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Makar, Kadri dazzle as Avs win knock off Flyers in dominating fashion

Jesse Montano Avatar
March 26, 2022

Two nights ago in Denver, I wrote about the game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks that Jared Bednar described as “safe.” That was a nicer way of how most people described about it. Many chose words more like boring, or snoozer. Well, tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers was the exact opposite. 

Philadelphia was, for the second time this season, tasked with facing a rested Avalanche team, while on the second night of a back to back. The Flyers’ struggles this season have been well documented, and they spent the last month or so playing under the cloud of knowing that long-time captain Claude Giroux’s days were numbered in Philly. 

Since Giroux was moved last week though, things haven’t been all bad. The Flyers have put some wins together, and while it doesn’t matter standings-wise, you could tell at (an optional) morning skate today that their guys are feeling better about how things are going.

After a surprise win in St. Louis on Thursday, the Flyers were looking to maybe build on some of that momentum and get going early. Uhh… that did not happen. 

Philadelphia did not deploy the “defense-first” approach that we’ve seen team after team try against the Avs this year, especially teams near the bottom of the league, and when a team that’s already “iffy” at best on the defensive side of the puck tries to skate with the Avalanche, it typically goes the way it did tonight.

Less than 10 minutes into the first period, Nazem Kadri picked the puck up from JT Compher and went flying through the neutral zone, backing up both Flyers D-men before ripping a shot past Philly goaltender Carter Hart from just inside the blue line to opening the scoring.

After that, the Avs were running downhill, and the crowd was maybe more engaged than I’ve seen them all season as the Avs cruised to a 6-3 win on Friday night.

The Avalanche just started pouring it on from everywhere on the ice, they were controlling the puck, and the pace of play.

A broken play lead to a James van Riemsdyk goal that would tie the game briefly, but old friend Kevin Connauton took a penalty just 39 seconds later, sending the Avs to the Power Play. 

Kadri won the ensuing face-off clean, straight back to Cale Makar who walked the blue line, and sent a laser beam to the net that just flat out beat Hart to restore Colorado’s lead, five seconds into the power play, and just 44 seconds after the Flyers had tied the game.

There’s two things I always hate to say about hockey players. One, is calling a player soft, especially at the NHL level. To me that is just the biggest insult a player can receive. Players at this level are all tough as nails, and put their body on the line every night. The other is saying that a team and its players gave up. They compete so hard, and play with so much pride that it just feels like such a harsh criticism to say they “stopped playing”.

Having said that.. while I don’t think the Flyers gave up, that Makar power play goal really seemed to suck the wind out of Philly’s sails. They looked like they knew they were just outmatched, especially given that they had played and traveled the night before, and the Avs pressed the gas pedal to the floor.

We’ve talked a lot this season about earning your bounces, and the Avalanche definitely earned a couple bounces in this game. They were flying around, snapping the puck from tape to tape, winning battles, winning races, just dominating all over the ice.

After a strong forecheck forced a neutral-zone turnover, the Avs transitioned from defense to offense, got the puck deep, and JT Compher went to work. He won a battle behind the net, and tried to put the puck out front, instead, it ramped off a Flyer stick, ricocheted off of Carter Hart’s head, and went in the net. 

It really felt like it was just Colorado’s night after that one.

Less than two minutes later, Mikko Rantanen lead a rush into the offensive zone, threw a puck to the net, trying to find the stick of Val Nichushkin for a deflection. Well, he got the deflection, just not off the stick he intended. Yet again, the puck took fortuitous bounce off a Flyers defenseman’s stick and deflected into the net.

Mercifully (for Philadelphia), the period came to an end with the score at 4-1.

I was anxious to see what type of second we would get. Would the Avs sit back, thinking that the game was all but over? Would the Flyers dig deep and push back to avoid being run out of the building?

No. No to both of those questions. The second period started the way the first period ended, Avalanche domination. Shots from everywhere, crisp passing, great movement. The Avalanche had the Flyers spinning in their own zone. 

I want to pause for a minute to give some credit to Carter Hart. If not for the Flyers goaltender, this score could have EASILY been 7-1 ten minutes into the middle frame. He was fantastic. Off the top of my head, I can think of four separate show-stopping saves that he made in the second period alone. 

Hart did everything he could, but when you’re seeing as many shots, and as much pressure as he was, there’s only so much you can do, and eventually it was none other than Kurtis MacDermid whose shot from the point eluded Hart and stretched Colorado’s lead to 5-1.

Yes, you read that right. MacDermid got his second of the year with a nice, quick shot from out high and through traffic. Not a bad birthday present to himself. 

Zack MacEwen would add one late in the period to pull the Flyers within three, and again, the only reason it was that close was thanks to Carter Hart. 

The third period started, and both teams looked like they were ready to go home. The result wasn’t in question, Philly was dead tired (and playing at altitude), and the Avs had played such solid game that it was really just about closing things out. 

The teams traded goals in the third (including ANOTHER Makar goal), the Avs eclipsed the 50-shot mark, and Nazem Kadri got into a fight. Like I said to start this piece… this game was the exact opposite of the game against Vancouver. 

I was talking with a fellow media member after the game on Wednesday, and we were in agreement that the Avs needed a night like this. One where they controlled play, built a lead, and just buried someone. They have played well lately, their process has been fine, but the big dominating win we just haven’t seen for a while. It was a great night for the Avs.

Jared Bednar said this morning that the biggest thing the team is going to focus on the rest of the season is staying committed to improving, and not getting complacent. Given where they are and have been in the standings, nights like these against bottom-feeders are what is commonly referred to as a “trap game.” Meaning, it’s easy to overlook it and think you can just out-skill your way to a win. The Avalanche dominating start to finish the way they did tells you that this group gets it. They know there won’t be any easy outs once the playoff start, and in order to be ready for that, you have to be putting in the work now.

They’ll have a chance to keep putting that work in on Sunday when they visit Minnesota to take on Tyson Jost and the Wild. There’s a good chance these two teams could see each other in the playoffs, so you know both groups will be looking to make a statement. 

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