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The term “scheduled loss” gets thrown around a little loosely from hockey fans but tonight was the very definition of a game the Avalanche would be expected to lose given the circumstances coming in. Fresh off their frustrating overtime loss in St. Louis last night, they headed home to take on a Dallas Stars team that has been in Denver for a day waiting for them with fresh legs.
Colorado responded with a blistering first period in which they scored two goals in the first eight minutes before things got downright controversial. The Avalanche scored two more goals to make it 3-0 but both goals were called back after Dallas challenged for goaltender interference. Colorado STILL managed to make it 3-0, for realsies this time, before the end of a dominant first period.
The second period was all Dallas, however, and they brought the game to 3-2 before a Mikko Rantanen missile made it 4-2.
A slow-paced third period saw the Stars climb their way back to even at 4-4 but just like the last time the Stars were in Denver, the Avalanche responded with some goals of their own to win it 6-4. Given the way last night unfolded against the Blues, this was a pretty impressive response overall despite the warts. The Avalanche moved to six points ahead of Minnesota and six ahead of Dallas for third place in the Central Division.
Takeaways from the game
- Colorado’s first period was about as well as I’ve seen them play this season. Scoring five goals and putting 22 shots on goal is how they respond to the loss last night? That alone should be extremely encouraging for Avalanche fans, especially the ones who for some reason still believe this team is destined to collapse.
- I’ll start with some of the bad and then get to the good. Semyon Varlamov. What the hell? The first Stars goal gave them all kinds of energy and shouldn’t be scored against any NHL goaltender. Given his recent form, there’s no way he gets the benefit of the doubt. And while two of the Stars’ goals were scored with him flailing around on the ice and with his own defensemen draped all over him, he still doesn’t get any leeway. The guy just hasn’t been good enough lately. The back-to-back and Grubauer’s lackluster play forced Bednar’s hand in playing Varlamov tonight but I think he should sit the next few games until next week’s back-to-back.
- This current iteration of Colorado’s fourth line has to go. Colin Wilson isn’t a center in the NHL, something the Predators discovered eight years ago, and this island of misfit toy ensemble with Bourque and Greer is harmful in multiple ways. It’s a total waste of Wilson, who has actually been a sneaky solid contributor for the Avs this year, it’s a waste of what should be an extended trial run for Greer proving his worth in the NHL, and it includes a player in Bourque whose complete lack of offensive contribution negates whatever minimal gains their mediocre penalty kill gets from his presence. This one isn’t hard. Call up a real center from the Eagles (Beaudin?) and flank him with Greer and Wilson. Problem solved.
- J.T. Compher was clearly boarded tonight and disappeared down the tunnel, presumably for concussion protocol after his head was slammed hard into the boards. He returned later in the game but this is a situation to monitor moving forward given he already missed significant time with concussion issues.
- The defense again looked a bit leaky in the second half of the game but I think fatigue was a much bigger factor in tonight’s issues than anything else.
- Now to the good stuff. Colorado’s top line…back in form. A night after a pretty mediocre overall showing (despite registering 20 SOG), they put another 17 on goal but tonight a whole bunch of them went in. MacKinnon had four points, Rantanen three, and Landeskog two. They scored five of the six goals from the Avalanche tonight.
- I really loved what I saw from both Zadorov and Nemeth tonight. They were both physical and Nemeth in particular stymied multiple scoring chances that could have been really dangerous. Zadorov had every right to be frustrated when he was rushing the puck and was blatantly slashed on the hands given that is the exact kind of penalty he gets regularly called for. As much as he is a roller coaster of a player, he gets absolutely no help from officials. I’m not sure how a player goes about trying to turn that kind of trend around.
- He was terrible last night so the bar was pretty low but I thought Tyson Barrie was significantly better tonight. Still not up to his normal level but a marked improvement over the embarrassing display against the Blues.
- Boy was that a big moment for Erik Johnson. He has struggled to provide much on offense and his shot that was tipped by Landeskog for the game-winning goal was a huge lift for a player who really needed one. With Girard’s emergence and Barrie’s continued offensive dominance, Johnson’s role has shifted much more to a defensive one and it’s shocking to see him under 20 minutes tonight. He still led all Avalanche players in shifts but his shift length is so short at just 40 seconds, which is closer to that of a fourth line forward than a top defender.
- Colorado very quietly won the faceoff battle again tonight. At one point they were in the bottom of the league by a country mile, barely sitting above 40% in the faceoff circle. They have climbed all the way out of the basement and up to 28th with a 47.4% average.
Player quotes from quote sheet
Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog
On The Avs’ Two Disallowed Goals: “I mean, it kills our momentum a little bit. We came out and scored
two quick goals and we were kind of rolling all over them. And then obviously the first one, it is what it
is, we were able to keep going and that second one kind of kills momentum a little bit, kills the building
and the energy and things like that. It’s hard because it does kind of slow the game down, but we were
able to regroup and come out and play a strong end of the game.”
On The Team’s Confidence: “That’s important. That’s what builds a strong team and what builds
character is how you fight through a late comeback like they had tonight. It’s important for the group
to realize that you need to keep playing and you can’t just let your heads hang low just because they
score a couple quick goals. So, nonetheless, it’s two big points for us and a lot of character. You know,
there’s things we obviously want to get better at and clean up, but there’s always going to be some.”
Colorado RW Mikko Rantanen
On The Team’s Confidence: “I don’t think there’s anybody that didn’t believe we could win [tonight].
Parts of the game we were really dominant and some parts we were a little bit sloppy. They cost us
right away, like in the third and second period, so I think everybody was still believing we could do it.”
On The Power Play: “We had a meeting before the game about the power play because it hasn’t been
that good lately, so we wanted to bounce back. I think we were outworking them, outshooting them
and putting pucks to the net, so I think that’s a big thing.”
Colorado C Nathan MacKinnon
On Tonight’s Game: “We were really great early in the game. It’s unfortunate that we let them come
back, but Gabe (Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog) had a big goal to get us ahead again. It’s obviously
nice to end that.”
On The Third Period: “We were confident. We let them back in it to make it 4-4, but it’s encouraging.
It’s kind of like last time we played them, we won it late. It’d be nice to just close them out earlier than
what we did, but it was nice to end the losing streak.”