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Welcome to the weekly Avs mailbag, where we answer whatever Avs questions you have on your mind. If you have any questions for the mailbag, leave them for Evan Rawal on twitter or respond in the comments.
@evanrawal how likely would you think that G's troubles are the result of him trying to "live up" to the big raise contract extension he earned over the summer and as a result got into his own head? Don't hear people talking about that angle much but it happens all the time
— James Brooks (@Canadian__Ninja) December 30, 2019
It really seems like we’re touching on Girard every week, but his play has been a little concerning. It’s hard to pinpoint the extension as a reason for Girard’s struggles. I thought he was great for the first 10 games or so, but has since struggled. Girard, at least from my conversations with him, doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would put a lot of pressure on himself due to signing a big money deal, but it’s possible I’m wrong.
I really think a lot of Girard’s struggles just come from teams now having a significant amount of tape on him, and playing him differently. We see the spin move less frequently now because teams know it’s coming. Teams are sending multiple forecheckers against him to slow him down on the breakout. The opposition is adjusting to him, so it’s up to him to make some adjustments moving forward. I still like him on that off-side, which is where they’ve mostly had him lately, and I hope that continues moving forward.
My thoughts on him so far is that he’s gotten better in each game, and because some of the other defensemen have struggled, he’s now getting rewarded. He played one goal against Russia very poorly, as his gap was too big and he got caught badly in no mans land because of that, but other than that, was “OK”. Against Germany, though, he looked solid, and was used in all situations, leading the defense in ice time. I would say that’s a good sign moving forward. He hasn’t stood out in a spectacular way, but he’s done very well, and as an 18 year old in a tournament designed for 19 year olds to dominate, the fact that he’s seeing his ice time increase is a very good sign.
I can’t say I’ve had the chance to watch him much in Vancouver, so my colleagues AJ and Nathan are better positioned to comment on him there, but the one thing I would say is he doesn’t look “dynamic” offensively. There’s a lot that can go into that, though, as you never know what the coaches are asking of the players in these short, specialized tournaments. That’s why I tend to be one of the few who doesn’t put a ton of weight into these tournaments, as it’s such a small sample size. The staff’s increasing confidence in Byram, however, is a very good sign.
Let's talk about The 3HM.
First of all, can we admit they aren't now, and never were, the best line in the league? That's obviously Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak, because defense matters.
Secondly, keep them together or break them up?
— Dan Winkler (@Jhondeaux) December 30, 2019
I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that. The top line hasn’t been as dominant this year, but they had a serious 140 game or so run of dominance, and that cannot be ignored. That Boston line is incredible, and calling it the best line in hockey isn’t putting down the 3HM line, but the Avs guys were definitely in that conversation.
As for keeping them together or breaking them up, I would separate them, and it seems the staff is open to it. At practice on Monday, they had Donskoi up with Landeskog and MacKinnon, while Rantanen dropped down with Burakovsky and Kadri. It’s an interesting setup, and it gives the second line a legit setup man (even with Rantanen’s poor play of late) for two guys who tend to have a “shoot first” mentality.
Given the top line hasn’t been as dominant as we are used to, I like the idea of separating them. I’ve always felt Landeskog and Kadri would work well together if given time to generate chemistry, but Rantanen could work too. I just tend to lean more towards keeping Mikko and Nate together. We’ll see how long this lasts, but the top six hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire of late, so change may have been necessary.
Most interesting/unusual pregame hockey ritual you’re aware of?
— ALL THE NUGGETS ARE GOOD (@snoichy) December 30, 2019
This is not a pregame hockey ritual, but at a recent home game, it came to light that Pierre-Edouard Bellemare takes all of his gear off after the second period, and puts it back on. That, to me, is bananas. After playing a few periods of hockey, you are dripping with sweat, so the idea of taking that gear off, and then putting the sweaty gear back on seems bizarre to me. I never wanted to take my gear off during games because of that, knowing I wouldn’t even want to put it back on. This is the NHL, though, and these guys may get new gear in between periods for all I know, but that one stood out.
John-Michael Liles even let it be known that Scott Hannan used to do that after EVERY period, and even would jump in the bath between periods. That’s even more ridiculous, but if you have all of this stuff at your disposal, you might as well use it.
Do you think there is a situation with a Bowers call up if Jost or JTC continue to struggle?
— Jim Bridger-ish (@libertydiabetic) December 30, 2019
I figured I would address both of these, as they’re in the same vein. I think it would take an injury, to be honest, for Bowers to get a chance. The problem, however, is Bowers is now injured for the second time this season. He’s listed as day to day, but it’s a little concerning he hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup consistently, especially since he was really picking it up of late.
As far as Jost goes, I do feel the need to point out that all of his underlying numbers this year are quite good. The Avs are controlling 53.56% of the shots on goal with him on the ice, and he is generating the third-most shots on net per 60 of any Avs forward at even strength. I think it would be safe to say they all aren’t great shots, but he’s at least generating them. He’s also drawing 1.69 penalties per 60 minutes at even strength, second only to Nazem Kadri. Sure, his numbers aren’t great, but he IS doing some other things right that need to be acknowledged.
I do wonder what type of role he will have with this team long-term, because he doesn’t specialize defensively in any way, but he is doing some things well that maybe fly under the radar a little bit.