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LAS VEGAS – The Colorado Avalanche opened up their rookie showcase against the host Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. The Avalanche fell behind 6-2 before mounting a furious rally in the third period and getting all the way back to 7-6 before running out of time.
It was a game of special teams as Vegas converted on four power plays while Colorado only managed to score one of their own. The rest came at even strength, where the Avalanche dominated the second half of the game.
The unofficial count had Logan O’Connor scoring two goals and one assist, Ty Lewis scoring one goal and one assist, and Brandon Saigeon with two goals of his own. Colorado also got a goal from Matthew Boucher and assists from Sergei Boikov, Josh Dickinson, and Vladislav Kamenev.
Below are observations from what turned out to be a pretty thrilling game.
The guys expected to pace the Colorado offense largely went unnoticed as the top line of Igor Shvyrev, Vladislav Kamenev, and Martin Kaut combined for just one assist, a whole lot of frustration, and ended the game broken up as Nick Henry replaced the lethargic Kamenev.
It was a very disappointing night for that group as a whole as each guy had their own hype attached coming in and none of them lived up to expectations. It’s obviously early so don’t start counting them out yet but this certainly was not the start any of those guys wanted as they look to make impressions on an organization trying to figure out where to put them. Kaut’s four-minute penalty just 37 seconds into the game led to the first goal of the game and set the tone for a special teams nightmare for Colorado.
Tale of two goaltenders
Avalanche start Petr Kvaca was blitzed in the first period, allowing five goals, just two of which were at even strength. There were some great shots mixed in with great plays from a Vegas team that came out and put 15 of their 27 shots on goals in the game’s opening frame.
Unfortunately, Kvaca crumbled under the workload and after an uninspiring performance at last year’s rookie showcase, this was not the kind of start he was looking for.
Kvaca eventually left at the halfway mark of the second period in a planned swap with Justus Annunen. The only goal Annunen allowed was a power-play goal from Nic Hague early in the third period. That was the seventh goal for Vegas and ultimately proved to be the game winner. While he wasn’t tested much, Annunen looked far superior to his competition tonight.
Second line stars
While Colorado’s top line was a non-factor, the second line of Ty Lewis, J.C. Beaudin, and Logan O’Connor clicked early and often and produced three of Colorado’s goals. While Beaudin wasn’t officially given a point, he played a key role in the first Avalanche goal.
Three very different guys with very different backgrounds, that line ended up the feel-good story for the Avalanche in their comeback attempt. Lewis and O’Connor are entering their first pro seasons and the Colorado front office had to be thrilled with the early returns from them.
A player who I consistently found myself complimenting as the game wore on was Josh Dickinson, the big center out of Clarkson University. He was sound defensively at even strength and generated a fair amount of scoring chances from what was the fourth line coming in. He picked up an assist on Boucher’s goal.
The two-goal performance from 2018 draftee Brandon Saigeon is nothing short of encouraging. The big kid from Hamilton of the OHL found both tallies by clearing out space in front of the net and banging home rebounds. His contract situation remains unsettled and where he plays this upcoming season is unclear but this performance only enhanced his standing.
While he didn’t find his way on to the score sheet, Nick Henry had several positive moments, including a breakaway where he made a nice move but Maxim Zhukov made a better save with his left pad. Henry played with jump all game. There was an amusing moment when the ice crew was taking longer than Henry liked cleaning off the snow and he stared down the poor man with the shovel in a Jedi attempt to make him clean faster. It was an amusing scene and an insightful look into Henry’s in-game intensity.