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This certainly isn’t how you announce yourself to the hockey world as an up and coming threat to be taken seriously. After thriving during a ridiculous gauntlet of road trips and a very challenging schedule, the Avalanche have taken their chance to run away from the pack with home games against bad teams and lost a bunch of times.
Tonight was another opportunity for the Avs to take advantage of a bad visiting team and for the second time in a week, the Chicago Blackhawks walked out of Pepsi Center with two points in the standings that they probably don’t even really want at this point.
The Avs made strides, I guess, as they improved from a 2-1 regulation loss to a 3-2 overtime loss but nobody actually feels like Colorado took anything remotely resembling a positive step forward tonight. Losing is still losing and the Avalanche are settling back into their old comfort zone of losing games and being mad after the game ends but failing to channel that anger into something positive in the next game.
There were some highlights in this one as Semyon Varlamov had a rock-solid outing that should stem the tide of Philipp Grubauer’s coup for a day or two. Colorado has another chance to feel good about themselves as they welcome in another team, the Los Angeles Kings, to Pepsi Center on what they hope is a rockin’ New Year’s Eve.
Takeaways from the game
- A lot of times small things decide games in the NHL and the Avalanche have been doing those small things very poorly the last few weeks. In getting the game tied tonight, Colorado got back to some of those little things when Gabe Landeskog made life absolutely miserable for Colin Delia in net by completely taking away vision on both Avalanche goals. Making opposing goaltenders look good has been a Colorado specialty for a while.
- We haven’t talked enough about Sheldon Dries this year here at BSN and that’s partly my fault. He’s been a real revelation for them and his ability to step in and give them quality minutes has been nice to see. His goal-scoring was a big selling point after his run with the Texas Stars in the AHL playoffs last year but I’ve been surprised by how active defensively he is. His stick is constantly disruptive and he comes really close to creating chances the other way with little tips and deflections.
- On the same token, I really liked what Matt Calvert brought to the table tonight. He hasn’t quite brought the offense I thought he would when he signed over the summer but I like what he did in transition tonight and he made a perfect pass off Delia’s pads but nobody was home for the rebound. It feels like he’s been solid enough that he’s on the verge of some offense actually falling for him.
- I’ve been increasingly frustrated with Nathan MacKinnon’s overall game lately. There are shifts here and there that he’s doing things but he hasn’t been consistently dominant like we know he can be. It’s hard being one of the best in the world but when you set the standard of excellence as high as he has, you can’t level off as he has. We saw more flashes tonight but the Avs aren’t the same when he keeps making himself easier to defend on the rush.
- Two games is obviously an insanely small sample but you have to like what the Avalanche have gotten out of Ryan Graves. There’s no doubt giving him a call was a better decision than continuing to run with the Lindholm or Alt experiments. Those have run their course. Graves has been a solid revelation for them and while Zadorov continues to heal up, Graves has stepped in and given them quality minutes. Nothing sexy but steady, reliable play goes a long way.
- Very quietly, I thought Tyson Barrie was excellent tonight. He was moving pucks well and doing his thing in transition but he also played solid defense overall. Chicago generated three high-danger chances for but Colorado generated seven with Barrie on the ice. His high-wire act was in full effect tonight. I love watching Barrie when he’s rocking and rolling.
- Unlike Colorado’s top pairing, which continues to drown in misery. Both Erik Johnson and Sam Girard have straight up ridden the struggle bus far too frequently recently. They’re not moving the puck well and they’re doing a downright terrible job of defending the front of their net. They’ve just been bad and their struggles have been hard to separate.
- Semyon Varlamov, good on you, sir. He got absolutely lit up for five straight starts, got pulled twice in that span, then got sick and has had to watch Philipp Grubauer stake a real claim to his job. So he responded by going out and stopping 34 of 37 shots on goal and played a pretty fantastic game overall. No way the Avalanche salvage even a point without him playing a very stout game.
- Colorado’s PK down two players was downright exhilarating. When Patrik Nemeth’s stick broke and Gabe Bourque gave him his, it made for tremendous theater. That’s the stuff you absolutely love sports for. Those huge moments with the game on the line and you have no idea what’s coming next. The roar of the sellout Pepsi Center crowd following the successful kill gave me actual goosebumps. What a fun moment we’ll all certainly forget because of the result of the game.
- That was an incredibly undisciplined and stupid penalty by Landeskog at the end of the game. Just a terrible decision.
- The non-call on what very clearly looked like a high-stick from Toews in OT when he batted the rebound out of the air is insane to me. The Avalanche never should’ve let this thing get to overtime but they undeniably got screwed on that call. I have no idea how four guys paid a lot of money to make difficult split-second decisions get an obvious one wrong. Just yikes.
- Colorado continues to find new and creative ways to lose in overtime. I have no idea what to do at this point but putting yourself in 2:48 of 4v3 hockey is a pretty good recipe for an OTL. And voila!
- What an incredibly disappointing finish to this calendar year from a team who looked like it might have turned the corner. Just downright disheartening.