It’s been a crazy week. We bought a house. Both kids have birthdays this week. My daughter’s daycare called the day we closed on the house to tell us to pick her up because she had an ear infection. And I fought the heaviness of my eyelids against the Preds and Canes, but managed to stay awake for both Avalanche games. You’re welcome.
But two wins and all the other stuff getting resolved have eased the stresses of the last seven days.
I’m going to be honest: I watched both games, but they (like everything else this week) feel like a blur, so the stellar analysis you all expect from this site’s third-best writer won’t be quite up to my usual standards.
- A moment of appreciation for Peter McNab is a far greater tribute to a man whose voice filled our homes for nearly three decades than a moment of silence. For all the calls, stories and laughs we have heard through the years, a rousing ovation seemed more appropriate than quiet reflection. Marc Moser’s moments of quiet during the broadcast where the color analysis should routinely be was the fitting tribute of silence we got. It was a somber night to think about what we, as fans, lost, but it was done so beautifully to celebrate ‘Maxy.’. A win, two goals from fellow DU Pioneer Logan O’Connor and the players’ salute to the pressbox were all perfect additions to a perfect night.
- Mikko Rantanen: Is seven points in two games good? Asking for a friend. The trip to his home country sparked our Moose because his return to Denver kept the positive momentum going with a two-goal, three-point night against the Predators and a one-goal, four-point night versus the Hurricanes. Oh, and how about that play he made on the second Avalanche goal against Carolina? Hard on the forecheck, strong on his skates while the Canes’ d-man tries to mug him and then a backhand area saucer pass into space for Cale Makar to blast home? That was unfair. Mikko is rolling right now and is one of the most underappreciated stars in the entirety of the NHL. He would be a No. 1 star on 75% of other teams in the league, but in Denver is No. 3. It’s a shame that he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. (Dater editor’s note: Rants got No. 1 star of the week today from NHL, so he’s getting some finally)
- Nathan MacKinnon: Speaking of NHL superstars (and one of the two players ahead of Rantanen in star rankings), Nathan MacKinnon is very good at hockey. Breaking news, I know! Two assists against Nashville and then a goal and a helper against Carolina… no big deal. That goal against the Hurricanes was a pure power shot that was so hard it literally feels like it went through the goalie. But his play of the week was that stretch pass to spring Mikko on the breakaway as the penalty kill expired. He’s the high-man in the defensive zone on the kill, reads that he can go over to the boards to help Kurtis MacDermid applying pressure, collects the loose puck and immediately turns around to find Rantanen for the break and his second goal of the night. Beautiful.
- Cale Makar: Two goals against the Hurricanes after getting going in Finland tells me that Cale is starting to feel his scoring touch coming on. Pucks are getting through and he’s putting himself in position to score. And a little luck doesn’t hurt either as seen with his first goal on Saturday. The old “shoot it off the glass and have it land in the crease to hit the goalie in the back and go into the net” play… classic execution by the Norris Trophy winner.
- Alexandar Georgiev: Not a ton to say. He’s just been the model of quality goaltending early on this season. He’s done everything he needs to do to give the Avalanche a chance to win every night (and he usually is winning those nights). The problem that he faces — like the one Mikko deals with — is that because the team is so good, he doesn’t get credit for what he does individually, but merely credited with being behind the league’s best overall defensive group. He’s good and if he remains good, people are going to have to give him credit at some point. Right?
- Evan Rodrigues: The knock on the Avalanche all summer was about who would fill in at the No. 2 center position with Nazem Kadri gone. Rodrigues was a late signing, but has made a great transition into the role and allowed Alex Newhook time and space to continue his development with the Avalanche. He only had the one point this weekend, scoring the final Colorado goal against the Predators, but I felt like he was in on plays and was creating chances. The top line and star players are still driving the bus, but the second line anchored by ERod has been especially valuable considering all the injuries (more on that later).
- Pavel Francouz: Franky’s season has been weird. He’s had bad games where he looked shaky and other games where he played great and wasn’t rewarded for his efforts (the loss in New Jersey). Giving him the start against the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference and having him play well in that game is a huge boost for Francouz and the Avalanche. I love that Bednar gave him that game and I think it could be a great turning point where we see a return of the goalie who was such a crucial part in last spring’s run.
- Injuries: Another day, another injury. Add Shane Bowers and MacDermid to the ever-growing list after this weekend. Bo Byram and Valeri Nichushkin had joined that list the week before with a pair of injuries that will keep them out for varying amounts of time. The Sam Girard and Byram injuries already forced MacDermid and Jacob McDonald into the lineups, so now with Big 56 out, the defense continues to get a bit thinner. And we’re not even talking about Gabe Landeskog either.
- Poor Shane Bowers… let’s just think about this for a second. The guy is a first-round pick and really grinds his way through the minors for THE CHANCE to possibly play an NHL game or two with a loaded and deep top-tier team. The opportunity comes thanks to a few unfortunate circumstances for others and he makes his NHL debut… only to suffer an injury on his third shift. If you can’t feel something for that poor guy, I don’t know what to tell you. Reminds me of what Moonlight Graham says in Field of Dreams: “It was like coming this close to your dreams… and then watch them brush past you like strangers in a crowd.” Now, I’m not saying Bowers doesn’t get another shot… but nothing is guaranteed.
- Why doesn’t MacKinnon come out for the Three Stars after the game? He comes out when he’s No. 1 but not for the others. Am I crazy for noticing that? He was No. 3 both nights this week and didn’t come out. I want him to high five Bernie!
- I’m writing this on Monday, so we have a game tonight vs. the Blues. Despite two playoff matchups the last two seasons, there is going to be some jump missing from the contest without Kadri playing for the Avs. I just hope Jordan Binnington finds joy in throwing a water bottle at someone else or aggressively shoulder bumping someone going off the ice. I worry about him when he doesn’t act out in childish ways. It’s clearly what makes him the happiest.
STILL OKAY TO BOO?
This seemed to be the topic that was discussed in Avalanche social media circles this weekend following Thursday’s game with the Predators. Is it time to move on from the booing of Matt Duchene? Personally… I don’t care. It is your right to boo players if booing is all you’re doing and you don’t cross any other line. I am not Duchene’s biggest fan for the way he left town and I did get some sense of joy in the Avalanche beating him en route to winning the Cup. However, I also grasp and appreciate the return we got in that trade and how it has led directly to the current state of the franchise AND the Stanley Cup banner that now hangs in the rafters. When we won the Cup, part of me moved on from my feelings of disdain for him because we reached our goal in part thanks to him asking out.
Now, that being said: it’s a personal choice if you want to continue to boo him for the rest of his career and I’m never going to tell you how to feel or act in regards to this matter. He left the way he left and some people took it harder and more personally than others. Like I mentioned in a previous piece, I grudge pretty hard, but I’m doing my best to move on from this one.
DOG PIC OF THE WEEK
Sometimes when you move yourself, you need a co-pilot. Ellie was up to the task this weekend.