ELMONT, N.Y. – The Colorado Avalanche are going over to Finland all of next week to be good ambassadors for the game of hockey and, ostensibly, to enjoy themselves as reigning Stanley Cup champions. But there might just be a bag skate or two in the players’ near-term future after a total collapse against the New York Islanders in a game that seemed well in the bag before that.
Blowing a three-goal lead built through the first half of the hockey game, the Avalanche left the UBS Center as losers tonight. The final from Money-Makin’ Strong Island: Islanders 5, Colorado Avalanche 4.
Instead of a perfectly respectable 5-3-1 record heading to Finland, the Avalanche are the definition of mediocrity so far, at 4-4-1. It was already going to be a long plane ride to Helsinki tomorrow night. After this meltdown, the flight just got longer.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: this loss was not on Alexandar Georgiev. He made 39 saves, many of them of the standing-on-head variety.
As I see it, this loss happened because:
- They sat back, for sure, after taking a 3-0 lead, on Evan Rodrigues’ second goal of the night at 8:33 of the second. His tip of Nathan MacKinnon’s shot from the point prompted a timeout by Islanders coach Lane Lambert. Whatever he said should be bottled and sold as a rejuvenation tonic, because the Islanders put on their workboots after that and, yeah, outworked the Avs from there.
- Colorado just seemed to put the brakes on what got them the lead in the first place, and, starting with a Noah Dobson slap shot from the right side, the Islanders filled the vaccuum. The Avalanche still had a 3-1 lead entering the third but they seemed to get tired.
- The fact that Jared Bednar seems to have no faith in his fourth line right now might have contributed to that fatigue. The trio of Kurtis MacDermid, Mikhail Maltsev and Martin Kaut barely played in the third period. Not rolling four lines is naturally going to potentially cause more fatigue on the other forwards, and that’s how they seemed in the third.
- The killer goal, in my opinion, was the tying goal by former DU Pioneer Scott Mayfield at 10:39 of the third. The foursome of MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Sam Girard and Bo Byram were pinned in their zone for what seemed like two minutes, eventually leading to a backdoor goal by Mayfield. MacKinnon had an easy chance to clear the puck when everybody was exhausted, but instead of just clearing it, he tried to make a pass to the middle of the ice and had it picked off. That started the Islanders’ cycle all over again and it finally finished in the back of the Avalanche net.
- It was a rough night for Girard, who was a minus-3 and caught out of position on a couple goals. He was also just too soft in front of the net on the Islanders’ second goal, though I thought Georgiev was interfered with on the goal, by old nemesis Zach Parise.
- At least Alex Newhook finally got a point on the season. He scored with 29.9 seconds left to make it 5-4 and the Avalanche came close to tying it in the final seconds. But Varlamov, once again, beat his former team.
- Varly’s best save of the night, among many, was a stone-cold gangster stop on Andrew Cogliano late in the third. It was a left pad stop of a doorstop chance, and it kept it a 4-3 game for New York.
- Look, this team is playing without one full line, basically, with Gabe Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin and Darren Helm all out. Nights like this are going to happen. But this was a loss that just made the Finland trip a little less fun. This is a championship team that shouldn’t blow 3-0 leads, even with a few injuries.