The Avs and Sabres have run a fairly similar course through the season, both riding high around the 1st of December and both falling off a cliff since. Coming into the matchup the Avs had won 15 games since November 27th and the Sabres just 13. Luckily for us, Colorado grabbed the bull by the horns and dominated the game, giving Grubi an easy 3-0 shutout on just 18 saves.
The bad news came down Friday that Captain Gabe will be lost for the regular season in all likelihood, joining Matt Nieto and Vlad Kamenev in that regard. The good news is that Big Z has made a recovery from whatever broke vs detroit. Happy days. Sheldon Dries was optioned back to the Eagles on Friday. Grubi got the start, maybe he’s the weekend guy now.
Scratch: Graves, Barberio (LBI), Landeskog (UBI), Nieto (LBI)
Injured: Kamenev (shoulder)
The chart pretty much tells the story here. The Avs had the puck all afternoon and the Swords did not. Buffalo struggled to even get consecutive shots on net much less go on a run. Before pulling the goalie the best they managed was a 4 shot run toward the middle of the 3rd period. Stunning performance by the Avs in their own zone and in the neutral zone, you’d swear it was a different bunch of players than the ones that could do nothing vs Dallas on Thursday.
Tale of the tape was a +61/-31 at 5v5 and shots in all situations were 43-18. The Avs only developed 9 high-danger chances on the day, shot 7% and until Mikko put them up 2-0 the thought of blowing it was definitely on the table. Game pace at 5v5 was a pedestrian 109 per hour but that’s mainly from the Sabres never shooting and the Avs not having to.
The power play got one on a 4v3 and finished 1-for-3. The PK stopped the single chance they had.
Top 6 forwards at 5v5 were Mack, Brassard, Mikko, Wilson, Soderberg, Compher. Overall it was Mack (22:23), Mikko, Brass, Carl, Compher and Wilson (16:53). Aggz was low man at 7:52 but the 4th had plenty of shifts. Both Mikko and Carl took vicious head shots but didn’t seem to miss any time.
The defensive regime went Z, Barrie, Cole, Sam, EJ, Nemeth. In all situations it was Barrie (21+), Z (19+), Sam (19+), EJ (19), Cole (18+) and Nemo (16+). Very even usage.
For the first time since the win against Nashville right before the deadline, the staff went against the top-heavy lineup and surprise, it worked great. It’s become obvious to this observer that when Mack and Mikko are split up it leverages their talent and makes the whole lineup more balanced and effective. Why we had to go through a 2-4-1 stretch and an injury to Gabe Landeskog to return to this proven winning strategy I can’t even imagine. It really makes you wonder about how the staff evaluates what happens on a game by game basis and what goes into their lineup decisions.
I love when we get to see Mack do something incredible. His goal was a confluence of talent with him coming out on top. He started out with the puck outside the offensive zone, got crosschecked from behind by Jack Eichel, got back up and continued. Gaining the zone, he undressed Rasmus Dahlin and blew a snapshot top corner over Carter Hutton’s glove. Teams make it a point not to let him have space and time but he doesn’t need much and there are times when no one can stop him.
While Mack uses brute strength and speed to do his work, Mikko might have one of the most dangerously accurate shots in the NHL. His goal was something we’ve seen several times this year. All alone, staring into the goalie’s eyes and fires the puck right by him into an incredibly small opening. Stunning. That was his 30th goal, first time in his young career he’s hit that milestone and won’t be the last.
Grubi’s hitting his stride lately. In his last 4 games (which includes the 5 minute relief appearance vs Dallas while Varly’s skate was being repaired) he’s stopped 80 of 82 for a .976 save percentage and shutouts vs Nashville and Buffalo. Hot stuff.
Burgundy Narrative Metric
– “Best guys being your best guys” gets a (+) Damn right
– Quality vs Quantity gets a (+) Plenty of quantity, not much quality however
– Power Play Watchability gets a (-) yay for 4v3 goal but the normal PP was the usual
– The Dreaded Turtle gets a (+) no turtle until the goalie was pulled so thumbs up
– Starting Goalie Battle% gets a (+) 2 shutouts for Grubi in 3 games, nice
– Referee Oppression Index gets a (-) These guys were letting everything go and took it a little far in my opinion. The head shots on Mikko and Carl plus the constant 3rd man in garbage from Buffalo should have had some repercussions.
The jerks from North Carolina come to town on Monday night
Thanks as always to the NHL and Natural Stat Trick for numbers and visuals