Avalanche Game 42 Plus/Minus: Nichushkin Returns, As Does Swagger
Back to back victories where the Colorado Avalanche looked a little more like the team everyone is used to seeing has them feeling good before heading on the road.
After a big win over Ottawa on Saturday, the Avalanche came out swinging on their way to a five goal lead early. The Red Wings would get some goals back late in the game, but it didn’t matter in the end. The damage was done.
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 Red Wings.
+ The Return of the Swagger
In the second period, the Avalanche turned it on, and it looked the swagger was back.
A scout sitting next to me in the press box said “It looks like they’re playing a PeeWee team”.
That’s how dominant it was.
The win itself is huge in the standings, but it’s the way the Avalanche played that had to feel good. For the first ten minutes of the second period, Pavel Francouz could have taken a nap. The Avalanche worked the puck around the offensive zone with ease, controlling the play and not letting the Red Wings take a breath.
That’s the Avalanche team the fans have come accustomed to seeing.
Now let’s see if they can keep it up on the road.
+ The Return of Nichushkin
There was some rust with the puck on his stick, but the impact of Valeri Nichushkin was obvious from the drop of the puck.
Head coach Jared Bednar attributed some of the Avalanche’s goal scoring struggles to not having enough of a presence in front of the net. Nichushkin provided that on Makar’s first goal.
The big Russian changes the way the Avalanche play. Getting a top six forward back obviously pushes some players down the lineup into spots they might be more fit for, but there’s more to it than that.
His relentless back pressure and heavy play on the puck is something few players in the lineup provide. The team controls the play more when he’s out there.
Now the team just has to hope he can stay in the lineup for good.
– Taking the foot off the gas pedal
The game was over and done with in the second period, but you still don’t necessarily want to see the team give up three goals in the final 22 minutes of the game.
The Ben Chiarot goal is one Pavel Francouz will want to have back, but while the Avalanche played really well, it wasn’t as strong a performance as Saturday night.
+ Pavel Francouz…early
I didn’t necessarily love Francouz’s game all night long. As mentioned above, the Chiarot goal was weak. His rebound control wasn’t great as well, and he had some sketchy moments in the second period.
But early in the game, he came up huge. The Avalanche came out a little sloppy in the first five minutes, and Francouz made some huge saves to calm the team down. Who know what could have happened if the Red Wings score early.
I don’t think there’s a goaltending controversy, but it’s nice to get both goalies involved after Georgiev’s heavy workload the last month.
+ Powerplay Goals
The Avalanche did get a powerplay goal at the end of the Senators game, but it was not a traditional goal you’d expect from a powerplay.
Tonight, they got the type of goals you draw up at practice.
As was already mentioned, Nichushkin’s presence adds a big body in front, making it tough for any goaltender to see. Cale Makar’s wrist shot wouldn’t have even been a scoring chance with no traffic, but Husso couldn’t see the puck, so it got through him.
The second powerplay goal from Compher has to be a huge confidence booster for the second unit. They haven’t had much, if any, success this season. With Nichushkin back, Rodrigues moving down to the second unit adds another dimension to it that led to the Compher goal.
The powerplay was dominant to start the season, and they’ll need it to keep rolling as they head out on the road.