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Avalanche Player Grades: Solid performances all around help down Dallas



The Avalanche took another big step forward in claiming the No. 1 seed in the West by shutting out the Dallas Stars on Wednesday. No complaints from me about anyone’s performance…

Here’s how I graded everyone:



Pierre-Edouard Bellemare:


The Avalanche fourth line is just so much better with Matt Nieto back on it. No intended slight at Tyson Jost. I didn’t think Jost had that bad of a game against St. Louis, but the fourth line just meshes better with Nieto back on it. 

After having a rough final two periods against St. Louis the other day, the fourth line returned to its usual reliable form against Dallas, Bellemare included. He saw an increase in ice time from head coach Jared Bednar and was a key part in limiting Dallas chances. Overall, a pretty typical game from Belly.

Andre Burakovsky:


After a very rough outing against St. Louis on Monday, Burakovsky received a demotion from the first line to the third line to start the game against Dallas. Message received: It’s the playoffs, kid, you have to be better. 

Burakovsky heard the message loud and clear it seems.

While he still played a team-low 11:34 of ice time, he made every second count on Wednesday. He was much more aggressive in the “hard areas,” as coach Bednar likes to call them, and he was rewarded for his efforts, earning a goal and an assist. He probably could’ve had a hat trick this game. For what it’s worth, I though him and J.T. Compher had some chemistry going on that third line. 

Matt Calvert:


Another pretty typical performance from Calvert. It’s just what we’ve come to expect from the guy night-in and night-out. He played aggressive, was hard on the forecheck, created chances in the offensive zone. What more could you want from your fourth-line winger? He also led all forwards with a 68.42% CorsiFor. Is that good?

J.T. Compher:


I didn’t notice Compher at all in the game against the Blues earlier this week. I definitely noticed him a lot more last night. I thought he had some decent chemistry with his new linemate in Burakovsky. They created quite a few chances and Compher was often the guy setting it all up. He had the puck on his stick and a nose for the net against Dallas. He led his fellow centermen with a 77% win-rate in the face-off dot, one of those wins which helped set up Donskoi for the second goal of the game.

Joonas Donskoi:


Donskoi seems to always be in the right place at the right time. And that doesn’t mean his lucky. No, in the game of hockey, that’s a skill, finding the right areas of the ice. That was the case for his goal to put the Avalanche up 2-0 in the first. After a very clean face-off win by Compher, Donskoi went straight for the front of the net — as he does best — cleaned up a rebound shot from Sam Girard to double the Avalanche lead. He finished with two points despite only playing 11:56. Not bad. 

Nazem Kadri:


Coming off his ultra-late-game heroics against St. Louis, his game against Dallas was a little less exciting. Still, Kadri was aggressive (although he failed to record a hit in the game) and put pucks on net. He was tied with Gabe Landeskog for second behind Calvert with a 66.67% CorsiFor. He certainly spent more time in the offensive zone than the defensive zone, which is a good thing.

Gabe Landeskog:


He took another penalty late in the game but I didn’t really have a problem with that. It was decidedly a much better game for Landy. It looked like he had a little more pep in his step and he was creating chances and putting pucks on net. I had no issue with Landeskog this game. A pretty typical game for him, and by “typical” I mean pretty good all around. 

Nate MacKinnon:


As he literally always does, MacKinnon set the pace for the entire game. He probably should’ve beat Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin a couple of times, but couldn’t solve him. MacKinnon recorded six shots on goal, the most of anyone on the ice.

Vlad Namestnikov:


I really, really liked Namestnikov’s game against Dallas. But I suppose everyone plays a little better when you’re skating on a line with Nathan MacKinnon. 

Namestnikov was on the receiving end of Burakovsky’s demotion to the third line, a spot where Namestnikov usually resides, while taking Burky’s spot on the left wing alongside MacKinnon. After breaking up a pass in the defensive zone, Namestnikov stole the puck and pushed it up the ice eventually sweeping home a MacKinnon rebound to earn his first goal of the postseason. One of Sakic’s deadline acquisitions, Namestnikov has proved to be a reliable two-way forward. I’ve really liked his game, particularly in the defensive zone. He was also apparently the only Avalanche forward to record a block.

Val Nichushkin:


Not a bad game from Nichushkin but not a great one either. I hardly noticed him to be completely honest. He did draw a penalty early in the second period and his Corsi numbers were very solid, for what it’s worth. 

Matt Nieto:


Again, like I said earlier, the Avalanche fourth line is just so much better with Nieto on it, rather than Jost. I really liked Nieto’s game. Coach Bednar said after the St. Louis game that Nieto usually benefits from getting benched and talked to and will bounce back the next game. I think that was the case here.

Nieto was aggressive (he led the team with four hits), strong on the forecheck and defensively reliable. Again, everything you could want from your fourth-liner. 

Mikko Rantanen:


Definitely a much better game from Rantanen than what we saw against St. Louis. He played with more strength and speed in his game. He also led the team with two takeaways. But I still wish he would shoot the puck more. As evidenced by his 2-on-1 play in the first period. He had a clear shooting lane but decided to try and dance around Tyler Seguin. He did draw a tripping penalty from Seguin, but still, what was Rantanen trying to do there? 

Maybe Rantanen could benefit from some of those annoying fans in the stands screaming “Shoot it!”



Ian Cole:


Maybe a so-so game for Cole. He didn’t let anyone score on his so that’s good. He got beat by Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in a foot race about five minutes into the game. Oleksiak was then able to sweep the puck in front of the net to Jamie Benn, who had a prime chance to tie the game had it not been for Pavel Francouz. Can’t really blame him though…Oleksiak is 6-foot-7 and has six inches on Cole so Oleksiak will be him stride-for-stride most of the time. 

Sam Girard:


I thought Girard kind of had a rough start to the game, but got steadily better as time moved along. He took that penalty in the first period and just kind of looked like a half-step behind everyone and just a hair out of position. Again, things got better as the game went along and he got the primary assist on both Donskoi’s and Burakovsky’s goal.

Ryan Graves:


A pretty quiet game from Graves. That’s not a bad thing at all. He did his job, didn’t allow the opposition to score and provided clean breakouts. Though him and Makar, of all people, was the only Avalanche to have sub-50% Corsi numbers, if you care about that kind of stuff. 

Erik Johnson:


Led the team with a 78.59% CorsiFor percentage, which is very very good for a defenseman. That means he was controlling the play for a vast majority of the time while he was on the ice and he probably spent more time in the offensive zone than in his own zone, as evidenced by his team-leading plus-2 (eat your heart out, Ryan Graves). Good game from EJ. 

Cale Makar:


Makar looked more aggressive this game than his last. Was calm, cool and collected for the entirety of the game. And what shot on his power-play goal to open the game. More of that please. 

Nikita Zadorov:


A pretty solid game for your third-pairing defenseman. He played aggressive — as he always does — and stayed out of the box.  Can’t complain about that.

Pavel Francouz:


I mean, how could I not give him an A-plus? 

Frankie became the first goalie in franchise history to record a shutout in his playoff debut. He also became just the 15th goaltender in NHL history to do so. 

“Actually, I wasn’t nervous today and that kind of scared me because usually I’m pretty nervous,” Francouz said after the game. “I was a little bit afraid of that. It didn’t affect my performance. I don’t even know why but I felt pretty comfortable today.”

Ice. In. His. Veins. 

Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Philip Grubauer will get the start for the Avalanche in their first meaningful playoff series…


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