ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck. And when that fails, a hot goalie stealing you a game. For the Avs, that’s what Philipp Grubauer did tonight.
You need a goalie to bail you out sometimes, and that’s what the German veteran did at the Honda Center, making 36 saves in a 3-2 Avs victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
I’m going to spend the rest of this story making first-person observations instead of writing in a more traditional “game story” format, so here goes:
- Jared Bednar said he’s seen Grubauer get to a “new level of determination” so far this season, which is something associates of Grubi told me would be the case entering this season. Tonight, anyway, that was the case. Grubauer knows this is a real chance for him to get to the next level this year, for himself and for the team, and so far he’s played like he wants that. He’s a UFA after this year too, let’s not forget. Aside from that bad third period against the Blues in Game 1, he’s looked sharp and he certainly was the Avs’ best player in this one, as the Avs allowed way too many shots to a mediocre Ducks offense.
- I actually thought the Avs played a bit better than Bednar seemed to think. In fact, Bednar said “I didn’t think we deserved to win, but Grubauer was outstanding.” But some players had really nice games statistically. Cale Makar, for instance, had 28 Corsi events for and only 6 against. Nathan MacKinnon was 26-14.
- But yeah, some others had rough nights with the fancy stats. Ryan Graves, for example, was just 4-14 in the Corsi department. He’s off to a slow start after leading the league in plus-minus. Greg Pateryn was only 9-19.
- So why didn’t Erik Johnson play, you ask? Well, I guess there was some, as the line from Blazing Saddles goes: “a failure to communicate.” Bednar said after the game that it was never his intention to play Johnson on this road trip, but that he did the other night anyway after the Ian Cole trade. He said Johnson won’t play Sunday, either.
- I thought the true highlight of the game was Bo Byram’s great pass to Mikko Rantanen for that go-ahead goal in the third period. That was a big-time play, and it was Byram’s first career point.
- It seems clearer now that the top six, when Johnson is ready, might look like this: Toews-Makar, Girard-Johnson, Byram-Graves. Or, maybe Byram with Johnson. Or, if Graves falters more, maybe Conor Timmins moves back into the top 6. All I know is, it’s a tough lineup to crack right now.
- It was another disappointing night on the stat sheet for third-line center J.T. Compher. Just 5-11 in the Corsi department. He’s got to pick things up.
- Obviously, it was nice to see Gabe Landeskog get rewarded with that OT winner. He played a fine game overall. The whole first line did.
- I still can’t believe that save John Gibson made on Landy right before the actual game-winner. Cale Makar steals a puck from Gibson, makes a perfect pass to Landy on a 2-on-1 and Landy gets totally robbed. But Landy stuck with it and beat him on the wraparound.
- Nathan MacKinnon nearly gave the game away with that turnover with about a minute left in regulation. Grubauer bailed him out.
- Rantanen, as I said last night, looks more fit than he ever has. He has energy at both ends of the rink now, not just the offensive end.
- The Avs moved within two points of Vegas for the division lead, as the Golden Knights finally lost a game.
- Andre Burakovsky remains listed as day-to-day.
Here are some game highlights: