Yeah, okay. We see you, universe.

Every year, there’s a team that gets absolutely rocked by bad luck, either on-ice or off or both, and can never really get on track and misses the postseason when nobody thought it likely to begin the season.

Last year, we saw the Vegas Golden Knights become that team, although their problems felt a little more karmic in nature with the blatant salary cap shenanigans they tried playing with the Jack Eichel/Mark Stone stuff.

Maybe my favorite example of this is the 2016-17 Tampa Bay Lightning. They missed the postseason and stand out in a wild four-year stretch for Tampa Bay that included one loss in the Stanley Cup Final and two losses in the Eastern Conference Final.

Sandwiched in there is a Lightning team that saw 26-year-old Steven Stamkos play just 17 games and Andrei Vasilevskiy take over as the starting goaltender. They had a 94-point season and missed the playoffs by one point. Sometimes, these things just happen.

After the Colorado Avalanche lost 5-3 to the lowly Philadelphia Flyers tonight, that team was on my mind as the extreme example of where this season could head if the injury issues don’t turn around for Colorado.

Those problems continued in the first period when Nathan MacKinnon left the game after playing just over four minutes and didn’t return with an upper-body injury. There was no follow-up of information after the game and the team is off tomorrow, so updates will likely wait until Wednesday morning at Ball Arena when the Avs play next.

Obviously, this is an extreme example to jump to. Despite tonight’s loss and Colorado’s nightmare of a road trip ending 1-3, the Avs are still currently in a playoff spot and have games in hand on all but one (Winnipeg) of the teams they’re chasing. The Avs are only 28% of the way through their regular season, so it’s honestly too early to truly be worried about any of this.

Up to this point (touch wood), Colorado injury problems have yet to include a “season-ending” designation. The latest a player who is currently hurt is expected back is Gabe Landeskog some time after the calendar flips to 2023.

In recent days, Bowen Byram, Darren Helm, and Valeri Nichushkin have all skated as they ramp up their conditioning and on-ice work as part of the preparation to return. Evan Rodrigues shouldn’t be too far behind and Artturi Lehkonen and Jean-Luc Foudy were considered day-to-day, so those don’t appear serious (again, touch wood).

The concern isn’t so much the loss to the Flyers tonight, but the injury to MacKinnon. If it’s short-term, Colorado’s goal really doesn’t change much. They just have to survive another couple of weeks before real reinforcements show up. If it’s a long-term injury, well, the value of their first-round pick in the absolutely loaded 2023 NHL Draft changes a bit as the trade deadline inches ever closer (we’re still roughly 35 games away from that).

But about tonight. That’s why you’re here, right?

Things started well. The Avs drew a penalty early and Alex Newhook took advantage of being elevated to the top power-play unit with no Lehkonen and he deflected a Cale Makar shot past Carter Hart.

If only the game could’ve stopped there.

The Flyers tied it shortly after and with MacKinnon gone, Colorado’s lineup jumbling began. As the shuffling was ongoing, the defensive breakdowns began and a Flyers two-on-one resulted in a pass off the pads and a go-ahead goal to give Philadelphia a 2-1 lead after the first period.

While the game calmed down after that, the Avs didn’t really get back into it on the scoreboard. Alex Galchenyuk’s first (he had two) penalty of the game resulted in a soft wrister from Tony DeAngelo beating him cleanly and making it 3-1.

In reality, the first Flyers goal was not on Alexandar Georgiev. It’s a perfectly placed shot from the center of the ice where Travis Sanheim had all the time and space he could possibly want. NHL players can make that shot. The defense was atrocious as nobody stepped up to challenge him.

The second goal was the aforementioned pass off the pads which resulted in a rebound goal. I’m not faulting Georgiev for that. It’s an intentional play by the offensive player and Georgiev just needs more help from Jayson Megna, whose backchecking failed to stop that chance from happening.

But that DeAngelo goal? That’s the one that kills you. There’s a screen in front of him, but he has to fight through that and find that puck. With Colorado’s skater group absolutely decimated by injury, Georgiev simply has to be great. There’s no room for him to give up soft goals like this.

Once down two, Colorado continued to fight like hell, but you could see the talent was just not there. Mikko Rantanen tried to do everything in his power anytime he was out there, but the cute little stuff he so frequently makes look dazzling isn’t nearly as effective with more meat and potatoes players. He needed to simplify, and he just didn’t.

The third period started with Colorado down two and despite multiple power-play chances to get back in it, the Avs were simply too beaten up and had no real plan of attack with the man advantage with a group out there that had never practiced together and had no clearly defined roles.

With all the shuffling, Newhook and J.T. Compher were going to the front of the net, Rantanen was still hanging around down low, and Makar had replaced MacKinnon on the wall with Devon Toews up high. They didn’t even really get fully setup, let alone with sustained possession that was dangerous.

A Makar high-sticking penalty put them back on the penalty kill and the Flyers got the big puck luck break of the night when Ivan Provorov ripped a one-timer that badly missed but came off the back boards and landed right on Owen Tippett’s stick. He one-timed it into the empty net as Georgiev had no chance to react and it was 4-1.

Late in the game, a heroic one-man effort from Rantanen made it 4-2 and Newhook made it 4-3 on the very next shift to briefly give the Avs life. An empty-net goal just seconds later ended the fun and brought us to the final score.

No takeaways from me tonight as I don’t think it really matters how I felt about individual efforts. This was a disappointing loss not only in that losing to a bad team and giving up two power-play goals to the league’s worst power play is bad, but the MacKinnon injury felt like a shadow of doom looming over the rest of Colorado’s season.

Until there’s an update on his status, tonight will be just another game in a long season. Once the extent of the injury is revealed, however, we’ll know if it’s time to push the panic button or not.

Author

A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj

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