Voice of a Fan
SALVAS: Mikko, Manimal And Still Moving In Avalanche Week In Review
I had all these grand plans to write some interesting Avalanche pieces this week… but the move into a new house that I mentioned last week has been infinitely more time consuming and exhausting than I thought. Couple that with both kids’ birthdays, a joint party for said birthdays and matching ear infections for said kids and it’s been a tough week to get anything done.
I usually like the east coast games because I can get to bed at a reasonable hour and my son and daughter can watch at least the first period with me, but this week’s swing was tough. I’ve actually been napping during intermissions and setting 15-minute alarms to wake up for the next period.
For his birthday, we gave my son the Stanley Cup locker room hat and ‘Found A Way’ shirt in addition to tickets to next week’s game in Boston. He was so excited that he brought in the hat for show and tell two days later… such a proud dad moment for me.
Ok, enough about those adorable little jerks (who I love!). Let’s take a quick look back at the last week (and a half?) that was for the Colorado Avalanche:
- Cale Makar’s career. We know the accolades. The Altitude guys say them every broadcast. Listing all the awards he has won since his sophomore year of college has basically become part of saying Cale Makar’s name at this point. Then, he notches point No. 200 in 195 career games and you see that no other defenseman in NHL history has done it faster and you really start to understand just how good this guy is. I still think back on that night we lost the draft lottery in 2017 and how I thought no team could have worse luck in a single season than the Avalanche. Boy oh boy was I wrong. Drafting Cale Makar is a top-5 all-time franchise roster move (drafting Joe Sakic with their SECOND first-round pick in 1988, the Lindros trade that got us the vastly superior Peter Forsberg, the Patrick Roy trade and taking Nathan MacKinnon instead of Seth Jones). To summarize: Makar is very good and we should be very thankful that he’s on our team.
- MacKinnon’s goal against Washington. I almost put this in ‘The Bad’ category because of how bad he made our old friend Nicholas Aube-Kubel look. I decided to celebrate Mack instead of shaming NAK, though. What a goal. The team’s goal of the year, and it might take another one like the one we saw against the Blues (Game 5) in the playoffs to top what Nate did to a pair of former teammates on the ice in Washington. I was listening to the game on the radio because I was driving back to get stuff from our old apartment and even Conor McGahey was shocked at what he saw. So much so that he couldn’t even properly articulate what happened, just a string of adjectives and superlatives. And that’s not a knock on McGahey… it merely shows you how crazy the goal was. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the highlight on the NHL app that I realized just how good it was.
- Josh Manson’s hit/fight vs. Dallas. Wow. That was awesome. The hit on Mason Marchment was great. Answering the bell for a clean hit against a guy who is universally disliked and then taking him down? Even better. I don’t think he had to fight Jamie Benn for that hit, but Benn wanted to be the captain and stand up for his teammate. I get that. I just don’t think he expected the Manimal to come out the way he did. First, Benn flinched… that’s one. Then he switches to his left hand and takes one on the chin and goes right down. In regards to my statement that Benn is universally disliked: that comes from the reaction we saw on social media where Manson’s takedown seemed to be widely celebrated for the result as much as it was for the shock factor as it relates to his opposition. I also think that the stunt Benn pulled a few weeks back where he stood back and watched a fight with Zach Hymann of the Oilers only to act like a school-yard bully was the point where a lot of people who were on the fence may have had enough of his act.
- Winning at Carolina. The only thing I wrote down in my notes section for this game was ‘bad game, still won.’ Pretty solid analysis if I say so myself. The Avalanche looked like sh!t, but thanks to a great pass from J.T. Compher and a great shot from Artturi Lehkonen they were able to manage getting the second point. Was there anyone else on the team who looked good that night…?
- Pavel Francouz. Holy moly. What a game from Franky. People will always remember him for Game 2 last year against the Oilers thanks in large part to the setting of the contest. But was this his defining regular season game? I can’t remember an effort from him in which he was more of the story. Something crazy like 46 saves against a top-tier team from the other conference was a huge boost for the team’s second goalie. I said in my last piece that I loved Jared Bednar giving Franky the home start vs. the Canes the previous week. Well that goes double for giving him the next game later a few days later against the same team. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Clearly, Francouz vs. Carolina ain’t broke.
- Mikko Rantanen. This sounds like a broken record at this point, but he has been awesome this season. And it’s not a situation where the game ends and you go “oh wow, Mikko had three or four points!” No. You recognize his greatness in-game. He’s been so, so good to start the season and not only do the points reflect that, but it’s also the key moments in which he gets the points. I know it doesn’t count for the stats, but what I loved most about his shootout winner at Dallas was he went right back to the glove side after Jake Oettinger flashed the leather on MacKinnon on the previous shot. Oettinger had shown a stellar glove all game, but that did little to stop Mikko from testing that side with that insanely quick shot low glove side to give the team the extra point.
- Second-line scoring. On a night in Carolina where the top line was held in check, it was great to see Evan Rodrigues and Alex Newhook give the team a chance with some quality goals. Considering all the talk around the second line and its deficiencies (at least at the center position) during the offseason, this little run where both players have been playing well has been very much welcomed. When 29 and 96 are seemingly contained, it’s good to know we can get goals from the next group.
- I’m just going to keep putting Alexander Georgiev here. He’s been very good to start his tenure in Denver. It wasn’t Colorado’s best goalie performance of the year (that was Franky in Carolina the game before), but his shutout against Washington on Saturday was impressive nonetheless. What makes it stand out even more to Avalanche fans was that it came opposite the goalie who led the team to the Stanley Cup last season, Darcy Kuemper. I thought he played really well against the Stars, too. The goals Dallas scored were a weird loose puck/defensive push and a lapse in defensive coverage in the final minute with the goalie pulled… both hardly his fault. At the start of the year, everyone agreed that if the team got good (not great) goaltending they would be okay. Well, I know it’s early, but we are getting nearly great goaltending every night from both Avalanche netminders.
- Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s skating on that MacKinnon goal. Yikes. (Ok, I did include it here.)
- Martin Kaut’s scoring line. I don’t know why I love Martin Kaut as much I do. Maybe it’s because my buddy isn’t a fan and I love playing a contrarian to that. But he needs to score a goal. He’s getting chances and the only one he’s been able to finish so far is that play in Finland. When down with the Eagles, he’s a scorer. When he’s with the Avalanche, his role seems to be that of a grinder. I just want to see him find the back of the net in line with some of the third-line guys we’ve seen the last two seasons.
- I think back on the ring ceremony last month at a beautiful country club and how much class was involved in putting that event together. That was evident in everything you saw posted on social media. Then you watch Kuemper and NAK get their rings on a folding table in the middle of the locker room and it’s funny to juxtapose that against those mental images of the initial ceremony. The best part was Logan O’Connor’s pizza consumption never stops. “Oh, our starting goalie from a year ago and a good buddy of mine are getting their rings? Time to devour this slice.” You go from everyone drinking fine bottles of wine in great suits and dresses to pizza in warmups. I love LOC.
- Does Peter McNab need to be honored with a spot in the rafters? There is precedent for having banners for non-players. Hell, the Avalanche deservedly have one for former GM Pierre Lacroix as the franchise architect for his role in building it into what it has become over the last three decades. As the voice of the franchise and the television constant for fans in that same time span, does McNab deserve the same treatment? If not a spot in the rafters, I feel like there should at least be a permanent reminder under the press box seat so he’s always honored.
PIC OF THE WEEK
The buddy I always mention got married this summer and I was ready for it. I brought two jerseys to the reception and requested the DJ play All the Small Things. The moment was captured and I just saw it. His poor wife didn’t see it coming.
(I’m the super handsome and sweaty one in the middle)