LOS ANGELES – What was it like to watch a full hockey game in the mammoth Staples Center with absolutely no fans in the stands? As weird as you might think. Honestly, the whole night was tinged with guilt for me. I had the best seat I’ve had in probably 10 years to watch a game – just at the top of the lower bowl, center-ice view. It was wonderful in that sense, and makes really being able to convey what happened out there so much easier. But it’s like being the only guy invited to an all-you-can-eat pizza and ice cream buffet. You want to share it with otherCs. Hopefully, soon enough. On to Avs player grades from a tough, 3-2 win over the Kings:
(With a photo gallery at the end, so read all the way kids)
Devon Toews (A) – Oh, I like this guy already. Smooth with the puck, good edges, good wheels, big. And, can we all see now that he has a pretty good slap shot too? That bomb from the point at the end of a power-play in the second period tonight kind of shifted the game irrevocably in the Avs’ favor, I thought. It sort of felt like the Avs were in control of this game for most of the time, yet there were frustrating periods where the Avs just wouldn’t shoot enough and wasted a few too many scoring chances, keeping the Kings still in it. Toews just kind of took a big ole’ eraser to that blackboard and blasted the puck past Cal Petersen to make it 2-0.
Cale Makar (A-) – I don’t know why I’m saying this, but Makar reminds me so much of my uncle Phil. Let me elaborate: My uncle Phil was a longtime engineer at General Electric, starting in the 1960s. He built his own helicopter about 30 years ago, which of course he also flew around. No, really, he built the whole thing from a kit. Everything he ever did was structured to succeed in the end, or at least to make sense. One half of my family has the left side of the brain (wordy, artsy-fartsy, that’s me and my dad. The other half can build helicopters from a kit. That’s my uncle Phil and all his kids/my cousins).
Anyway, that’s kind of how I feel about watching Makar. He’s an engineer on the ice. He does everything – everything – just so well, so competently. He’s still looking for his first goal on the season, and you know it will come soon. But he did everything tonight just so elegantly well.
Gabe Landeskog (B+) – The best thing about watching a hockey game up close is: You don’t have to be a fancy-stats slave to some computer-generated spreadsheet that supposedly tells you who actually made a difference and who didn’t. Landeskog’s fancy stats probably didn’t overwhelm tonight (I haven’t even checked) but he was very good in the tough areas of the game (sealing gaps along the wall on Kings clearout attempts, not letting his man get between the dots in scoring areas). He nearly cost the Avs at the end by missing an empty net attempt (and thereby icing the puck, for a scary faceoff with about 10 second left), but it was all good in the end.
Nathan MacKinnon (A) – Nate was basically Nate tonight. Fast, dangerous, hyperactive, a point-getter on the scoresheet. That put him at 500 points for his career, and he’s still only 25. I noticed some trash-talking at the end of the game between him and Dustin Brown, where they were jawing awaiting a faceoff between Anze Kopitar and Nazem Kadri. I’d love to have had a hot mic on that. I would have asked him about that had I been in the locker room, like olden times. But I would assume Nate feels: he who laughs last laughs best.