The Colorado Avalanche finished up their five-game homestand with an embarrassing 4-2 loss to the terrible Buffalo Sabres. Not ideal.

How did each of the players grade out? Let’s look:

Sven Andrighetto (C-) – His fancies look okay thanks to some late-game desperation with him on the ice but he’s not finishing anything. His role on PP2 is unsettled and he seems hesitant to shoot unless he’s within 10 feet of the net. All confidence has been sapped from his game.

Tyson Barrie (D) – I beat up on Barrie last game for not attacking with the puck and tonight he certainly got back to doing more of that but it didn’t result in much. He had another assist but most of that was MacKinnon going beast mode and doing it on his own. Barrie is firing pucks at the net every night but hasn’t come close to scoring a goal of his own. He needs to regain that finishing touch.

Blake Comeau (C-) – Not a great night for the typically stable and reliable Soderberg line. Comeau was okay but his play on the PK was disappointing. While no goals were scored, Colorado’s forwards were slow closing on the puck and regularly gave Buffalo’s big shooters enough space to create dangerous scoring chances. The diving penalty he was called for was extremely questionable.

J.T. Compher (D) – Compher again showed he’s just a touch overmatched when played on a top line and given offensive expectations. He’s a crafty offensive player but he’s not finishing what’s being created by his linemates. Given the dominance of his two primary linemates, his offensive disappearing act was disappointing.

Samuel Girard (F) – Girard made some things happen, including a brilliant offensive play in the third that could have easily led to a goal, but he was a turnover machine tonight. His brutal giveaway led to Buffalo’s controversial second goal at the end of the second period and it was just one of many poor puck decisions on the evening.

Rocco Grimaldi (N) – Called up under the guise of bringing an offensive spark, I’m giving Grimaldi an ‘N’, as in “Not the spark the Avs were looking for”. He got put on the line of misfit toys next to Andrighetto and Wilson and the three showed zero chemistry at all. Grimaldi was predictably bad in his own zone and generated very little offensively. It’s fair to wonder, given how he was utilized, what the point of this was.

Erik Johnson (D) – I’d like to give Johnson a much stronger grade because I thought he did some things really well tonight. However, offensive production isn’t there despite nine shot attempts tonight. His decision to go swimming on his stomach above the faceoff circle on the SHG was inexcusable and flat out stupid hockey.

Tyson Jost (C) – The subject of much postgame conversation, Jost simply has not played well this season. Tonight was a continuation of that. His three shots on goal were nice but he wasn’t part of anything particularly dangerous offensively. That part of his game needs to start showing up more.

Alexander Kerfoot (D) – This was an easy F for Kerfoot but he had two assists so I can’t come down completely on him. He got destroyed at even strength and his turnover that led to Buffalo’s shorthanded goal was brutal and I have no idea what he was doing coming back to help. He tried to cover O’Reilly the same time Johnson was doing his swimming routine and it was a disaster. Just a nightmare all around for him.

Anton Lindholm (C+) – Another quietly effective game for Lindholm. He had 11 minutes of even strength ice time and Buffalo produced only six shots on goal. That’s respectable, especially considering the Avalanche had eight in that same time. He was physical, registering three hits, and he blocked two more shots.

Nathan MacKinnon (A+) – MacKinnon was everything for the Avalanche tonight. He scored both of their goals, narrowly missed a third, had seven shots on goal, absolutely annihilated Buffalo at even strength, won 10 of 16 faceoffs, bled like a bad ass and used adult language on live television during his postgame interview. I have no idea what more you could have wanted from him tonight.

Matt Nieto (F) – The exact opposite of MacKinnon. He created multiple quality scoring chances…for the Sabres. His role on that Soderberg line continues to be a source of frustration for me personally and his poor play tonight simply provided me with the confirmation bias to give him a failing grade.

Mikko Rantanen (C-) – I want to give Mikko a better grade but tonight seemed to reinforce the idea he’s the ultimate passenger next to MacKinnon. No. 29 created but Rantanen failed to finish. He did get an assist on MacKinnon’s first goal, which was nice, but you want to see more from him individually that stands out.

Carl Soderberg (C+) – I continue to like what Soderberg is bringing all-around and I believe his limited linemates are the main reason he isn’t scoring more at even strength. I hope Bednar takes better advantage of what Soderberg is bringing every night and provides him with a little more scoring ability on his wings soon.

Duncan Siemens (B) – Look, the expectations for Siemens are “don’t embarrass yourself” and outside of falling down with nobody around him one time, he accomplished exactly that. He wasn’t bad in his own end and he even rolled some fools in one shift. This was perfectly acceptable, especially in place of the turnover-prone Mark Barberio.

Colin Wilson (C) – Every night I watch Wilson and I see him do little things well, big things poorly, and somehow his fancy stats look solid. He’s an oddly effective enigma with very limited offensive upside. How in the world did this guy score 20 goals in a season once?

Semyon Varlamov (C-) – A tough night to grade because 31 saves on 34 shots certainly isn’t a bad goal but there are legitimate criticisms for Buffalo’s second and third goals. His reaction on the third goal still baffles me. How in the world did he read that puck so poorly?

Nail Yakupov (D) – More and more I don’t understand what Bednar is trying to get out of Yakupov. He’s tried playing him with plugs and gotten nothing. He’s played him with skill players and gotten nothing. There are nightly turnovers that made you question your sanity and then he rips a shot that misses by inches and clearly had the goaltender fooled. If hockey had a designated hitter, Yakupov would be it.

Nikita Zadorov (D) – Not a great night from Zadorov as he got obliterated at even strength, showed almost none of the offensive swagger we’ve seen from him recently, and he took a penalty early in the game. Of course, that penalty was beyond silly so I didn’t factor it into his grade. I just wanted to complain about Tim Peel’s unique interpretation of the rules some more.

Jared Bednar (D) – You asked for a coaching grade so here we go. The lineup was quite a bit different with three players coming in. Two of the three, Siemens and Wilson, were fine but the third, Grimaldi, was never put in a real position to do what he was brought up to do – provide offense. Bednar’s usage of both Grimaldi and Yakupov suggests he’s still focusing on a more risk-averse approach. His challenge on Buffalo’s second goal was the right decision and just a tough break for the Avalanche. His postgame comments about the Avs’ blueliners failing to get pucks through traffic seems to indicate their playing low-to-high to generate offense is by design, a disappointing approach given how very limited goal-scoring has been from Colorado’s defensemen so far this season.

The Avalanche hit the road for a very challenging road trip with their first stop being the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

AJ Haefele

This Aurora, Colorado native moved to Katy, Texas at a young age but found himself right back at home in 2009 and would begin covering the Avalanche a year later.

Before joining BSN Denver, A.J. had been writing for and briefly managed the popular Avalanche blog, Mile High Hockey. A.J. has been providing detailed practice reports, training camp coverage, and in-depth looks at the Avalanche and their divisional foes since 2010.

  • -9C

    That’s just a crazy grade on Girard. The off side play wasn’t great, but he tried to slip the puck to MacK, and it went by him toward the blue line. It wasn’t a brutal turnover, there were two Sabre players on him at the half boards, and he tried to nudge the puck to MacK. The sequence following the offside was poor defense by the Avs, and to me, much worse play than the turnover. Larson turns with the puck and there are 3 Avs, Barrie, MacK and Grimaldi, on him. 3 on 1! He gets the puck to Puliot in the slot who has turn away from Girard, and Barrie whiffs on the poke check and lets Puliot skate by, free to pass to McCabe, who throws a seeing eye shot on net, that goes in. The non communication by the Avs and poor fire drill defense contributed heavily to a long shot, fairly lucky goal. It wasn’t a direct turnover, with no pressure, that led to an easy shot on goal, like the Nieto turnover, earlier in the game.

    Girard made some nice plays, including a nice circle behind the net and feeding Barrie on a shot, and setting up other scoring chances. There was that nifty play in the 3rd, where he is near the blue line on the face off, and does his reverse move, which put the sabre player trying to defend him slipping into the boards. Girard then got the puck to the left side of the goalie for a nice chance for the Avs. If the Avs convert 3 of Girard’s nice passes, you’d be giving him an A. Overall, it was probably a C game for him, but he still looked really good skating out there, and in no way deserved an F grade, with plus corsi on the night and relative possession numbers decent.

    • AJ Haefele

      It was an avoidable turnover that changed the course of the game. The ensuing defense was also terrible but it wasn’t like that was the only mistake he made. He turned the puck over all night and for a guy who is going to make his bones in the NHL as a puck-mover, he has to make better decisions and execute at a much higher level. His ceiling is so much higher than he showed tonight and that was even with him making some nice passes along the way.

      He can look good skating all he wants but tonight was a significant step back in his puck management, which is his number one attribute as an NHL defenseman. That’s the thing that will determine how successful he is at the NHL level and tonight he simply wasn’t good enough. That little slap pass he made in the first could have easily turned into a goal just as much as that brilliant play he made in the third could’ve turned into an Avs goal. But there was a whole lot more of one of those types of plays tonight than the other and that’s why he got the grade he did.

      His possession numbers were fine but as a member of the losing team getting ice time late in the third, of course they pushed up over the positive hump. Barrie’s made a nice little recovery at the end because of the same thing. Get out there for a shift or two of a shooting gallery as a team hangs on to a one-goal lead and those numbers get distorted in a hurry.

      I expect more from Girard with the puck and that’s why I gave him the grade he did.

  • Av-a-dabba-doo

    Much agreement here regarding your assessments, with no big discrepancies with my own. To simplify: There was one and only one Av who shined (or even turned in a good game), that of course being Nathan MacKinnon (A). Elsewhere: Noticeably bad game for Girard, dipsy-doodling not withstanding (D+), as well as for blue line partner Johnson (agree w/your D). I’m also going to mention the ineffectiveness of Jost (your C is generous). Barrie and Rantanen looked like, um, Barrie and Rantanen of late. And painfully poor games by Nieto and Kerfoot. Beyond this, mere quibbles: I might persuaded to give Soda a B-, Varly a C, and Zads a C-, for example. Your grade for Siemens is quite kind (bless your heart). I’ll turn your “N” for Grimaldi into a C-. I’ll save my team thoughts for another article, perhaps.

    Thanks for being willing to try the coach-grading experiment. I didn’t see much that worked at all, and in fact did not see ‘much’, period. And ultimately a coach is judged by the product put forth on the ice. Not much to like in this one in that regard.

    BTW, speaking of quibbles (tee-hee): Assuming you want the above list of personnel to appear in alphabetical order (except for Bednar), I guess we’d want Siemens before Soderberg, and Varlamov before Wilson, right? (wink)

    • AJ Haefele

      I’ll be honest here. I completely forgot to grade those guys and realized after I had finished there was no Wilson or Siemens and so I just tossed them in. Lol.

      • Av-a-dabba-doo

        Your honesty just turned a negative into a positive in my book. 🙂

  • MikeL

    Rants probably deserves an F because he’s playing so far beneath his ability. The whole team looked like they had something else on their minds. Even worse than against Dallas.

  • Charlie Anderson

    I totally agree with all the observations and grades here, except Compher deserves better than a D, it’s not his fault he’s being played as a first line winger. Rants and Jost look like they need to spend some time in the AHL, maybe Kerfoot too. I got no clue who they could be replaced by though. Maybe some of the Blues prospects? I wonder why Greer hasn’t been seen or discussed since Landy’s absence? At least it is starting to look like we’re going to have a legitimate shot at Rasmus Dahleen.

  • Michael Jeary

    Love the Bednar grades finally coming. He, imo, has been far below average all season long. He rarely adjusts systems in time to counter the opposing coach. Its a game of chess and even if we have the better pieces out there, they can only do so much if the chessmaster puts them in the wrong places.