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



Avalanche Flames

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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