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Avalanche Game 43 Plus/Minus: Toews Steps Up, Grinders Grind

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Three wins in a row. That’s called a winning streak for the Colorado Avalanche.

A much needed one, too.

Down the best defenseman in the world, the Avalanche found a way to get the job done, shutting the Calgary Flames and winning 4-1. Up front, two players provided all the offense, while everyone did their part defensively to fill in for the absence of Makar.

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 Flames.

+ Devon Toews

Without Cale Makar, Toews was forced to be “the man” on the blueline. And he was.

A smart read and poke check by Toews helped create the opening Rantanen goal, and his stick was really working all night long. He played with every single defenseman and held down the fort. The interesting thing is that he didn’t have to play a ton of minutes. At a little over 24 minutes, it was manageable.

Big time game from a guy they really needed to have a big game.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

Sure, he had a bit of luck on his side in the second period, but you need that.

After taking a few games off to mentally reset, Georgiev got his chance to return to the net and did his part. The second period, in particular, was when he shined. His biggest save probably was a shoulder stop after a turnover behind the Avalanche net. He had another big glove save in the third off a bit of a broken play in front of the net.

34 saves on 35 shots, and not much more you can ask for from him. The goal is to get both goalies in a groove and tonight is a good start for Georgiev.

+ Logan O’Connor and Alex Newhook Defending the Lead

I loved these two in the third period. Cogliano had good moments as well, but these two really stood out with just smart plays to kill time.

They had one shift in the offensive zone with around eight minutes left where they just outworked and cycled the puck around the Flames top line. By the time the Flames got the puck, Kadri and company was tired and had to get off.

The next shift was just as strong.

O’Connor had a burst down the right wing, and instead of taking a low percentage shot, held onto it and went around the net. He then ate the puck along the boards to kill more time.

Just smart play when you’re holding a lead.

+ Jacob MacDonald on Defense

I honestly can’t remember the last time MacDonald played defense for the Avalanche, but he filled in very nicely. Without Makar, the Avalanche needed someone who could skate and move the puck a bit, and he played that role well.

There were multiple smart backhand passes he made under pressure to hit the center for easy breakouts. He hasn’t had the best season, but it was a strong performance against the Flames.

– Defensive Pair Mix-Ups

When you roll with seven defenseman, you run the risk of communication mistakes. It happened a few times in this game.

In the third period, Girard and Hunt just ran into each other behind the net, leading to a chance for the Flames. In the second, Toews went to reverse it, but MacDermid wasn’t in a position to get the puck, and it led to another Flames chance, which was Georgiev’s biggest save of the night.

This is bound to happen from time to time when defensemen are playing with different partners throughout a game, and Georgiev had to be there to help out. That’s why you pay goalies big money.

+ Artturi Lehkonen’s Fin(n)ish

For the longest time, Lehkonen was having trouble finishing. In his one goal in 13 game slump, he still registered 29 shots on net, but nothing was going in.

The last three games, he’s got five goals, and most importantly, he’s gotten some even strength goals. Coming into last week, he only had two five on five goals on the year. He’s already more than doubled that amount in the last three games.

He does a lot of the dirty work on the top line, so nice to see him get rewarded on the scoresheet.

+ Erik Johnson’s 900th Game

Given all the injuries he’s had to deal with, and the concussion problems that threatened his career a few years back, getting to 900 games is a big deal.

It’s not easy to play in this league. And it’s not easy to play in this league for a very long time. Hitting 900 games is a big accomplishment.

Congrats to EJ.

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Ryan Krueger

EJ remains solid as a 2nd-3rd line defenseman. Wonder what he will slot in salary wise going forward?

John Mauss

EJ’s salary needs are an important question. Thoughts?

ricoflashback

Mainly, his $6M per year comes off the books in 2023-2024. He still can play and has, knock-knock, avoided major injuries recently. Does he sign a one year/two year deal at $2M or $3M a year or does he chase bigger money for his last contract? I’m thinking the latter and I can certainly understand it.

Clyde Lemiuex

LOC needs to stay out of the box. 30 game drought blows when you have on against and you are in the box!

Karl Keen

Solid win. Got a bit ugly in parts of the third particularly MacKinnon doing blind passes to the other team and Girard just doing Girard things at times (he did have some nice moments as well). Did you see that fan with the “trade girard” sign in the stands?! That has to hurt to see if you are Girard. Have to keep building on this. Vancouver historically gives us some fits so need to keep it going. I thought that Nuke seemed to be a bit shy on his skates deep in the third. Not cutting as hard. I noticed… Read more »

Dave North

This reply will probably be censored, but that “fan” deserves a punch in the face. Expressing opinions in the comments area here is one thing, but throwing it in the guy’s face in the arena like that is not acceptable.

ricoflashback

If you’re playing both MacDonald and MacDermid in a game, I’d rather see MacDonald on defense and MacDermid as a wing. MacDonald, while not a thumper by any stretch of the imagination, can handle the puck and get it out of harms way. MacDermid is just a liability as a defenseman. He doesn’t have the quickness to cover anyone and can get out of position quickly. By the way – – did you see the stat on Toews + / – ratio? And lastly, the Avs fan at the Saddledome with the “Trade Girard – What Does He Do?” sign?… Read more »

ricoflashback

Whatever happened to Yan Girard? No longer a member of CHN or just not commenting anymore?

slowpokeczech

I saw the sign, too. Kinda funny to see in an away game.

I’ve always thought Girard haters held some kind of old-school bias–“D-men should be big and bash opponents,” like Foote. Yes, he gets muscled off the puck, but he exits the d-zone exceptionally well.

I trust him with the puck more than the majority of defensemen we’ve skated in the last decade.

ricoflashback

As long as he has space. If Sammy doesn’t have space, he surrenders the puck. And he can’t cover in front of the net. Just can’t do it with his lack of size. More of a liability in the playoffs than the regular, “Ice Capades” season. But I’ll say this – I think he’s become more aware and has been better at recognizing situations and not getting pressed against the boards like in the past. Girard has always been a good skater and can maneuver the puck out of the zone. High hockey IQ, as well.

Bob Neal

I’m probably too late to this discussion but I resent being labeled as a Girard “hater” because I think he is too small to be effective an effective defensemen. I’ve heard very nice third party stories about what an outstanding person he is. Like Rico, I must acknowledge that he is playing much better defensively lately. I thought that in the Flames game he really stepped up with Makar missing. I thought he looked very effective playing with a large defensive partner, whether it be EJ, MacDermid or Englund. Good for Sammie. I think that his cousin signed off several… Read more »

John Mauss

I like the “plus” “minus” format a lot. Much better than trying to give a letter grade to all 19 players. It better highlights who played well and who played not so well.

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