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Battered Avs finally give in to poor defense and goaltending

AJ Haefele Avatar
March 7, 2020

Avs games in Vancouver the last couple years have been nothing short of wild rides.

Tyson Barrie had a five-point night, Nathan MacKinnon injured his shoulder in a playoff chase, Philipp Grubauer struggled badly in a 7-6 barnburner that was also the first-ever DNVR (then BSN) Avalanche Watch Party, and the one game there this year saw Vancouver come back from a two-goal deficit in controversial fashion when Matt Calvert was left to bleed out on the ice until the Canucks scored and then MacKinnon went full power level over 9,000 and won the game on his own in overtime.

Needless to say, tonight, like the T-Birds from “Grease”, had a rep to protect.

Mission accomplished. Sort of.

The Avs failed in their bid to push their road winning streak to 10 games and their nine-game point streak ended with a 6-3 loss to the Canucks in a game that can easily be defined by goaltender regression and missed opportunities offensively.

Fast forward past all the problems to 4-3 late in the third period. Gabe Landeskog gets a centering feed from Sam Girard, who had just Tornade’d some poor fool’s ankles into the multiverse, and the bouncing puck gets redirected high over the net.

Matt Nieto gets a chance in front of the net and makes a move to his backhand but misses the net as goaltender Thatcher Demko goes down.

Moments later, someone named “Zack MacEwen” scores his second of the night to make it 5-3 and sink the dagger into Colorado’s comeback hopes. That was the crux of the entire night.

Colorado generated plenty of chances with 38 scoring chances and 12 high-danger chances at even strength. Compare those numbers to Vancouver’s (20 scoring chances and even high-danger chances) and the story of the night clearly comes down to capitalizing on chances.

Doing that often is about which goaltender shows up. Tonight, both Pavel Francouz and Demko struggled but Francouz’s struggles won out in the wrong kind of way.

It was the first time I’d say Francouz has legitimately played poorly since a January 10 overtime loss at home to Pittsburgh. Nearly two months between what I consider poor showings?

You’ll take that, obviously, but it definitely sucks when it comes time to pay the piper.

The Avs did that tonight despite their big guns having solid nights. MacKinnon had two assists, Landeskog had a goal and an assist, and Erik Johnson continued his recent offensive surge with a goal and an assist of his own.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Vancouver’s depth guys mostly beat the Avs in this one. Colorado fought back from a 3-1 deficit early in the second period to tie the game but Antoine Roussel’s goal halfway through the middle frame was just one hill too high to climb.

The loss means Colorado missed a chance to pull even with the Blues in the standings after St. Louis lost 4-2 in New Jersey earlier in the night. Colorado still has a game in hand on them and also retains their six-point lead over the Dallas Stars, who were idle tonight but lost last night.

GAME TAKEAWAYS

  • I’m going to start with officiating because it’s rare I find myself openly frustrated by the refs. It’s a hard job and viewers on television have a number of replays available within seconds to slow it down and go frame-by-frame. They just don’t have an easy job. But the way they called the game tonight was so frustrating. They went from a mostly “anything goes” kind of first two periods to suddenly getting ticky-tack early in the third. How are players to supposed to adjust to that standard on the fly? Why should they have to? Refs set the tone early on in games with what they do and don’t call and then when it changes halfway through a game, it drives everyone crazy. It wasn’t a major difference-maker or anything in this one but just as a fan of hockey first and foremost, that’s where I get frustrated. To the actual game.
  • Colorado had 22 scoring chances in the first period and just one goal. If there was ever an example of the difference it makes losing all the talent Colorado has, it shows up in a team that was the highest-scoring in the league suddenly struggling to score four goals in a game. It’s now been an entire month since it last happened.
  • The Avs were not very good defensively in this one but they needed more from Pavel Francouz. You knew the regression was coming after he was one of the league’s three stars two consecutive weeks but giving up nine goals in two games is tough to overcome when your forward corps can’t finish. A bad night for Frankie but it’s still his net for now. He should get the chance to come back strong on Sunday.
  • With Nikita Zadorov scratched following a disastrous night against Anaheim, it was Ian Cole who rode the strugglebus tonight. Cole found himself on the ice for Vancouver’s first four goals and wasn’t just an innocent bystander either as he had chances to make plays but couldn’t get it done. He didn’t get much help in some situations but he also wasn’t able to make anything of the situations he ended up in. He got benched in the second period but returned in the third. I doubt we’ll see Cole get the scratch treatment Zadorov did but I would also be surprised if Zadorov is not playing Sunday night. The reality is Colorado’s best defensive lineup right now includes Zadorov. The message was sent. Time to see if Zadorov received it.
  • Not going to ride the Colorado PP because of all the injuries but the PK continues to show its improvements. All the goals against, none came with the man advantage tonight. That unit has quietly had a strong second half of the season and will be a huge key come playoff time. That improvement needs to be real.
  • Nathan MacKinnon broke the 90-point barrier for the third straight season, somehow the first time in Avs history that has happened. I actually was shocked when I saw that but went and checked and was surprised to see that Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg only had four 90-point seasons in an Avs sweater. For MacKinnon to already have three goes to show what kind of special path he’s found himself on since his breakout three years ago. He added two assists tonight as he continues to chase his first 100-point season after finishing with 99 last year.
  • Sheldon Dries played 3:56. You might as well do Barberio at forward again if that’s going to be the fourth line usage. Dries certainly didn’t help himself as he jumped the puck when Graves did on Vancouver’s second goal that left Cole hanging. That’s a bad read but if the leash is going to be that short, why even bother? I really do wonder if we’ll just see 11/7 on Sunday.
  • Colorado falls to 1-12-3 when entering the third period trailing.
  • Hurry back, Cale Makar. This team just isn’t the same without you.

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