The story of Game 1 might be about captain Gabe Landeskog, and how his Gordie Howe hat trick provided the emotional spark that the Avalanche needed to push past St. Louis in Game 1. Most game recaps will also, inevitably, make reference to Nathan MacKinnon’s two-goal, three-point night, or yet another stout performance in net by Philipp Grubauer. And rightfully so.
But let’s not ignore the effort of Tyson Jost on Monday night.
“He was skating well, he had good energy, put some pressure on them up ice, created some turnovers,” head coach Jared Bednar said Tuesday afternoon. “His details in the penalty kill have been real good for quite some time now, starting last year late in the year when he really elevated his game and stepped into that role.”
Throughout the year, Jost has been playing some above-average, bordering-exceptional hockey, and he’s been one of the league’s best defensive forwards all year, and one of the team’s best penalty-killers. And like coach Bednar said, it’s been that way for quite some time now. Jost continues earn high-praise from his head coach, who just a few weeks back went on record stating that the 23-year-old is playing the best hockey of his career. He’s not wrong.
And, look, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never really seen the value in Tyson Jost. I know a lot of you reading this right now were—or perhaps still are—of that same opinion. I thought he’d be the one to go to Seattle this summer, and I was OK with that. I thought maybe the Avs rushed him out of college and into the big-times too fast. I thought his development took a bit of a nosedive because of it. I thought the former 10th-overall pick was a bust.
The operative word here is thought. Past tense.
And I’m starting to think I thought wrong about him.
Perhaps, Tyson Jost will never be the elite offensive threat he was in the NCAA or junior ranks, where once upon a time he recorded 42 goal and 104 points in 48 games, earning him the BCHL and CJHL league MVP titles. That has so far not translated at all at the NHL level. That is also not necessarily a problem when you look at the team Jost plays on, a team that finished the season as the best goal-scoring club in the league, and has been top-five over the last four seasons combined.
Would more goals be nice? The answer is, of course, yes—obviously. Is that a role that they need Jost fill? No, not really. He’s filling in the gaps in other, equally-important ways.
What Jost lacks on the stat sheet, he’s making up for in spades in the intangibles—or, the things that aren’t necessarily measured, per se, but serve of equal importance. It’s something not nearly as valued or viewed as exciting by the fans, but something that will earn you the praise of the coaching staff. Those intangibles are what coach Bednar refers to as details, and Tyson Jost is among the most detailed players on the Avs roster.
Take last night for example. Coach Bednar lauded Jost’s line for their tenacity on pucks, their toughness to get through in the neutral zone and “doing the right things even through the bitter end of the third period.” It’s also something Jost, and his line, has done efficiently and consistently all season long.
Jost played just 14 minutes in Game 1 and was held off the scoresheet. However, his two hits were second among forwards and his four shots on goal were tied for second-best. Take a deeper dive into the analytics and you’d see Jost was among the team’s best players in Game 1. He finished tied for second in shot attempts behind Nathan MacKinnon; he was third behind MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in Expected Goals; his 65% Corsi was fifth-best among forwards. He was noticeable in his efforts all night long, which is perhaps the biggest intangible of them all.
And, like I’ve said numerous times, it’s been that way all season long. This isn’t just about Game 1.
I was wrong about Tyson Jost. The Avalanche need him after all. And if he keeps playing the way he did on Monday night—the way he has all year—Colorado will continue to be the team to beat in this annual Stanley Cup tournament. He’ll likely also earn a nice contract extension out of it, too.