The Avs managed to exorcise a few demons in the space of 14 minutes at the end of last night’s 4-3 win over detroit. They played down to the level of a team behind them in the standings and won anyway. They gave up late goals, twice, and came back instead of folding. They got a power play goal when they really really needed one. Most of all, they finally won a game in overtime without the man advantage. For now at least, the curse seems to be lifted.
Sheldon Dries swapped back in for Gabe Bourque and that was the only skater change. The forward lines did go through some big changes, regressing back to the top line plus a bunch of guys. Varly returned to the net after the day off vs Anaheim.
Scratch: Graves, Bourque, Nieto (LBI), Barberio (LBI)
Injured: Kamenev (shoulder)
The Avs started out with some strong shifts but the energy was short-lived. The wings speed overcame the Avs plodding pace and they controlled the rest of the 1st, gaining a goal 2 seconds after a PP expired. Colorado gained some momentum from a carryover PP and took control of the 2nd period. JT Compher tied the game up on the way to a nice 12-2 run, then the wings took over again eventually trapping the Avs in the d-zone and earning another power play. Then things got a little weird. The Avs went on a quick run to end the 2nd which continued over intermission but it ended in a detroit score thanks to a truly awful line change. Colorado folded up after that with several bad shifts but Mack drew a penalty and the 1st PP unit miraculously tied the game. Both teams shelled up for the next 8 minutes until yet another unforgivable line change turned into a too much man call and eventually the go-ahead goal for the wings. This time there was some resiliency as Tyson Barrie put everything he had into a slapshot from the point to once again tie it up. Overtime ensued, chances were swapped and finally we got our first Avalanche 3v3 goal of the season. Thanks Nate!
Tale of the tape at 5v5 was +40/-38 and shots in all situations heavily favored the Avs 34-23. As has been the case often this year, scoring chances were even and high-danger chances favored detroit 11-7. Game pace at 5v5 was a glacial 94 per hour, highlighted by a mind-numbing 3rd period where both teams combined for 25 shot attempts in 17:40.
The power play rejoined the living with it’s first meaningful goal in weeks and went 1-for-3 on the evening. The PK stopped 2 of 3 chances but that’s misleading since the wings first goal for all intents and purposes was a 5v4 deal. Both of those shots were tipped past Varly by Avs defenders, making 3 out of the last 5 goals against caused by friendly fire.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Landy, Mikko, Carl, Wilson and Compher. In all situations it was Mack (24:35), Landy, Mikko, Carl, Compher and Wilson (15:11) in very top-heavy usage. Sheldon Dries was low man at 7:26 and just over 5 minutes at even strength. Mikko was spotted at the x-ray room after the game for unknown reasons. There’s nothing in his shift chart indicating missed time, although he did go awkwardly into the boards at one point. He also spoke with the media after the game which would be odd if there was something serious going on.
The defensive regime at 5v5 went Sam, EJ, Barrie, then a gap down to Nemeth and Cole then Z. Overall it went Sam (23), EJ (22+), Barrie (22+), Cole (17+), Nemeth (16+) and Big Z (15+). Z went into the boards hard after a rapid zone entry and came up holding his arm. He went to the room but returned soon after and finished the game taking regular shifts. Stay tuned.
– Let’s start with a couple positives here because overall there was a lot not to like about this game other than the outcome. First and foremost, getting the overtime monkey off everyone’s back was a big deal. Great job by Mack to seal the deal and thank goodness that went in because the wings had an easy breakaway going the other way if he missed. Second, it was good to see Tyson Barrie have a big night. He’s been down in TOI lately and not producing at his usual rate. He scored what might have been a bigger goal than even Mack’s OT thriller to get the Avs back in the game and assisted on Mikko’s PPG. Also played some sneaky good defense too.
– The PK has atavisticly regressed to what it was a month ago before the Toronto game forced some much needed changes. They aren’t attacking the puck carrier anymore and often collapse into a tight formation surrounding the crease. Matt Calvert, Sheldon Dries and Ian Cole have all tipped pucks past the Avs goalies over the past two games, that’s 3 out of 5 goals against in that time. STOP IT. There’s a lot of confirmation bias going around that this coincides with Ian Cole’s return to the lineup (along with the changes taking effect when he left) and there’s a legitimate concern there. He’s a shot-blocker and with him back in the lineup shot blocking rather than puck pressuring seems to be the tendency. What we don’t know is if this is something the staff wants, something he directs the other guys to do on the PK or something unrelated. Whatever it is, it’s once again made the penalty kill bad and ineffective, and this is only what we’ve seen against bad teams. If they try this out vs actual good teams they’re going to get murdered.
– I’m not a fan of the top-heavy lineup. It’s been largely ineffective for most of the season and we saw great strides made by the team when the talent was spread out. Here’s a look at the 4 lines last night:
The top line matched up against the wingys top line. Carl’s line played against the wingys middle 6, mainly in defensive situations. Brassard’s line also matched against the middle 6 but with less TOI and in more offensive situations. The 4th played against the 4th. Pretty stock stuff.
The top line held their own but that’s basically a loss against a weak team. Carl’s line got buried in shot share but actually was a plus in SOGs and had the only 5v5 goal. Brass’s line was sheltered and very low event, that’s probably a matchup that the staff was looking for a win on the scoreboard from but it generally came up lame. The 4th was ineffective even when Mack took Dries’ spot and got buried by themselves. Laugh all you want about the Avs 4th line making a difference but all 3 of the guys they sent to the AHL scored points when they were in the lineup and now that’s gone. One goal doesn’t sound like much until you really need one and the Avs have gone to overtime thrice since they sent the kids down.
– Some will glance at the “.870” next to Varly’s name for this game and wrongly assume that he had a bad evening. He did not. All 3 goals against were inflicted by failures in front of him. This has been happening all year and he and Grubi are always given the blame somehow.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) Yes!
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (-) zilch in either category
– Power Play Watchability gets a (+) throw in the 6v5 too
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (-) turtling for the wrong reasons, not good
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) numbers say otherwise but a good night again
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (-) A little inconsistent but compared to many recent games a fine job.
A trip to Dallas with the season hanging in the balance
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals