The Colorado Avalanche continue to surprise, as well as exhibit their Jekyll/Hyde nature, for the last few games of the season. If you are a fan of the youth movement, you had an exciting week.
1. Colorado signed their first round draft pick from last year, the 10th pick overall, Tyson Jost to a three-year entry-level contract. Not only did they sign him, he reported to the team the next day and played with the following night. Who are these guys? The Avalanche actually did something exciting for the team and the fans. Wonders never cease.
2. The Avalanche played a rousing game against the Washington Capitals, the team with the most points in the NHL. The Mikko Rantanen-Nathan MacKinnon-Sven Andrighetto line matched up well against the Capitals top line, with the Avalanche trio pushing the play all night, leading the forwards for time on ice, combining for 12 of the team's 35 shots on goal and scoring two goals. They also played until the last second of the game, a refreshing change from some of the other players, bringing hope for next year’s team.
3. For those who missed the St. Louis Blues game, it’s worth watching a recording of at least the third period and overtime. Facing yet another playoff bound lineup, the Avalanche hustled throughout the entire matchup and earned the shootout win. Colorado even scored on the power play when J.T. Compher hit net off a MacKinnon shot. While it doesn’t show up in the score sheet, it’s worth noting that Matt Duchene scored the first goal in the shootout while besieged goaltender Calvin Pickard shut out both of the Blues’ attempts.
4. J.T. Compher continues to grow and adapt as an NHL player. He earned a goal and an assist in the last week, led the team in shots on goal against the St. Louis Blues (5 shots) and spent the most time on ice against the Minnesota Wild of any forward. As a rookie with only 17 games under his belt, he seems to be finding his rhythm, which bodes well for next year. There IS hope folks. Also, Compher is on a two game point streak. You know it’s a tough season when that’s worth mentioning.
5. Newcomer Tyson Jost certainly brings some excitement to the final few games. In his first NHL tilt, not only did he center the Avalanche’s third line, but he logged both power play and penalty kill minutes, played in the overtime 3-on-3 and took a shot in the shootout. While his second game featured a lackluster effort by most of the team, watching Jost adapt to the NHL made portions of the game watchable. Now, if only the team could add some different linemates. But that might be asking too much for a team with such a risk averse track record.
6. Alternate Captain Nathan MacKinnon notched a goal and two assists in the past week. In a tough year, MacKinnon leads the team with 51 points so far, 14 ahead of the next nearest player – Matt Duchene. Considering how poorly the season has gone, MacKinnon’s numbers are not bad, not bad at all.
7. Sven Andrighetto earned three points this past week as well, off of three assists. Andrighetto has tallied 12 points in his 15 games with the Avalanche. He is making a solid case not only for a new contract, but also for earning a protected spot for the expansion draft.
8. Stick taps to Mikko Rantanen who fired two pucks into the net this past week to seize the team lead in goals scored for the season. Rantanen currently sits only two points away from a 20 goal season. Hopefully, this post doesn’t jinx him.
9. The Rantanen-MacKinnon-Andrighetto line seems to be firing on all cylinders. For those scoring at home, their line accumulated three goals and five assists over a three game period. Those points are all against playoff bound teams. Something has finally gone right for the Avalanche.
10. While it's been a challenging season, General Manager Joe Sakic deserves recognition for pulling the trigger on some moves, however belatedly. The Avalanche have deviated from their history so maybe, just maybe, they are learning from their mistakes. If that's true, then there may be a silver lining to this season after all.
1. It’s a question worth asking – is recent call-up Anton Lindholm playing injured? He missed a few shifts in two of the last three games. He continues to play effectively and he’s already done enough to earn a shot at the team roster next year. It makes no sense to play him if he’s injured. There IS such a thing as an injury call-up. Why the Avalanche refuse to acknowledge injuries so they can move players around, only the Shadow knows.
2. Last week, I reported the incorrect number of call-ups remaining for the Avalanche. I apologize. There had been a substantial amount of confusion surrounding the number of recalls the Avalanche used after the trade deadline. Since Colorado management seems loathe to release details of player transactions, it’s important to follow the waiver wire and other NHL transaction sites to gather the information. It now appears, however, that the paper move of Jeremy Smith (qualifying him to play in the minors during their postseason) didn’t actually happen as first thought, so the Avalanche still had two call-ups remaining prior to their most recent moves. Regardless, I listed the incorrect number of recalls remaining last week. I endeavor to provide accurate information and will double down on finding ways to improve. You, the reader, deserve the best effort possible. My bad.
3. However, since the Avalanche knew they had two call-ups remaining, why did they wait until there are only four games left? The players only have four games to prove themselves. Watching Compher evolve over his 17 games, it would have been better for the team to have called up the players two weeks ago. Any rational explanation would be welcome at this point.
1. The Minnesota Wild earned their 100th point in their win against the Avalanche on Sunday. The game was bad. The Avalanche were lifeless. Helping the Wild hit triple digits was horrific. But losing in such a horrific fashion to the Wild gives new meaning to the word ugly.
2. Something has gone horribly wrong when Mark Rycroft delivered an ugly yet honest assessment of the Avalanche play after the first period of the Wild game.
“If I were Coach Bednar, I would just play the guys that want to play. If there’s only six guys working their tails off, I’d let the other six sit on the bench and rot for 10 minutes until they are ready to play…It’s an embarrassment…”
Anyone who has watched this season has echoed this sentiment at some point. And that’s an ugly truth.
THOUGHTS TO PONDER
1. Two former Avalanche players who were traded in the past year will be in the playoffs – Nick Holden with the New York Rangers and Cody McLeod with the Nashville Predators. Both of these players received a fair amount of criticism during their last year with the team, yet they seem to be contributing on teams headed for a postseason run. Could their performance with the Avalanche have more to do with the coaching staff and team systems than the talent of the players? It’s a question worth considering.
2. In the two losses this past week, the defensive players hefted a significant number of pucks towards the net; 10 shots against the Capitals and 13 against the Wild. In the win against the Blues, Mark Barberio was the only Avalanche defenseman credited with any shots on goal, and he logged three. What does this mean? No idea. But it’s worth pondering.
3. For those concerned about the amount of playing time allotted to defenseman Francois Beauchemin, you may rest easier knowing that Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson logged the majority of defensive ice time for the past week. It may not be everything, but it is SOMEthing.
1. The Colorado Avalanche spun the Rampage wheel on Monday and in a shocking turn of events, (as in, it appeared likely to happen only when it got very cold in a normally very hot place), the Avalanche called up defenseman Duncan Siemens and wing Rocco Grimaldi from the San Antonio Rampage. Let’s see what they can do!
2. For those wishing Colorado had recalled A.J. Greer and Chris Bigras, both appear to be injured as they will not be traveling with the Rampage for their upcoming road trip.
WHAT TO WATCH
1. The Avalanche added three new players in the last week. There will be lots of interesting stuff to watch as Coach Bednar will shuffle lines, defensive pairings will shift, and the new guys will get to show their stuff. And if there isn’t any shuffling, the lack of changes will speak volumes.
2. There are only four games left (mercifully), starting with the Avalanche hosting the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks tonight followed by their final home game against the dreaded Minnesota Wild Thursday night. Colorado will finish the season on the road with their final set of back-to-back games Saturday against Dallas Stars and then Sunday afternoon versus the St. Louis Blues.
3. The DU Pioneers (with prospect and Captain Will Butcher) will face off against Notre Dame (and prospect Cam Morrison) in the Frozen Four on Thursday, April 6. Whoever wins will play for the NCAA championship. Whoever loses will start the clock on a contract watch. Will the Avalanche sign either player, both, or none? “As the Ice Burns” will continue next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.