Hunter Miska, we never doubted you.
The Avalanche backup goalie, whose career record was 0-1-1 coming into tonight’s game with the Arizona Coyotes with a saves percentage under .900 and a goals-against average above 3.50 (neither of which is considered good in NHL circles, sources tell me) allowed just two goals against the Arizona Coyotes tonight at Gila River Arena – in front of some fans, which in the Avs’ case, was the first time since March of 2020 they’ve done so.
Avs won, 3-2. By the way, I wrote those first two paragraphs before the Coyotes scored two goals in the final two minutes – and I have witnesses. My original second paragraph praised him for the goose egg shutout.
Avs got goals from Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri in obtaining the two points, which ties the Coyotes in the Honda West Division standings for points – with the Avs still having three games in hand.
Full credit to Miska. Also, full credit to an Avs defense that limited Arizona to just 10 shots on goal in the first two periods. It was still just a 1-0 game, though, until Burakovsky scored on a wicked wrister on the power play, and Kadri added icing on the cake with a rebound goal in front.
I don’t think Arizona had more than two or three good scoring chances in this game (again, until the final two minutes), but, again, full marks to Miska for getting the win and temporarily allowing Avs fans to stop clutching the pearls over the backup goalie situation.
The Avs caught a break when it was announced early Friday that Coyotes No. 1 goalie Darcy Kuemper wouldn’t be able to play because of a lower-body injury. Yet, Adin Hill played well for Arizona overall. The Coyotes had one last, very good shot on goal with about five seconds left, but Miska made the save.
I think the Avs basically got away with a win tonight, even though they still showed some weaknesses in their game, such as being too soft on the puck in the first 30 minutes or so. They haven’t played all that well in the last three games, but they got away with one tonight against an Arizona team that was awful for the first 58 minutes.
I will say this: the Avs’ defense continues to be very good, no matter who is in goal. Any goalie who has to face an average of only five shots on net in the first two periods will always be given a good chance to win the good old hockey game.
The Avs played their first game in front of any paying customers tonight for the first time since March, 2020 – and many of them had Avs sweaters on. I asked Jared Bednar tonight on the Zoom Postgame Show if he noticed it, and if it made any difference in the game?
Bascially, Bednar said “yes.” He said he noticed more people in Avs sweaters around the team hotel and the arena, and that it always gives a team a bit of a boost when they see that.
He added this:
Jared Bednar thought the Avs' fans in the stands in Arizona tonight gave his team a big boost. "Hopefully, we get some fans back in the stand at Ball Arena"
— Adrian Dater (@adater) February 27, 2021
For more on the Avs/Ball Arena/fans-in-the-stands situation, click here.
- Matt Calvert missed the game with an upper-body injury. After the game, Bednar said his injury was to the lower body. But then the Avs corrected the situation to say: it is an upper-body injury. Obviously, you worry about more concussion symptoms. Calvert took the pregame warmup, but the Avs announced he was a late scratch after that.
Hunter Miska: "I think we had a louder crowd here (when we scored) than when they scored."
— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) February 27, 2021
- Philipp Grubauer will start Saturday’s game against the Coyotes.
- Kadri had three points in the game, and was clearly the No. 1 star.
- Gabe Landeskog might face supplemental discipline for forcing Coyotes player Conor Garland to the ice, which appeared to result in Garland hitting his head and leaving the game. Landeskog was assessed a two-minute penalty. I doubt it will be a suspension, but you never know.