2022 was a pretty memorable year for the Colorado Avalanche.
They’ll just want to forget how it ended.
Another slow start doomed the Avalanche, and they were never able to recover on their way to a 6-2 defeat at hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Maple Leafs.
+ Nathan MacKinnon Returns
The Avalanche took a beating, but at least they got their star center back in the lineup.
Nathan MacKinnon returned after an 11 game absence, playing 22:19 and going pointless. There was noticeable rust, as you would expect, and he didn’t look like the MacKinnon we saw to start the season, but just having him back in the lineup is a boost moving forward.
One shot on goal at even strength is not the norm for MacKinnon, and it would be safe to assume he’ll look a lot better on Monday night. Still, it feels a lot better to have him in there as opposed to out of the lineup, doesn’t it?
– Alexandar Georgiev Slumping
14 goals allowed in the last 8 periods for Georgiev. There are certainly issues with the rest of the team at the moment, but without Pavel Francouz, the Avalanche are being forced to ride Georgiev and he’s had a tough week.
It’s been pretty boom or bust for Georgiev in December. He either has shut things down or has gotten caved in pretty badly. For December, he had no game with a save percentage between 89.2% or 94.9%. It was either above or below that.
Marner is an elite player, but beat him pretty cleanly far side early in the game. He looked pretty small in his net on the second goal against, and the fifth goal right before he was pulled was one he will one want back. For the first time this year, Bednar was forced to yank his goaltender.
If the Avalanche are going to be without Francouz for a little while, they’ll need Georgiev to get back on track.
+ J.T. Compher Stays Hot on Second Line
It would have been easy for Compher to drop back down off the first line and fade away, seeing his offensive production disappear. But that’s not what happened.
With MacKinnon’s return, Compher predictably lost his spot between Arturri Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen, but still found ways to get on the scoresheet. He was one of the few to have some jump offensively, scoring a very pretty goal at the end of the first. He looked like a confident player, carrying the puck into the middle of the zone and firing it back against the grain to beat Matt Murray. He would add an assist on the only other goal of the game by Devon Toews.
He’s up for a new contract this summer and can sign with anyone if he chooses to do so, and if he keeps scoring, it might be tough for the Avalanche to keep him.
– Slow Start…Again
This has to stop at some point, doesn’t it?
Beyond going down two goals in the first ten minutes of the game, the Avalanche had no jump whatsoever. The Maple Leafs controlled all the play, outshooting them 13-6 and owning 69% of the shot attempts.
Even if the team was fully healthy and had the firepower to come back, it would not be a recipe for success. It’s really hard to pinpoint why the team is starting games as slow as they are, but something has to be done about it.
– Kurtis MacDermid Penalties
MacDermid is in the lineup to plant a seed of doubt in the heads of the opponents. But if you are playing less than four (FOUR!) minutes a game, taking penalties (offensive zone penalties to boot) is unacceptable.
Punching a guy in the head in front of the net when the puck isn’t around does nothing to help the team. And it seems like Bednar had enough, as he benched him after the penalty and didn’t let him back on the ice until the Maple Leafs scored the empty netter.
If you’re going to play so little, you can’t be putting your team at a disadvantage.
+ AND – Denis Malgin
Malgin was one of the few players that had some jump for the Avalanche offensively. He picked up his first assist with the team on the Toews goal, and had a great look in the second period that he shot well over the net. The team controlled 79% of the shot attempts when Malgin was on the ice. His confidence with the puck is very apparent, and his speed and ability to hold onto the puck is what makes him stand out amongst a depleted bottom six at the moment.
That confidence with the puck might have been his downfall on the Auston Matthews goal. He made a series of mistakes on the goal that will be the focus of the Turning Point breakdown from this game.
– The Third Defensive Pair
The Englund/Hunt pair had a rough game, but the first ten minutes were a mess.
Their first shift, they got matched up against some of the Maple Leafs best forwards and got stuck in their own end for an extended period of time. Their second shift, Englund got beat badly by an elite move by Mitch Marner. And on their third shift, Hunt turned the puck over, and Englund was outmuscled in front of the net for the Leafs second goal. Not a great showing.
The Avalanche are off on Sunday with no practice, and will return to the ice Monday night against the Vegas Golden Knights.