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Why are the Avs rejuvenated? It all starts in goal

AJ Haefele Avatar
February 23, 2019

After the process dominating the results for a while and goaltending being the primary face of their issues, the Avalanche rolled into Chicago tonight and flipped the script. In what was their worst defensive showing in quite a while, Semyon Varlamov once again owned the United Center.

Varlamov’s stellar performance continues a strong run from him as his resurgence has lined up with Colorado finding some wins lately. He held strong tonight despite the Avalanche getting buried defensively and was, simply put, the man en route to stopping 41 of 44 shots on goal.

It was one of those high-intensity games that felt like a must-win between two teams jockeying for the same playoff spot. These are the games late in the season teams have to find ways to win and Colorado once again worked their way to two points. The way they got there, however, was something else.

Carl Soderberg started and finished the scoring for Colorado with goals one and five, the fifth being a short-handed empty-net goal. The man they call ‘Carl’ found himself alone after Patrik Nemeth and Matt Calvert won puck battles along the way and chipped the puck into the neutral zone for Soderberg to go pad some stats and put the dagger into the home Blackhawks. The assist was Nemeth’s second of the night.

His first assist was something you almost never see from him as he corralled a failed slap-pass from Slater Koekkek and hit J.T. Compher with a perfect stretch pass. Compher found himself alone on the breakaway and buried his chance for his second goal of the night and what was the game-winning goal. He had previously scored a power-play goal in the second period.

Colorado was able to fight through giving up three separate one-goal leads as they led 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 before finally putting away a resilient Chicago team with Compher’s fourth goal.

The challenging two-game road trip is already a success with the regulation win but could become a huge boon if they find a way to a win tomorrow afternoon against the Nashville Predators, who are off today. The Avalanche travel tonight from Chicago to Nashville but have a very quick turnaround.

Takeaways from the game

  • Let’s just talk about the officiating right off the top here because I know it’s a topic of conversation after that third period. The stuff between Jost and Kane was ridiculous. That’s the kind of sequence where you wish you could ask an official, who watched the entire thing unfold, what he’s thinking there and why one is a penalty and the other isn’t. The call on Rantanen was soft but 96 has to be smarter than that in that situation. He’s one of the most penalized players in the NHL this year and he badly needs to cut down on those mistakes.
  • From officiating to special teams. Colorado’s PK looked really solid the last couple of games and then they got rolled again tonight. This is a power play unit that badly needs to find some confidence because there have been too many games where this group just isn’t competitive when they’re playing five versus four. The PK was too soft again tonight, as well.
  • Semyon Varlamov is once again the man for the Colorado Avalanche. They tried to prepare for the future with Philipp Grubauer but it hasn’t worked that way and just like he did last year, Varlamov is using February as a springboard to backstopping the Avalanche potentially to another postseason appearance.
  • This was a huge regular season win for Colorado. I just felt the need to say it again.
  • This was the worst defensive performance from the Avalanche at even strength in quite a while. They were just porous with missed assignments and blown coverages throughout the game. Look at the Kane goal and you’ll see all five guys on the ice did something avoidably dumb. You can’t ask your goaltender to continue to bail you out there.
  • In a huge game where stars from each team showed up, it sure felt odd for Nathan MacKinnon not to show up on the score sheet. That said, he had six shots on goal and was dangerous at even strength throughout the game. There were some very iffy moments from him on the PP where he almost looks apathetic but I think the line changes have forced him to elevate his play where he’s back to being the man on his line and not feeling like he can defer as much to Rantanen and Landeskog. That’s changed his mentality a bit and I think we see the difference with a more aggressive overall approach.
  • The Avalanche are going to have an interesting choice to make when Colin Wilson gets healthy. It’s normal to pull from the fourth line and go from there but that line has been so effective recently that I think the Avs might be better served to leave it alone right now. Sven Andrighetto would have seemed an obvious candidate to get replaced but he had another point tonight and has four in his last five games. Definitely going to be interesting.
  • I don’t often comment on opposing teams here because y’all are here for the Avs stuff but I do have a thought or two on Chicago. They’ve been riding quite a crazy wave lately but watching them lately and again tonight, it’s really obvious to me Patrick Kane is the engine of that team. He had 13 shots on goal tonight (!!) but the Blackhawks offense seemed downright stagnant when he wasn’t involved in things. If he slows down even a little bit and their goaltending continues to come down off the mountain Delia had put built earlier this year, that’s still a very deeply flawed group. They played a hell of a game tonight but they sure look like they’re on shaky ground to me. They can’t afford any slippage from Kane.


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