The Colorado Avalanche brought thrills, chills, and excitement to their fan base this past week. A thrilling thumping of the Washington Capitals, a chilling loss to the Nashville Predators and a frenzied overtime win against the hated Detroit Red Wings provide plenty of grist for the American Thanksgiving breakdown of the Good, Bad and Ugly from the Avalanche’s past week.
1. The Colorado Avalanche beat the Detroit Red Wings on the road in Little Caesar’s Arena, playing like they earned every point! Does anything else really matter? Happy Thanksgiving and see you next week!
Okay, some other good things did happen which might be worth mentioning. Sigh.
2. The Colorado Avalanche won two of their last three games and split on the road. Coming off the loss and overtime loss in Sweden, and the big trade of their number two center, that’s good. Add in they matched up against three of the top four NHL teams in penalty minutes, it’s impressive.
3. Colorado stands one point out of the Wild Card race with a game to play before Thanksgiving. A win Wednesday night would put them firmly in a Wild Card slot, which is significant as over 75% of teams in contention for the postseason at Thanksgiving make it to the playoffs. Considering all but four teams have played more games than the Avalanche, some as many as three and four more, Colorado’s points are significant. Yeah, it may be a long shot, but it’s nice to see the daylight on the horizon.
4. The NHL named Alternate Captain Nathan MacKinnon the third star of the week. Considering he tallied seven points in three games, including a five-point night against the Washington Capitals (a career high) and the game-winning overtime goal against Detroit, he earned the recognition. For the month of November, Big MacK has racked up 14 points in eight games. He leads the team with 22 points and is tied for 15th in the NHL for total points. He should get whatever pie he wants this week. And whipped cream.
5. Hats off to Captain Gabriel Landeskog who earned his first ever NHL hat trick against the Capitals! Way to lead the way! Landeskog leads the team with eight goals scored and his two-way play has been outstanding. The Captain truly is leading by example. A four-point week is nothing to sneeze at.
6. Alternate Captain Erik Johnson finally earned his first goal of the season against the Detroit Red Wings, the first Avalanche marker of the matchup, evening the score. The defenseman had a two-point night and logged a record high 30:48 minutes on ice. Johnson has led by example, playing a responsible defensive game and pinching up to support the attack. Keep up the good work and may you relish a big heaping pile of mashed potatoes and gravy on your day off!
7. Newly acquired rookie defenseman Sam Girard exemplifies all that’s right about this year’s Avalanche team. He notched another assist this past week and has played surprisingly good hockey, logging first pairing minutes second only to Johnson for ice time. He has been excellent at boxing out players moving into the Avalanche zone as well as adding some offensive pop, effectively moving the puck through the neutral zone to set up offensive zone pressure. Who could ask for more? He’s like the brown sugar covered sweet potatoes, nutritious AND fun.
8. Congratulations to Andrei Mironov, the Russian rookie defenseman who speaks little English yet managed to get his first NHL goal as well as an assist, in the matchup against the Predators, no less. In a painful game to watch, he was one of the surprising bright spots. May it be the first of many good nights for the rookie!
9. Speaking of the Nashville game, it’s worth noting the Colorado players earning points in the contest are representative of the team’s youth movement – Alexander Kerfoot got two assists, Mironov secured a goal and an assist, J.T. Compher scored the second goal and Nikita Zadorov earned an assist. The oldest players of the group – 23.
10. The Avalanche outshot their opponents 96 to 78 for the week. Colorado also ranks fifth in the NHL for average goals scored per game at 3.42. Unlike last year, the Avalanche look great at home, racking up a 6-1-1 record. Considering they are among the teams with the fewest home games so far, that bodes well for the future. Last year, the Avalanche didn’t reach 21 points and 10 wins until December 8, after playing 25 games. Reaching those markers in 19 games by November 19 show improvement. Let all the angels sing – and fans too!
11. Welcome rookie center Dominic Toninato who notched his first NHL assist on Johnson’s goal against Detroit. Even though he took a tough hit against the Predators, he returned to the ice to play effectively in the second and third period, his debut matchup with the Avalanche. In his 10 minutes of ice time in each of his first two games, he has won 52.9% of his face-offs. While the sample size is small, it’s promising. Let’s get him the good cranberry sauce, not the kind out of a can looking like can-shaped jello.
12. Among Colorado players who have taken more than 100 face-offs, J.T. Compher leads the way, winning 50.4% of his matchups. One can imagine the only people more anxious for Compher to recover from his broken thumb are his coaches, who could really go for more wins in the face-off circle. He’s also averaging 20 shifts per night, still with the cast. What aids healing? Maybe some good stuffing, the kind that’s cooked in the turkey and is saturated in all those delicious juices. He’s definitely showing grit.
13. When Landeskog scored on the penalty shot, it was the first time in his career and the first time the Avalanche scored on one since March of 2010. That’s like, two kinds of pies good, and maybe the good eggnog with lots of spirits in it good.
14. Alexander Kerfoot’s seven goals puts him in a second-place tie for goals scored by rookies. He’s also second on the Avalanche (behind Landeskog). He ranks fifth among all rookies with 15 points this season, only one point behind former Avalanche draft pick Will Butcher and tied for fourth place among Avalanche players.
THE BAD (aside from the Red Wings)
1. The Avalanche lost in disappointing fashion to the Nashville Predators. But since they actually outshot the Predators, didn’t stop skating, scored twice in the last five minutes of the matchup, and subsequently beat the dead things, let’s not dwell on it.
2. Colorado’s special teams need work. They scored on only three of 19 power play opportunities the last week and surrendered four goals in 12 short-handed situations.
3. Avalanche goaltending ranks among the lowest in the league with a combined .895 save percent between both Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier. Only five other teams have a lower save rating. Colorado places fifth worst for goals against average, allowing an average of 3.39 goals per game. It’s good the team can score, but they shouldn’t need to score four or more goals every game to win. Maybe the goaltenders need some extra helpings of turkey so they have more protein power or an extra slice of pie, so they run on a sugar high. Either way, a little improvement in the net could help translate into a couple more wins. And that could make a huge difference down the road.
1. The Detroit Red Wings. Followed by the Minnesota Wild. ‘Nuff said.
2. Okay, who put the bounty out on the Avalanche’s rookies? Vladislav Kamenev, in his first game with the Avalanche, gets flattened in an open-ice hit by the Capitals’ Brooks Orpik, who looks like he led with his shoulder, dropping the rookie to the ice with a broken forearm. Although many think it was a legal hit, Landeskog was suspended for a very similar hit two years ago. Then the Predator’s Austin Watson levels a vicious check from behind on Dominic Toninato in his first game, sending him to the locker room for the rest of the period. Watson subsequently received a two-game suspension for boarding and Toninato eventually returned to the ice. But the question remains, is it a coincidence both players received such vicious hits in their first Avalanche games? Hopefully, Orpik and Watson get the old, disgusting eggnog at Thanksgiving. They earned it.
3. As seems a constant, the officiating has been consistently inconsistent. Someone in the NHL office must have it out for Zadorov as they have now called TWO of his goals back. The last one for a questionable goaltender interference call which, if that’s really the NHL ruling, should have gone Colorado’s way and disallowed their opponents’ tallies in at least two other matchups this year. And hey, since when is a forecheck cross-checking? If that’s the standard, there’s going to be a whistle every play.
As for the bogus offsides call on Blake Comeau in Detroit, how can the NHL have actually reviewed the play, watched the video and ended up with an offsides call? It’s starting to look like if the call involves the Avalanche, it’s going to an opponent. The officials either need a really bountiful Thanksgiving gift basket to sweeten their disposition towards the Avalanche or a big flaming pile of poo. It could go either way.
4. Penalties have been an issue in the last week. There were 19 penalties assessed in the matchup with the Capitals (the referees still missed a good game), 12 in the Nashville mess, a game which we’ll say “never happened”, and only nine in the Detroit game (is that a record low for an Avalanche vs. Red Wing contest?). Again, consistency would be nice. The officials missed blatant dangerous plays in favor of odd slashing and offsides rulings. How sticks to the face, plays that draw blood, concussions, and injured players don’t get calls boggles the imagination. But by all means, let’s keep throwing guys out of the face-off circle for chirping their opponent. That’ll protect the game.
5. Injuries continue to shadow the Avalanche. Kamenev is out indefinitely after only four minutes of play for a broken arm, Barrie missed the Washington game with an injury, Patrik Nemeth is out indefinitely and Anton Lindholm finally suited up for his first practice in a regular jersey today. The good news concerns Tyson Jost, who has recovered enough to go to the San Antonio Rampage for a few games before an expected recall.
1. The Avalanche will have played six of their 11 back-to-back games by the end of this week, playing in four back-to-backs in the month of November. This goes into the category of good, bad AND ugly. Colorado will have finished off over half of those in their first two months of play, leaving them only one back-to-back a month from now on – which is – good. For a team building it’s identity, though, having to play that many back to backs at the start of the season is just – bad, especially since their record is 4-5-1 in those games. Having four such matchups in one month is just – ugly. What kind of bet did the Avalanche lose to end up with such a grueling start to the season? Fruitcake gift baskets to the NHL schedulers!
2. The Avalanche, who at one point last year had only one American on the team, now have five. The USHL has done wondrous things developing talent. But the Avalanche have been diversifying their player group, becoming a truly international team. For a group that was primarily Canadian – still a majority of nine guys, they also have five Russians, four Swedes, and one each from Finland and Switzerland.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Jeff Blashill, the Detroit Red Wings coach, said: “I thought they (Colorado) outskated us the whole game.”
Yes, frame it, etch it in gold and show it to everyone who dares to wear a Detroit jersey to the Pepsi can! Avast ‘dem scurvy dogs and send ‘em to Davy Jones’ locker! It may be time to tone down the celebrations. Hmmm… Nope. Party away!
WHAT TO WATCH
1. Colorado gets to host their division rivals, the Dallas Stars, 7 pm MST Wednesday night at the can.
2. The Avalanche will travel to Minnesota for a 2 pm MST Friday matinee in Wild territory before returning home to host the Calgary Flames in a late night 8 pm MST Saturday matchup to finish the back-to-back set.
3. Keep an eye out for the injury reports as well as Jost’s progress in San Antonio. A. J. Greer has notched two goals and two assists for four points over his four games down with the Rampage. He may give Jost a run for the money for the next call-up. Also, depending on projected return times, there may be some movement of defensemen.