Breaking Down: Avs/Sabres, Game 55

The Avs won a game on the road finally but it wasn’t pretty. As we’ve seen all year, getting off to a quick start is key and Nikita Zadorov’s 150′ outlet pass to Colin Wilson created a lightning strike that caught the hapless Buffalo D unaware and 43 seconds in it was 1-0 good guys. 59 minutes of comedy and tragedy later they got a badly needed 2 points.

Team Stats

More than a third of this game was played on special teams or empty-net so there was no 5v5 rhythm whatsoever. For what it’s worth, 3 of the Avs 5 goals were at even strength and none of the 4 that the Swords put in. That’s the sum total of positive statistics about this contest. Other than that they ended up a +26/-38 or 47% once adjusted for score and venue. Scoring chances, both dangerous and overall, were 2:1 for the Swords. Frankly they were lucky they were playing one of the league’s doormats and not a competent squad.

The PK did their job and has been one of the few things the staff haven’t had to worry about lately, even with Blake Comeau out. Stopped 4/5 and the only goal against came basically via score effects in the 3rd.

The power play is such a mess now, it’s absolutely terrifying to watch. They gave up 2 shorties last night while tallying their first PPG in several games (still 1 for last 15 though). Overall they have 40 PPGs on the season in 206 chances, good for 19.4% and 18th in the league. Factor in the 10 SHG against (worst in the NHL) and they are a net 30 for 206, so it’s more like a 14.6 rate which is still a lot better than last year. I think the players deserve blame for being too casual with the puck and not creating scoring chances with any regularity but coach Ray Bennett deserves some scrutiny here too. You can argue any gains over Tim Army’s disaster last year have to do with personnel, mainly Mack, more than any system changes. Just about every team’s fans hate their power play but there’s something going on here beyond the eye test.

TOI

The defensive regime went Z, EJ, Nemeth, Barrie, Lindholm, Girard at 5v5 and EJ, Nemeth, Barrie, Z, Lindy, Girard overall. Interesting to note that Zadorov was 4th in PK time and far off from EJ/Nemeth. Something’s up with his usage lately, he played very little against Carolina too.

By 5v5 time, the Compher line was 1st with Kerfoot’s line 2nd. Top 6 in overall time were Compher, Mikko, Jost, Carl, Landy and Nieto. AJ Greer was low man at just over 6 minutes over 9 total shifts. Nice to see Dominic Toninato get 3 PK shifts with Comeau out, he’s slowly gaining the trust of the staff.

Individual

– Colin Wilson had a nice game offensively, starting things off with a great reception on Z’s hail mary and turning it into an Alex Kerffot goal. He also scored his 100th NHL goal later in the game. A couple of the usual d-zone and puck handling mistakes tarnished his overall performance but this is what you want to see from Wilson overall.

– Sam Girard is going through another rough period like he had in December. His decision-making has been poor for a few games and the confidence with the puck has eroded somewhat. I’m glad the Avs can let him work through it on the ice, although it would be nice to get him away from Patrik Nemeth who has the gift for cratering anyone’s stats.

– The Jost/Compher/Rantanen line didn’t show up on the scoreboard, except for Jost’s fantastic PPG, but they played top minutes often against Buffalo’s O’Reilly line and effectively won that battle other than JTC getting destroyed in the faceoff circle. I expect Mikko to go back to Mack’s line when he returns but the 2 rookies are learning important lessons on how to take on tough minutes when they need to.

– You can look at Jonathan Bernier’s 4 goals against and say it was a scruffy performance but it really wasn’t. He was perfect at 5v5 and only got beat on a PPG, a 5v6 and getting hung out to dry twice by the ghastly power play units. Interesting goalie battle we have going on here.

Burgundy Narrative Metric

– “Best guys being your best guys” gets an (even) Wilson with a big night and Gabe Bourque with the GWG, depth was served
– Corsi gets a (-) but I’m not reading much into it since it was less than 40 minutes of 5v5 time
– Power Play gets a (-) even though they scored they were -1, fix this now
– Turtle gets a (-) although I’m sure it really was one. Didn’t look like one
– Varly% gets a (n/a) but Berns did his job
Referee Oppression Index gets a (-) I guess it’s not their fault there were two struggling teams playing sloppy hockey out there but calling 10 minors is never a great idea.

Total: -1¾

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The Avs are back home in Denver where we await the latest injury news on Nate, Comeau & others. St Valentine’s Day match coming up Wednesday vs the Habs.

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