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Avalanche Game 56 Plus/Minus: Byram is a Gift, Compher Keeps Rolling



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No team in the Western Conference should feel comfortable. The Colorado Avalanche are coming.

After a dominant 5-1 win over the Jets, the Avalanche are now within striking distance of not just the top seed in the Central, but the top seed in the West. The game was not particularly close, and the Avalanche got off to a red-hot start with four goals in 11 minutes. It was almost like they were sending a message to the rest of the West.

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 Jets.

+ Bowen Byram

No other team can lose their top defenseman and just plug another guy in and not lose a beat. Bowen Byram is a gift, and all anyone wants to see him do is stay healthy.

Because he’s a special player.

His stick was on fire in the defensive zone, and offensively, he looked really confident. The Jets made a huge mistake just letting him walk in untouched, allowing him to label a puck top shelf.

At practice on Thursday, he ran the top powerplay unit, alternating with Devon Toews. There was no alternating during the game. Byram ran the top powerplay, and looked comfortable doing so, moving all around the offensive zone, trading places with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.

Since returning from injury, he has seven points in eight games. He’s a game changer on the blueline.

+ The Big Guns

I say it a lot, but never take for granted the elite players this franchise currently has.

Tonight, one team had Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The other team did not. And the difference was very noticeable.

These two are game breakers. How you let MacKinnon get so wide open 19 seconds into the game, I’ll never know, but he blew past everyone and made a top flight goaltender look silly. Then the Jets decided to leave Rantanen with all the time in the world on a two on one. Big mistake. He waited out Hellebuyck and went post and in on what ended up being the game-winning goal.

The two also worked magic on the Compher goal, cycling the puck all around. Other teams don’t have guys like this, and in the Western Conference, that may be the difference.

+ Roll the Lines

When the Jets put David Rittich in to start the third period, you knew the game was over. That allowed the Avalanche to roll their lines, which is huge with another game on the schedule tomorrow. Devon Toews barely played 20 minutes. This was basically a night off for him.

With 27 games in 50 days, you need nights like this.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

He didn’t have a ton of work to do, but maybe that’s what’s important. His last four games, he’s averaged 40 shots against. 27 is an easy night for him, and he only allowed one goal off a deflection. His biggest saves came at the end of the second period, when the Jets made a little bit of a push, with his biggest stop coming on Scheifele.

I imagine he’ll be back in net against the Flames.

+ J.T. Compher

Maybe Compher was trying to make me look good after my article earlier in the day. If so, thanks J.T.

One goal, one assist, +3, and he took 28 more face-offs. It’s fair to debate whether or not he’s a second line center. He certainly hasn’t played like one the majority of his career. But right now, he’s getting the job done, and you really do have to wonder if it’s even possible to upgrade on him at the trade deadline.

– Evan Rodrigues

Rodrigues did pick up an assist on the Rantanen goal, beating his man to the puck to chip the puck out of the zone, but other than that, another ugly night. In the third period, when the team was playing safe and smart hockey, he made several mistakes with the puck. A blind drop pass entering the zone that led to a turnover was one mistake, and holding onto the puck way too long before it was taken away from him was another. That turnover forced Devon Toews to take a penalty.

That assist was his only point in the last eight games, so he definitely needs to pick it up down the stretch.

+ Closing the Game Out

Maybe the Jets had given up by the time the third period started, but the Avalanche made it look easy. They had to kill a few penalties, but really didn’t give up much in terms of high end chances. Most of the team was smart with the puck, and that made it feel like the third period just flew by.

Onto the next.

+ No Retaliation

When the Avalanche got off to their hot start, the Jets were angry. And they were really trying to test what they could get away with. Cross-checks, punches after the whistle, you name it.

And the Avalanche fell for none of it. They kept playing, and didn’t fall into whatever trap the Jets were trying to lay. That’s what they did in the playoffs as well. Control what you can control, and don’t let the opposing team force you into taking stupid penalties.

– This Schedule

A four-day break followed by another back to back. The coaching staff is frustrated by it. Andrew Cogliano called it “stupid”. It doesn’t make any sense.

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