Avalanche Game 51 Plus/Minus: Englund Impresses, O’Connor Scores
It’s only game 51, so it’s not necessarily must-win territory yet. But given how the Colorado Avalanche played after the Christmas break, a losing streak coming out of the All-Star break would have been tough.
And they didn’t allow that to happen.
The win over the Panthers by the Avalanche salvaged a road trip that was off to an ugly start. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but you take them any way you can get them this time of the year.
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 Panthers.
+ Andreas Englund
The Avalanche placed Brad Hunt, and not Englund, on waivers this afternoon.
Englund followed it up with his best game in weeks.
He took a penalty in the first period, but it was a great read overall. It’s not his fault Reinhart couldn’t get his stick on the pass, making it interference. That didn’t slow Englund down, though. He played really strong, looked confident, and held his own in a fight in the second period. With Johnson going down, they needed someone to eat a few more minutes, and Englund stepped up.
+ J.T. Compher’s Passing
Compher has never been a great puck distributor in his career, but this year, something has been a little different. His confidence with the puck has been way higher, and it’s trickled into his playmaking as well.
His pass to Nieto on the second goal was incredible. That’s a very tight space, and Nieto needed a perfect pass to fire it home. He got it. Compher also had a great look going against the grain to Rantanen in the second period.
He set his career high in assists against the Panthers, and is now only two points away from a career high in points.
– Bo Byram in the Defensive Zone
Maybe it’s too much to ask from Byram right now with Makar out, because he’s been thrust into playing heavy defensive minutes and tonight, he struggled. Defensively, at least.
In the second period, he had a turnover behind his own net right to the Panthers. He got lost a few times defensively, and was beat at the blueline on the third Panthers goal.
Offensively, he’s looked fine, so he might just need some time to get back at it defensively.
+ Alexandar Georgiev’s Response
I didn’t like either of the first two goals by the Panthers. They both beat him short side, although in very different ways.
You have to like the response, though. He could have crumbled, but he held it together and came up huge as the Panthers kept pushing. They registered 33 shots in total in the final two periods (we’ll get to that), and Georgiev held up enough to get the win.
+ Logan O’Connor
It’s been a long time coming for O’Connor. Three months, to be exact.
You never question the effort level of O’Connor, and he does a lot of other things for the team that don’t show up on the scoreboard, but eventually, they were going to need him to find the back of the net again. It couldn’t have come at a better time, either. A shorthanded tally coming off a blowout loss set the tone early for the Avalanche. Hopefully that gets some confidence back for him offensively.
– Team Defense in the Final Two Periods
44 shots against in the game is rough, but 33 in the final 40 minutes was rough. Defense appeared to be optional for both teams in this game, but the Avalanche typically play tighter than this. Even in their rougher defensive games, they can usually limit the shots against.
Something that needs to tighten up before their rematch with Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
+ Matt Nieto
Who could have guessed that a guy who spent years in the organization came back and looked like he never left?
Smart plays all over the ice. Whether it’s simple chips entering or exiting the zone, he always makes the right play. He and Compher have looked great together whenever they’ve been on the ice at the same time since the trade.
I will never understand why the Sharks gave him up for as little as they did. If they had held onto him for a few weeks, I imagine they could have gotten a decent pick for him. Big win for the Avalanche.
– Erik Johnson’s Injury
The injury didn’t look great, and he had to be helped to the locker room. Bednar didn’t have an update on him after the game.
What makes it potentially worse is the Avalanche placing Hunt on waivers earlier that day. If he gets picked up off waivers, you’ve suddenly lost a depth defenseman for nothing. Now, waivers are extremely unpredictable. Hunt has another year on his contract, and that may scare teams away, but he makes next to nothing. He’s been solid as a fill-in this year, and all it takes is one team to put in a claim.
Hopefully EJ is okay. He has had an up and down season, but if the defense ever gets healthy, he’s a solid fit as the sixth defenseman.