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Been a while since we could dissect an actual victory for L’Avalanche du Colorado, but that’s what we get to do by god, after the Avs’ 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. This was obviously a much-needed win, as the Avs were 0-4-1 in the previous five and had fallen out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
- The Avs finally came out ready to play. They’ve had a lot of poor starts to games lately, but not tonight. Mikko Rantanen scored on the first shift, after some good pressure around the net from his linemates. Nice when you can start the game with a goal just 26 seconds in.
- Jared Bednar went back to Tyson Jost as a second-line center, with Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson, and the line played well. I think it’s key for Bednar that he keeps Jost and Kerfoot together from now on. No more dumping Jost down on a line with plumbers, no more Marko Dano experiments on the second line, etc. Keep these kids together and let something really take root.
- Kerfoot really played a fine game. He was fast and relentless with the puck. His third-effort goal that made it 3-0 in the second period was the backbreaker for the Oilers. He set Jost up with a great pass in the first period, but Jost lost control of it in front of the net.
- I liked what I saw from Vladislav Kamenev tonight. I think the kid can play some. I thought he looked soft and hesitant his first bunch of NHL games, but he’s learning to hold on to the puck longer in the offensive zone with good edges and by using his big body to fend off defenders more effectively.
- Guess who has the best plus-minus in the NHL among defensemen right now? If you guessed Tyson Barrie, you win. He’s now a plus-12. He got his first goal of the season in the second period, after a great pass by Rantanen. As AJ Haefele and I discussed on the podcast tonight, Ian Cole’s addition has really been good for Barrie. Cole has been just the right kind of defensive partner Barrie needs – someone who keeps the fort held down back in the defensive end, and also someone who gives Barrie easy outlets to get the puck out.
- What a great save by Semyon Varlamov midway through that third period on Leon Draisaitl, on an Oilers power play. Edmonton had just scored to make it 4-1, they get a power play on an iffy interference call on Gabe Landeskog against Connor McDavid, and Edmonton had a shot right on the doorstep after some pretty passing. Varlamov read it all the way, though, and made the stop that stopped in the womb any thoughts of an Oilers comeback.
- I think Erik Johnson looks more on his game again. He was good the other night in Winnipeg, for the most part, and very solid tonight.
- Gabriel Bourque just can’t finish anything offensively. It doesn’t help when he does things like take pucks behind the net after having chances alone in front, like he did in the second period. Bourque still hasn’t scored a goal on the season.
- Nathan MacKinnon was OK tonight, but he’s been driving me crazy a bit lately with too much puck-handling and overpassing, especially on the power play. He’s been set up a lot on the left circle for one-timers, but he keeps settling the puck and looking to pass instead. He’s got one of the best shots in the game – use it!
- Strong game from Carl Soderberg. Nice goal for Carl in that first period, to make it 2-0. Cam Talbot probably could have had it, but he’ll take it. Good, hard one-timer.
- I was surprised when Varlamov got the start. Obviously, Bednar still doesn’t trust Philipp Grubauer much right now, after that brutal performance last weekend against Vancouver. No doubt Grubauer will get plenty of other chances, but I thought he would start tonight.
- Milan Lucic, seriously, looks like the worst player in the NHL right now. And just think, Oilers fans, only four more years on his contract after this one.