one, the Avalanche did everything they could to hand the game to Florida on a Panther-shaped platter.

I’ll get to the goaltending below, but this is what else really bothered me. Florida scored six real goals in this game. Three of them were failures by Avalanche players before goaltending ever became a factor and they were basic plays. This isn’t confusing systems stuff or a wild play in transition that is tough to pick up. It’s three separate plays at different junctures of the game.

Here’s the video of the plays I didn’t like:

The first one is simple. Ross Colton and Sam Girard go to cover the same guy and leave a very good goal scorer alone in front of the net. This is basic stuff that shouldn’t be happening in Game 40. When you worry about the viability of Ross Colton as a two-way center, it is plays such as this that standout. I tend to think Girard is making the right play here but, ultimately, it does not matter who is at fault. They should both know what they’re doing in this basic coverage.

The second one is tougher because Cale Makar is trying to make a play, but he gets caught puck-watching. Devon Toews steps up into the play and gives Makar enough time to read what’s going on and try to get back before Sam Reinhart is alone. Makar doesn’t read it until way too late and can’t recover quickly enough.

The third play is tougher but still stood out. Nathan MacKinnon wins the draw and that’s the end of his participation despite turning around to see what was going on behind him. It would be one thing if MacKinnon won it and flew the zone in expectation of getting a pass and trying to put pressure on Florida’s defense. He doesn’t, however, and stands there not realizing the guy he beat on the faceoff was still working to make a play. He ultimately did and effectively ended the game.

Add in the Colton high-sticking penalty followed immediately by Logan O’Connor’s inexcusable puck over the glass to put the Avs on a 5v3 in a tied hockey game and you have a litany of conversations to have in the team’s next video session.

The Avalanche are talented enough that if they consistently make teams beat them (versus beating themselves), they will be a very hard out in the regular season and the playoffs.

Goaltending

I am not going to sit here and say that Alexandar Georgiev is at fault in this hockey game. He comes in after Florida has scored twice and only gives up two real goals, the first of which was a great shot from Sam Reinhart in the middle of the ice on the 5v3. I struggle to view Ivan Prosvetov’s game as anything but poor.

That’s all well and good, but six more goals on 27 shots? If this was an aberration, you could shrug and say that it happens and that’s life, but it has been far too common this season. Colorado’s goaltenders have allowed 4 or more goals in 20 of their 40 games this season. That’s unacceptable.

You can shake your head at me all you’d like about “this isn’t on the goalies” or whatever, but after this game the Avalanche sit 25th in the NHL in 5v5 save percentage. The only teams worse are teams with real injury issues at the position (Tampa Bay, Dallas, Carolina) or entered the season with shaky goaltending situations (New Jersey, San Jose, Buffalo, Ottawa).

The Avs have been healthy with Georgiev and actively chose to roll with Ivan Prosvetov off waivers from Arizona versus giving a shot to the internal goaltender they’ve been developing for years in Justus Annunen. They made this bed and now have to try to remake it, I guess, because there are bed bugs in this one. Or something.

Anyway, this position has to start helping the Avalanche a little more than this.

Unsung Hero

Valeri Nichushkin

It’s pretty incredible to me that Jared Bednar has been hesitant to move Mikko Rantanen away from Nathan MacKinnon in part because Rantanen has failed to drive a line of his own but Valeri Nichushkin has had success doing it instead.

Nichushkin had two more points with another goal and assist. He’s been incredible this year and his reliability has elevated the power play and whatever guys are lucky enough to play alongside him at 5v5 on any given night. He’s a freight train. If the NHL had the Most Improved Player Award a la the NBA, Nichushkin probably wouldn’t win it because he was already really good but he would be on my ballot somewhere. His game has gone from good to great and bordering on elite.

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