Third periods were an issue for the Colorado Avalanche before hitting the All-Star break. And they didn’t just go away.
The Avalanche dominated for two periods, but failed to capitalize on all the chances they had to extend the lead. In the third period, the Penguins came on strong, and the Avalanche sat back, leading to the tying goal for Pittsburgh. The Penguins killed off a penalty in overtime and immediately went down and scored he game winning goal.
The Avalanche will take the point, but they should have gotten more.
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 Penguins.
++ Bowen Byram is Back
For a second, it looked like the return might be short lived. Byram blocked a shot early and left briefly, but did come back.
After that, his presence was very evident.
There was a little rust, but the 21 year old picked up an assist on the only goal by Nathan MacKinnon, and played a really strong second period. Like most of the team, he fell off in the third, but just seeing Byram back out there is fantastic for the team moving forward.
Imagine how much better they’ll look when Manson returns?
— That Third Period
Just take a look at the numbers. The Avalanche dominated for two periods, and then completely got caved in for the final half of the third period.
Third periods have been an issue of late, but this game, in particular, stings. It wasn’t all that close for two periods. The Avalanche controlled all the play, but could not beat Casey Desmith. When the Avalanche are at the top of their game, they keep pushing and don’t change the way they play. That didn’t happen against Pittsburgh.
It’s human nature to sit back with a lead and play a little safer, but a complete 180 like we saw is jarring. And in the end, it cost them them the game. It worked for two periods. Why the sudden change?
+ Nathan MacKinnon’s 200 Foot Game
For the majority of the game, MacKinnon dominated. He was dead tired on the overtime goal and looked like it, but his defensive game was maybe more impressive than his offensive game.
Early in the game, he had a shift where he battled down low defensively, won the puck, broke it out and led a rush the other way. In the third period, he was getting in front of shots left and right and breaking up plays.
He’s always motivated to play against his buddy Sidney Crosby, and looked like it on Tuesday.
– Pavel Francouz’s Poke Check Execution
If Francouz pokes the puck away like he intended too, nothing likely comes from the play. But if you don’t execute that poke check, you are in a tough spot.
That’s what happened to Frankie on the game tying goal. It was a great read, but he just didn’t get enough on it. It led to Zucker getting a shot, and Frankie scrambling for the rest of the play, before the Penguins tied the game.
This loss isn’t on Francouz by any means. It was just a tough moment for the goalie.
+ The First Two Periods
The Avalanche were fantastic for two periods. They were flying. It didn’t look like they could be slowed down.
We’ll get to the lack of finish later, but if the team plays the way they did the first two periods, they will win most games. You just have to finish what you start. It was a glimpse into what this team might be able to do once they’re healthy (if that ever happens).
– The Hit on Cale Makar
Cale Makar took a blindside hit late in the game that saw him leave for about ten minutes. He would return, but the hit itself was an ugly one. The refs didn’t call a penalty on it, and who knows if the league will take a look at it. It’s very difficult to tell with the Department of Player Safety what they’ll do, but when a star player takes a hit to the head (and only the head), they have to look at it…right?
+ The Ice Time Spread
Four defenseman played over 20 minutes for the Avalanche. Overtime really only skewed the ice times for Makar and Devon Toews, but through three periods, the Avalanche were able to roll their defense and looked (mostly) good doing so.
Makar and Toews cannot continue to play the minutes they have been and still be fresh down the stretch, so the coaching staff now being able to spread the ice time around is huge.
– The Lack of Finish
42 shots on net and only one goal. There were multiple posts hit by the Avalanche, but those can go either way when you think about it.
Like I said earlier, if the team plays the way they did the first two periods down the stretch, they’ll be in good shape. However, lack of finish has been an issue for the majority of the season. The team is returning to health, so you’d like to think that shooting will turn around a bit, but it’s a cause for concern.