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Avalanche Game 45 Plus/Minus: Newhook’s 200 Foot Game Evolving



Avalanche Kraken

You know that things have turned around when the Colorado Avalanche are toughing out wins on the second night of a back to back.

The game got sloppier as it went on for the Avalanche, but that didn’t matter. They did just enough to pull out the win, relying on good goaltending and everyone buying in on defense. The win now gives them five in a row as they head home for three before the All-Star break.

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 Kraken.

+ Alex Newhook’s 200 Foot Game

The goal was great, but the entire play was created because of a great backcheck by Newhook to stop an odd man rush the other way.

His two-way game has been strong the last few games. He was great defending the leads against the Flames and Canucks and has looked good back at center.

Newhook was playing so well that he got moved up to wing on the second line…which I actually don’t like. He looked comfortable at center between O’Connor and Cogliano and has looked good there for a few games now. He still looked confident carrying the puck after his goal, but I have liked him between those two. The forward group is a bit of a jumbled mess with 11 forwards, but those two force Newhook to play a little differently. He’s adjusted well the last week.

– The Ice

Bouncing pucks everywhere, players falling down with no one around them. It’s a brand new arena in Seattle, but the ice looked horrendous. It’s a testament to MacKinnon’s hands on his shootout goal that he was able to do that with the ice, because that same ice gave Rodrigues issues. Not sure I’ve ever seen so many wide open nets missed because the puck just bounced over a stick.

+ Pavel Francouz

The only goal he gave up was not the greatest, but once again, he was strong outside of that.

The Avalanche seem to get off to slow starts with him in the pipes, but he held it down. The Kraken got the first seven shots of the game, some of them good looks, but couldn’t get anything past Francouz. Given it was the second half of the back to back, an early goal for the Kraken could have changed the course of the game. A tired team chasing from behind is never a recipe for success.

In the shootout, he gave the Kraken nothing to shoot at. Eberle might have had a little room, but he missed wide, and the other  two shooters were poke checked by Frankie. He’s now 4-0 in shootouts and hasn’t given up a goal. Not bad.

Once again, that goaltending duo comes through for the Avalanche.

– Seattle’s Overtime Strategy

I’ve ranted in here before about how much I dislike what overtime has become, but Seattle took it to a new extreme.

They essentially had possession the final half of overtime, but did nothing with it, and I’m not even sure they took the puck below the hashmarks. It was horrific to watch. Just resetting over and over again into the neutral zone. If you’re going to reset, you have to try to attack at some point. At one point they had an exhausted MacKinnon stuck on the ice, and just left the zone and let him change.

They’d probably still be regrouping back to the neutral zone if the NHL didn’t limit overtimes in the regular season.

+ Defensive Commitment

This was far from a perfect game from the Avalanche.

There were sloppy mistakes made by the team, both with and without the puck, in the back half of the game. They barely generated any offense in that time. That happens on a back to back. But it didn’t matter as much because the whole team was buying in on defense, which is what happened last season. If someone makes a mistake, someone else is there to back them up. Not everyone will have their “A” game, but effort goes a long way to making up for it.

That is the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL. Holding them to one goal without your best defensemen shows everyone is committed defensively. There really weren’t a ton of individual stand outs for the Avalanche, as the team just buckled down and did what they had to do.

In an 82 game season, you need some of those games to survive.

– Sam Girard

I don’t want to stoke the flames here, because Girard is probably the most divisive player on the team at the moment. It was not his best night. That could be said for a lot of players.

But if you look at the shot share numbers, he’s far and away the lowest on the team, especially on defense. The Avalanche only controlled 29% of the shot attempts with him on the ice. The next lowest defenseman was Brad Hunt at 45%.

He did have a nice break up on a two on one in front of the net in the second period, though.

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