Avs-Sabres Grades – Embarrassment

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.

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