Avalanche Game 57 Plus/Minus: Magnificent Malgin, Stellar Georgiev
The Colorado Avalanche might have just buried the Calgary Flames playoff hopes.
With the loss to the Avalanche, the Flames now sit four points back of a Wild Card spot, and have played more games than any team they’re chasing. Before the season, the Flames were looked at as the team that had the best chance of challenging the Avalanche in the Western Conference. Now, there’s a decent chance they don’t even get into the playoffs.
On Saturday night, their offense was held in check, and the Avalanche exposed their goaltending.
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.
+ That Malgin Goal
I said it after he was acquired that I really like Malgin’s game. He holds onto the puck and tries to make plays when he has the chance.
But even I could have never seen a goal like that coming. Nikita Zadorov will want to burn the tape on that one, as Malgin’s stutter step completely tricked him. But that move would have been forgotten had Malgin not finished it off. His perfectly placed shot was the icing on the cake.
Since the addition of Matt Nieto, the depth scoring on the team has greatly improved. A big part of that is having both Malgin and Nieto on the fourth line, so Bednar has players he can trust.
+ Sam Girard’s Zone Entry Defense
The scout next to me in the press box made note of how well Girard was doing defending zone entries. There were several times that the Flames tried to come in down the right wing on Girard, and he would poke the puck away and start the breakout the other way. A big reason for the teams turnaround has been Girard’s improved play on the blueline.
+ Alex Newhook
The goal was terrific, and greatly needed for Newhook. He hadn’t scored in eight games, and needed something good to happen offensively.
But where he stood out in this game, to me, was on the defensive end. He had to chase around Nazem Kadri a lot, and hung with him. In the third period, he shadowed Kadri around the zone, and ultimately to the blueline. When Kadri tried to stickhandle around him, Newhook poked the puck into the neutral zone, which allowed the rest of the Avalanche skaters to change.
Do I think there’s a chance he could get traded this week? Yeah, I could see it, but it would 100% have to be for the right player, because he seems to finally be comfortable at center.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
A week ago, Georgiev told me actually has felt better on the second game of these back to backs, and it looked that way again. The lighter workload against the Jets was crucial, as he looked fresh. On the first shift of the game, he had to stretch out his left pad to make a big save on Huberdeau. The Avalanche looked a little tired in the second period, and he had to be sharp, stopping 16 of the 17 shots the Flames took.
With this win, he now moves into a tie for fourth place in the NHL in wins. Pretty impressive in his first year as a starter.
+ The Nazem Kadri Tribute
That had to be one of the better tribute videos the organization has put together. Granted, Kadri gave them a lot of great content to put in the video, but it was very well done. And it clearly meant a lot to Kadri, as he was visibly emotional.
– The Mystery Francouz Injury
On Saturday afternoon, the Avalanche made a small trade, but one that really makes you wonder.
They acquired veteran goaltender Keith Kinkaid from Boston for Shane Bowers. With Justus Annunen and Jonas Johansson, it seems like the Avalanche are fine in terms of depth, so why make this move?
We asked Bednar after the game if there had been a setback for Francouz, and here’s the answer we got.
Bednar on Francouz's injury: "We had the 3-4 week window, basically 4 weeks. We're not quite two into that. He hasn't had a setback, but there's no guarantees it's going to be exactly 4."
— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) February 26, 2023
Clear as mud, right? He hasn’t had a setback, but maybe the original timeline was wrong? The Avalanche have a busy schedule coming up, and can’t run Georgiev into the ground. The Francouz injury is pretty concerning.
+ Nathan MacKinnon
At this point, this might be a regular portion of Plus/Minus. MacKinnon legitimately looks like he could challenge Connor McDavid for the crown of best player in the world at the moment. He’s playing lights out hockey.
I will say, he showed some signs of life, as he had a few good looks, but the shots were stopped pretty easily. His strength early in the year was holding onto the puck that extra half second to make a play. Right now, he’s holding onto the puck a half second too long, and teams are forcing him into mistakes.
+ Sticking Up For Each Other
We don’t always get replays up in the press box, but on the initial look, the Backlund hit on MacKinnon didn’t seem that bad. The star didn’t like it, and took exception to the hit. With the game pretty much in hand for the Avalanche, I kind of enjoyed seeing Byram and Rantanen let Backlund know it’s not okay to take runs at MacKinnon. Obviously, there’s probably other players you’d prefer handle that business, but you want to stick up for your star forward no matter what.