AVALANCHE GRADES: Caution, Moose Crossing (+)
Avalanche 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
Game 31 | Wednesday, Dec. 21 | Ball Arena
The franchise with the most Stanley Cups in history against the defending Stanley Cup champion. And that meant nothing Wednesday night inside Ball Arena as the Canadiens and Avalanche slogged their way through 60-plus minutes of inter-conference regular-season hockey.
It’s hard to imagine a game being less entertaining than the 1-0 shutout win that preceded it, but that’s how tonight’s game felt compared to Monday’s tilt with the Islanders. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy parts of this game or wasn’t happy with the result. I’m just frustrated with this team’s inability to play the type of game we’re accustomed to. That being said, I understand that the current lineup as constructed is not going to be able to meet those lofty expectations and opposing teams have been able to clamp down and make that style difficult.
But I can’t grade on what I think can happen, only on what actually did happen. Here is how I saw it tonight:
Erik Johnson (C+/B-): Was out there for the first goal of the game (maybe a tad too far over to the weak side that allowed the breakout up the middle) and used the defensive zone as a Slip ‘N Slide trying to thwart that odd-man rush near the end of the middle frame. EJ is a player I tend to grade on a curve, because he could have two terrible plays, but then make one or two decent ones at the blueline to deny a zone entry and all is forgiven in my eyes.
Devon Toews (B): His best shift of regulation came a quarter of the way into the third period. He was all over the ice and physical… but nothing came from it. However, he made up for it with the primary assist on the game winner in overtime. I guess the thing that frustrates me about Toews this season is that we know he can be better, but he’s not alone in that criticism this season. He also became the fifth Avalanche player this year to wear the ‘A’ as an alternate captain in 2022-23 (MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar, Cogliano).