LAS VEGAS – So, hear me out on this.
I came into this post ready to rip on the Avs for their “dogshit” performance – at least that’s how the captain, Gabe Landeskog – put it about the team’s first-period today in St. Louis. Hey, no argument from me there. I will do some ripping on the team a bit further down in this thing, but for now I’m of the mind that:
- Maybe it’s OK that the Avs don’t win the West Division, and therefore become the No. 1 seed that for sure would play the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe let the Vegas Golden Knights win the thing and have to play the Blues in the first round. Let the Avs play the Minnesota Wild in the first round instead.
- I think the Avs absolutely would and will beat the Wild if they play them in the first round. I think I would rather play the Wild than the Blues right now.
- Because, after today’s horror show, it’s clear that the Avs still have some serious matchup problems with the Blues, starting with: whoever is playing against Ryan O’Reilly. Honestly, No. 90, the former Av, absolutely outplayed everybody who even came near him in a visiting sweater the last two games. Remember just a few years ago when the supposed “smart” hockey analytics folks said ROR wasn’t a leader or a winner? They were stupid then and they’re even stupider now. Honestly, just quit covering hockey if you never got it, that ROR was going to be a winner in this league eventually.
- I think this is probably just the period of the Avs’ season where there is a “lull” or some adversity or a combination of both, and it sucks that it’s happening right now, in the drive to show they’re the best team in the “West”, but:
- It doesn’t matter who finishes first in the division after 56 games. What matters is who’s still standing after the first two rounds of the playoffs, when the top four teams will face each other.
- Let the Vegas Golden Knights play the Blues in the first round. Let Vegas deal with O’Reilly over a potential seven games. Let Vegas play against a suddenly red-hot Jordan Binnington. Let Vegas play a Blues team that won a Stanley Cup not even two years ago. Let Vegas play a team that suddenly wants to add to more of a legacy created after that Cup win.
- I’ll take my chances against a Wild team that – hats off to them for the season they’ve had – isn’t as good as their record. Not IMO anyway.
- I’ll take my chances in the first round against the Wild, with a returning Mikko Rantanen and Philipp Grubauer and Joonas Donskoi.
But, about today:
- I just feel like Jared Bednar punted this game away before it even started. Why start Jonas Johansson today, when the guy you acquired at the trade deadline (Devan Dubnyk) was healthy and perfectly rested? Why did you get Dubnyk if you are going to bench him after one loss, in favor of a bench-warmer from the Buffalo Sabres who beat the awful Anaheim Ducks in a couple of games?
- Was Bednar really that blinded to Johansson’s abilities, from a couple wins over the worst team in the West?
- I’m not saying Dubnyk would have been the answer today, from what actually happened.
- But I am saying that Bednar didn’t put his best team on the ice, in a supposedly big game with major division-winning implications. Bednar has always been consistent with saying he always put his “best team” on the ice, but that didn’t happen today, not with Johansson in net.
- Johansson is a third-string goalie, who was tasked with beating the Blues on the road today. I would have much preferred putting Dubnyk in there. Yeah, he lost the last game, but so what? He made a lot of tough saves in that game too. Johansson looked as rusty as you’d expect him to look, after not having played in a few weeks, along with being a guy who hasn’t shown too much as an NHL goalie to this point anyway.
- I also don’t like what’s going on with the lineup in front of the goalies right now either. Stop playing the aging Carl Soderberg in the top six. Stop with the Martin Kaut late-season experiment.
- I get it that Kaut was an OK choice as a call-up from the Eagles, but he’s just not a top-9 player in this league yet, even as a fill-in. He just doesn’t have the confidence to play at this level yet. You can plainly see it.
- Soderberg – I didn’t really get why the Avs got him back, and I certainly don’t anymore since they actually got him. So far, he’s looked too slow for this team now.
- Patrik Nemeth: he looks as slow and turnover-prone now as when he last played here.
- Nazem Kadri: 16 straight games now without a goal. It was glossed over before, by the play of others. But it’s hurting the team now, now that the others aren’t compensating for him as much.
It was just a bad finish to that stay in St. Louis. We shouldn’t overreact too much. That said: this team that everybody thought was so awesome and so absolutely headed toward the Stanley Cup Finals is now only one point ahead of the Wild for second place in their division, with only one game in hand. There is a very real chance the Avs could start the playoffs on the ROAD against the Wild in the first round.
Did anyone see that as a possibility a week or two ago?