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Jeremy Hanzel shines in Avalanche Game 2 Studs and Duds

AJ Haefele Avatar
September 18, 2023

Studs

Jeremy Hanzel

I thought Hanzel had a fine first game but his work in Game 2 was much stronger overall. There are always some defensive zone communication issues in these events because guys have never played together and Hanzel got involved in some of those but I also thought his on-the-fly decision-making was a productive safety valve when the Ducks were aggressively attacking his zone-exit opportunities.

His hockey IQ earned rave reviews in his breakout season in the WHL last year and today it was easy to see that as a strength of his. He saw a bad Ducks change and attacked into open space, got the puck and walked in to beat the goaltender with a wonderful finish. That kind of mentality is exactly how defensemen in Colorado are asked to play and to see Hanzel embrace that is encouraging.

The defensive details were a little all over the board for the entire team but I felt Hanzel was a solid, steady presence on the back end even if it wasn’t a perfect performance.

Ivan Ivan

Ivan squared up his play in the second game and has put together a strong weekend for himself after scoring a goal in the first game and adding two more today, one of which was short-handed.

He has been part of both the power play and penalty kill units and has moved between center and wing depending on what has been asked of him. That versatility should be very appealing for Eagles head coach Aaron Schneekloth, who is also running the bench at this event.

There isn’t any one skill from Ivan that truly stands out but he’s a guy where the whole is greater than the sum of his parts. He just knows how to play the game and he has thrived this weekend while wearing many different hats.

Ivan’s standout showing is interesting because he is currently on an AHL contract and the Avalanche are only at 45 out of a possible 50 NHL deals right now so there is space for the Avs to sign Ivan if they’d like. That’s probably an overreaction to his play at an event of this caliber, but he is increasingly becoming a player of note.

Milo Roelens

I didn’t know anything about Roelens before this event but he’s made an impact in both games and I thought he got better and better as today’s game wore on. His size stands out as he’s listed at 6’6″ but he was moving really well for a player that tall and I loved how hard he was on pucks today.

He finished with two assists and they were both the result of him outworking an opponent and making a good decision with the puck. His first assist came along the wall when he chipped the puck to Hanzel and his second came with the empty net as he patiently waited out the desperate Ducks and found Ivan up the ice in the neutral zone that ultimately iced the game.

His play in the third period is really what caught my eye. As the Ducks were pressing all period to try to tie the game, Roelens was one of the few Avalanche players who was involved in pressure the other direction. His forechecking caused a few problems along the way.

His kind of size will always attract a certain level of curiosity from NHL teams but I think he has done well for himself so far (he also scored a goal in Game 1).

Duds

Jason Polin

This isn’t because Polin was bad. He wasn’t. He didn’t finish the game as he left late in the second period and was taken to a nearby hospital for further examination. There were no updates postgame about his status.

For a player who was having another solid outing and putting himself on the map as a potential darkhorse going into NHL training camp next week, any injury that robs him of that opportunity could be the kind of thing to derail his NHL chances.

This event is important because it gives a guy such as Polin an opportunity to showcase why he deserves longer looks with the preseason beginning next weekend and an injury would remove him from that conversation and reset his timeline. There are no guarantees for guys who are trying to be the ~12th forward in an NHL lineup and there is significant competition there.

Polin being out would mean he won’t get to show what he can do until real games get started back up and it’s always hard to surpass players who had chances to put together strong performances with the NHL staff. That kind of firsthand information typically determines a lot of call-ups in the first few months of the season.

Let’s hope the injury isn’t too serious and he is able to return quickly.

Unsung Hero

Ivan Zhigalov

I don’t think there’s any way to really sugarcoat that all three goals that Zhigalov gave up were goals he probably shouldn’t have allowed. His rebound control was seriously lacking and the third goal almost appeared to teleport through his body it was such a weak scoring chance. There’s no denying that it just wasn’t a great game for him.

And yet here he is as my unsung hero of the game. Such a huge part of goaltending is the mental battle and managing the in-game confidence swings that occur. Giving up soft goals can really hurt that confidence and lead to more poor play. It looked early on like that’s where this was headed, but Zhigalov bucked up and had the kind of short-term memory required at his position.

The Ducks were swarming the Avs in the third period and Zhigalov stood tall and had his best period of the game. The rebounds were still a problem and he certainly wasn’t dominant, but I loved the moxie to come back after a weaker performance earlier in the game and refusing to give up that fourth goal. I wanted to make sure I gave him some flowers for that effort.

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