It’s nice to finally be able to write after an Avalanche win.
It took over two periods for the goal scoring to actually kick in, but after dominating play at even strength, pucks finally started entering the net for the Avalanche, on their way to a massive 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
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 Oilers.
+ J.T. Compher’s Defense
I really don’t think it’s a stretch to say that was one of the best defensive games J.T. Compher has ever played in an Avalanche uniform.
Maybe he just likes playing Edmonton.
Compher looked locked in from the start, knowing his matchup was going to be Conor McDavid. He hung with him every second of the way. In the first period, his stick was out of control, breaking up passes all over the place. It didn’t slow down the rest of the game.
In the third period, he made a game saving defensive play, diving to stop an Oilers player from smacking the puck into an empty net. That play was enough for the game to get to overtime and for Cale Makar to do his thing.
Any scout watching that game might tell their team to spend a lot of money on Compher when he hits the market this summer.
+ Nathan MacKinnon Shooting Gallery
From the start of the game, MacKinnon was on fire. He hit the post early in the first period and had several glorious scoring chances. He finished with eight shot attempts in the first period alone.
Eventually, things were going to start going in. And they did.
He ended the game with 16 shot attempts and 11 shots on net in total, but it was his superstar effort in the third period that got the team back in the game.
I’m sure Darnell Nurse had nightmares about MacKinnon after the playoffs last season, and they’re likely to come back again after what Nate did to him on his goal.
– Penalty Kill
I won’t really discuss the penalties themselves, because I didn’t agree with some of them (particularly the Newhook one), but the penalty kill had a tough go of it.
Granted, they were facing the top powerplay in the league, run by the best player in the world, but the Oilers were able to do what they wanted. Draisaitl feathering a pass through several sticks on the first goal was just a sign of that.
The penalty kill does deserve credit for hunkering down and killing off the powerplay after the goaltender interference challenge, including a short 5 on 3.
+ 5 on 5 Play
If the Avalanche didn’t find a way to come back and win this game, there would still at least be positives to take from it.
Unlike previous games, where the Avalanche couldn’t muster together a full 60 minutes, they were very dominant at 5 on 5 play from start to finish. They were playing like the Avalanche of old, with constant movement in the offensive zone that the Oilers simply had no answer for. There wasn’t a lot of defending at even strength because it wasn’t necessary.
It was just a matter of time before the team broke through because they were playing the right way.
+ Evan Rodrigues’ Return
There is a noticeable difference in the way this team plays with Rodrigues in the lineup.
He adds another skilled player who can carry the puck in transition to a lineup that desperately needs it. Although he doesn’t have the pure scoring ability of Andre Burakovsky, he has helped replace Burakovsky’s ability to enter and exit the zone freely with the puck.
He’s quickly becoming a “must sign” for the team in the summer.
+ Sam Girard’s Play
From reading the comments, I know a lot of people don’t like Girard all that much, but give him credit: He played a great game.
His first shift, he made an incredible one on one defensive play on McDavid and shut him down with ease. He hit the post in the second period off a nice face-off win by Newhook as well. In total, the team controlled 67% of the shot attempts with Girard on the ice, and his individual play was terrific.