Every so often, I like to get out of the press box and into the stands to see an Avalanche game. So, if you saw me walking around tonight…
I gotta say, the Avalanche really have some great fans in you guys. Am I pandering a little here? I don’t think so. I was really impressed at how intently everyone was watching the game and how much everybody seemed to really care. Which is why the sense of disappointment was pretty palpable as the final horn sounded on tonight’s 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
It’s hard for me to want to rip on this team right now. It’s a team that has lost TWO all-star first-line wingers in less than two weeks. The team has lost four of five since (one OT loss). They lost a 2-1 game tonight in which they outshot the opposition 39-29. Tonight was definitely one of those nights where I thought, “If they have a Landeskog or a Rantanen out there, they win that game.”
But they don’t, and they didn’t. I don’t think there’s a crisis here, but it’s clear that Jared Bednar is getting really tired of certain aspects of his team. He was very upset after this game. He never quite blows up. He always delivers his words in a calm manner. But there was definite disgust in that voice tonight, almost some sarcasm in a way.
He just can’t stand it when he feels his team isn’t working hard enough – or consistently enough – and tonight he unloaded a bit, especially about that first period.
“It’s simple for me: we weren’t engaged in the game mentally or physically. It’s focus. At the end of the day, they’re pros. Be engaged, be ready to play. They weren’t,” Bednar said. “They have to decide whether they want to come to play. I can’t do it for them.”
Ouch. Tough words there. Don’t forget, this team’s record still is 8-3-2. They’re without two all stars and another pretty good forward (Colin Wilson). I know some of you are probably surprised that I’m the one soft-shoeing this a little bit, telling everyone to stay calm. People know I don’t write puff pieces on the team (plenty of others fill that role well enough already).
But I think things will be OK. I think maybe the Avs need to get out of town a little bit, get on the road and play some simpler, more desperate hockey. They’ll have nights like the Stars had tonight – where they got away with playing one good period and stole a game on the road.
But Bednar said there were “no excuses” for those first 25 minutes. The killer goal against was that short-hander by Roope Hintz at 5:32 of the second. Joonas Donskoi gets the puck taken away as he tries to stickhandle over the Stars’ blue line, Cale Makar gets off the ice too late on a line change, leaving Sam Girard in a tough spot coming off the bench and basically having to chase after Hintz, who beats Philipp Grubauer on a breakaway. That was the game-winner.
The Avs dominated the rest of that second period, but only got a Nathan MacKinnon goal. There were some golden chances in those final 10 minutes of the period, but they just couldn’t score again.
“You don’t play 60 minutes, you’re not going to win. I don’t care who you play against,” Bednar said. “(Lack of) execution. I mean, how many breakouts did we have where they interrupted the pass, or we pass it to no one, pass it into someone’s skate, too far ahead of someone…It’s focus.”
So, about all those times Nazem Kadri was kicked out of the faceoff circle tonight. Unofficially, I counted seven times, including that final faceoff with about 11 seconds to go, which J.T. Compher came in and promptly lost. Here’s what Kadri said:
Nazem Kadri on linesman kicking him out so much: “I have no idea what kind of impact he wanted on the game. It got a little ridiculous there.” @ColHockeyNow
— Adrian Dater (@adater) November 2, 2019
Yeah, the linesmen were, as Avs fan Dario Ronzone nicely put it, “divas” tonight. They kept pump-faking the draws, then getting mad at Kadri when he just was going along with their pumps. Kadri won 14-of-19 faceoffs overall, so those seven draws he was kicked out on mattered in this thing (I counted four lost draws among the seven he was out).
But that’s still not why they lost the game overall.
- Jayson Megna played all of 3:29 tonight. I didn’t hear of any injury to him, but it’s possible that slipped through the cracks. Otherwise, that’s….really low ice time for a player in your forward group.
- Six straight games now for Andre Burakovsky without a goal. This is the streakiness we heard about. He had a couple of real good chances tonight, but mostly put his shots right into the breadbasket of Anton Khudobin both times.
- Pavel Francouz is expected to start against the Coyotes Saturday night.
- A couple of stupid icings tonight, which always stalls momentum for a team in my mind. Erik Johnson, for instance, only had to go one more stride to get to the red line on one of them, but for some reason rid himself of the puck before taking that stride. Icing, faceoff back in your own end – not smart hockey there by EJ. He should know better.
- Miro Heiskanen had a great game for the Stars defensively. He also blocked eight shots.
- I’ll be at the game Saturday in Arizona and in Dallas Tuesday. Tell your friends about a subscription here, if you want more of that kind of coverage.