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Avalanche Game 41 Plus/Minus: Newhook Shines, Ice Time Spread Out

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Avalanche Senators

That’s how you bounce back.

Coming off a loss to the worst team in the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche bounced back on Saturday night, dominating the Ottawa Senators on their way to a 7-0 win. It was the first time since November 26 that they were able to play with at least a three goal lead. Now they’ll have to carry that momentum over to the next game on Monday afternoon.

As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses (are there any?) in the game against the Senators.

+ Alex Newhook

Jared Bednar said it was maybe the best game he’s ever seen Newhook play.

High praise from the head coach.

Newhook has really not been shooting the puck of late, so seeing him wire two perfect shots into the net should be what he needs to build back his confidence. He has a tremendous shot, but he either doesn’t get into spots to let it rip, or defers to his teammates.

I asked him after the game if playing with 11 forwards helped, as that means more ice time, and it sure looked like it did.

The team desperately needs a guy like Newhook to get going and be consistent the second half of the year. Maybe this is the boost he needed.

+ Erik Johnson

A lot of players had really strong games, but it feels very necessary to point out how well Johnson played.

You could tell early on that he had his legs and was feeling it. On one of his first shifts, he pinched in down low and sent a behind the back pass to the front for Rodrigues. It then went to MacKinnon, who was stopped. No goal, but necessary from a defender not named Makar or Toews.

A few shifts later, he caught a dump in, and transitioned it immediately for an odd man rush the other way. In the second, a great stick in front prevented a good scoring chance for the Senators.

As Johnson gets older, you won’t get his best every night, especially in a long season, so it’s nice to see him have a big game.

+ Some rest for the big guns

Cale Makar only played 21:49. Toews played 21:46. Nathan MacKinnon didn’t hit 20 minutes, and Mikko Rantanen didn’t even come close.

The guys who have been physically and mentally exhausted got a nice break. Jared Bednar said after practice on Friday that some guys were making mental mistakes, possibly due to being tired, so to get a lead and let those guys get some rest is huge.

The win was quite literally best case scenario for the team.

– The Fourth Line

Sampo Ranta got called up this morning to fill in for Darren Helm.

He was immediately sent down after the game. Perhaps it’s a paper move to create cap space, but it was not a good showing. He was very slow to react to the puck coming his way in the first period, and it resulted in the team being stuck in the defensive zone for another minute. He took a high sticking penalty later in the night to cap it off.

Martin Kaut didn’t look much better, and was also sent down. Both these guys could be back up on Monday, but their showing was so rough that you wonder if they give other players a look.

+ The Penalty Kill

The powerplay killed a lot of the momentum in the first period with a tough showing, but the penalty kill got that momentum back. A big save from Pavel Francouz helped, but the penalty kill needed a good night.

The Senators had the sixth best powerplay heading into the game, and Colorado shut down all three of their chances. Like most of the things that happened in this game, you hope it’s something they can build on and not just a one-off.

+ Rodrigues and MacKinnon Magic

Nathan MacKinnon found chemistry with Artturi Lehkonen almost immediately last year once he came in, but it looks like nothing compared to the chemistry he’s found with Evan Rodrigues.

The two of them play off each other so well. Rodrigues tried a little too hard to feed MacKinnon early in the game on an odd man rush, but from there, everything looked so natural. Both of them find each other in open space, and create room for one another. It’s a treat to watch.

Maybe that chemistry is fit for a film room soon…

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