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Avalanche Game Grades: Every second counts

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Now that is what you call playing a full 60 minutes. Every second — or tenth of a second, in this case — counts in the game of hockey. Nazem Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche proved that this evening

Now on to some player grades…

 

FORWARDS

 

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: 

C+

As always, Bellemare was a sturdy presence throughout the game. Pretty much exactly what you want from a fourth-line guy: Nothing flashy, defensively effective, reliable in both zones. He led the team with three blocked shots and paced the team in the face-off dot as well. He won six face-offs, the most of his fellow centermen and was 67 percent from the dot, so that’s pretty good. 

Andre Burakovsky:

D+

It was a not-so-great day for the Avalanche top line, and it probably starts with Burakovsky. For what it’s worth, the top line of Burakovsky-MacKinnon-Rantanen produced the lowest Corsi-For percentage (47.06%), if you’re into that kind of stuff. I hardly noticed Burakovsky until about 10 seconds into the third period when he took an errant high stick to the nose and needed repairs. He seemed a bit off tonight and I didn’t see him skating as much as I’d like to. He was one of just two forwards that didn’t register a shot on goal for the Burgundy and Blue. 

Matt Calvert:

B-

I liked Calvert’s game a lot. Calvert is all heart, all the time and that didn’t change tonight. He led the team with five hits, chipped in three shots on goal and earned a takeaway as well. All of that in just 12:56 of ice time, 3:05 of which was spent on the PK.

J.T. Compher:

C-

Did Compher even play this game? Serious question. I literally didn’t notice him at all. 

*Checks notes*

OK, looks like he did play 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Alright.

Joonas Donskoi:

C

Took a hard slapshot from Coltyn Parayko, a very large man who has arguably one of the hardest shots in the league, and toughed it out and skated it off during the ensuing TV timeout. Playoff hockey, baby. 

Donskoi was big on special teams this evening, chipping in 3:06 of power-play time and a matching 3:07 on the PK. Only Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen spent more time on special teams than he did.

Tyson Jost:

C-

In what came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, Jost apparently out-practiced Matt Nieto over the last week and slotted in on the fourth line with Bellemare and Calvert. Coach Bednar confirmed this fact during the post-game availability, saying he liked his effort during training camp and felt he deserved a shot. 

Loved the enthusiasm from his game right out of the gate. Had a couple nice setups to Calvert that almost put the Avalanche up 1-0 in the first. Other than that, a pretty “meh” game overall. He played a team-low 9:45 tonight. I’m willing to bet Nieto subs back in against Dallas on Wednesday. 

Nazem Kadri:

A

Didn’t have much to say about his game until 0.1 seconds left in the contest. And then I had a lot to say. He certainly wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck throughout the night, leading the entire team with six shots on goal. 

He’s a guy this Avalanche team is going to need down the stretch. Leafs fans will be quick to tell you his history of suspensions in the playoffs — Yes, we know…thank you, Toronto. But maybe without those rabid fans goading him on (in fact, there will be exactly zero fans goading him on), he can focus purely on the winning. I’ve always been a big fan of his game and he once again proved to be the difference maker tonight.

Gabe Landeskog:

C+

He took a silly interference penalty that resulted in the power-play goal for St. Louis seconds later. He took another penalty in the second on a dangerous shove into the boards on Zach Sanford. Not a good look from the leader and most certainly not his best game. He improved and created chances as the game went on. Still, he left much to be desired. I’m willing to give the captain the benefit of the doubt on this one, however. You don’t see too many of these games from him. 

Nate MacKinnon:

B+

MacKinnon could play the worst game of his life and he’d probably still get a B- from me. He looked like he wanted it the most out of anyone on the Avalanche lineup today…which is something we’ve come to expect night-in and night-out with Nate. That of course didn’t change tonight. He created chances and drew the attention of the Blues, who were on him all game, particularly on the power play, leaving his teammates open for more chances. In that sense, MacKinnon can kind of serve as a Trojan Horse, if you will, and a distraction to free up some of his other teammates on the ice. That is a strategy in and of itself. 

Vlad Namestnikov:

C-

He got robbed by Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington on a one-timer with just over a minute to go in the first. Then received a small promotion to the second line during the second period as coach Bednar tried to mix things up. Other than that, wasn’t that great of a game from him. Wasn’t a bad one either though.

Val Nichushkin:

A-

Made a nice play in the first period to get around a Blues defender, drew a penalty and still fed Landeskog a nice pass for a partial breakaway. He was solid defensively, took the puck away a few times and was good on the forecheck and the backcheck. Man, does the kid backcheck like his life depends on it. Just an absolute hound on the puck at all times. He was a top-three player on the Avalanche roster today.

Mikko Rantanen:

C

Decidedly not a great game from Rantanen this evening. After the game, head coach Jared Bednar mentioned he didn’t like a couple of his player’s games tonight. I’m willing to bet Rantanen might be at least one of the guys he was referring to. Like I mentioned earlier with Burakovsky, Rantanen too was part of a line which didn’t produce as much offense as we’ve come to expect from the top line, save MacKinnon.

 

DEFENSE

 

Ian Cole:

B-

Didn’t notice him too much, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to a defenseman. It means he did his job. 

Sam Girard:

B-

Also didn’t notice too much of Sam Girard tonight. He led the team in 5-on-5 ice time this evening and always does a really good job of getting out of trouble, and staying out of it. He’s just a very reliable guy night-in and night-out. Regardless of whatever pressure that’s put on him, you can rely on Girard to successfully break out the puck.

Ryan Graves:

A-

He made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and scored the first goal of the postseason for Colorado. It’s a good thing he fanned on that pass attempt back to Rantanen on his goal or it wouldn’t have happened. The Avalanche needed a sloppy goal like that to get themselves back in it, and Graves was the guy to do it. Good on him. Other than his goal, Gravy played a pretty good overall game. Four hits, two blocked shots and a plus-one? I’ll take that. He played a team-leading 4:20 [insert a reference here] on the penalty kill too.

So how big of a contract extension do we think Graves gets this offseason?

Erik Johnson:

B-

Looked like your typical EJ. Reliable, always willing to put his body on the line and he made some good passes throughout. His four hits were tied for second on the team, and he was second in short-handed minutes played. He missed blocking David Perron’s shot by mere millimeters which led to the Blues’ one and only goal tonight. Still, at least he tried and was in a good position. 

Cale Makar:

B

Wasn’t as offensive nor creative as we’re used to seeing from the Calder Trophy finalist. Still had a few nice end-to-end rushes and keep-ins at the blueline. The dive into the Avs bench was neat too, which saved the Avalanche from a too-many-men call in the first. But even on a night when he’s not all that noticeable, he’s still pretty great.

Nikita Zadorov:

C

Love the physicality Big Z played with today. He was eyeing the body just about every time a Blue touched a puck. And he was smart about it. When he plays like this, he’s at his best…and then he started giving pucks away. So, overall, pretty typical game from Zadorov, which garners him average numbers. 

Philip Grubauer:

A

I thought he played fantastic. The only puck that beat him was a perfectly-placed slapshot that would beat any goalie nine times out of 10. Not much he could do about that one. Other than that, No. 31 stopped 31 pucks, including seven power-play shots from the Blues. It’s expected that Pavel Francouz will get the net for Wednesday’s matchup against the Dallas Stars and Grubauer should be back in to finish round-robin play against Vegas later in the week. 

If there was still any debate over this, let’s settle it now: Grubauer is the starting goalie when elimination play begins.

 

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A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder, Scott has so far spent the early parts of his young career covering Colorado hockey — from the Avalanche to the Colorado Eagles to the DU Pioneers. His work can be found across sites such as NHL.com, TheAHL.com and SB Nation, among others. Scott currently resides in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver, where he can sometimes be found waiting tables when he’s not writing.

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Matt Briggle

Can’t quibble too much with these grades. The Graves contract is a big question now. I’m betting they’ll go more bridge deal with 2-3 years at 2-2.5 mil. He’s earned that much at least, but he will probably be priced out of the at the end of that deal and cash in somewhere else. I kind of wonder if either side might be interested in a 4-5 year deal in the 3 mil range. I think they could work that into their cap and have a good solid guy in the fold while Timmins and Byram and maybe even Helleson… Read more »

John Mauss

Great game to watch even if you weren’t a fan of either team. Never in my life saw a finish like that. AD, was the press section in the lower bowl or in the rafters? How strange was the experience?

Rich Solomon

Tough grading scale when guys get C’s while still playing pretty well…but still oddly and satisfyingly accurate.

Great writing style, that resonates with me. Enjoying you being added to CHN.

Jordan R Leonard

Except for the goal Graves had, Makar was our best defensive player out there that game, and while Burakovsky didn’t do too much he was still much better out there than Jost, so many of our missed chances were because Jost made bad passes, or just couldn’t receive the puck on passes that went straight to his stick. Pretty much everyone should be graded above Jost

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