Avalanche Game 59 Plus/Minus: Annunen’s Rough Night, Lehkonen Keeps Working
Just 10 days ago, the Colorado Avalanche were able to overcome a three goal deficit and beat the Edmonton Oilers.
Against the New Jersey Devils, it was not meant to be.
Down 3-0 early in the game, and then 5-1 through 26 minutes, the Avalanche did bounce back, but it was too big of a hill to climb out of. The young starting goaltender for the Avalanche didn’t have his best night, but he didn’t get much help either.
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 Devils.
+ The MacKinnon/Byram Combination
These two are developing one heck of a connection. They’re constantly looking for each other and it’s leading to some fun chances offensively. Just before Byram sprung MacKinnon for his goal, they were playing a little keep away in the offensive zone from the Devils.
In 21 games, Byram is up to 14 points. In his last nine games, he’s picked up eight points. If he keeps producing like this, it’ll be one of the trickier contract negotiations I can think of in recent memory.
Self inflicted wounds all night long. The first four goals for the Devils all came off turnovers in the defensive zone by the Avalanche.
On goal one, newcomer Lars Eller went to chip the puck behind his net. The right play, but Jack Johnson wasn’t ready for it, and a Devils player snuck in to take it. On the second goal, there were multiple turnovers, as the second line was stuck in their end for an extended period of time. On goal three, MacKinnon turned it over trying to exit the zone. Five seconds later, it was in the back of the net. And on the fourth goal, Toews, who we’ll discuss more in a second, fumbled the puck exiting the zone.
The Avalanche had a tough night checking, but when you give the puck away, it only makes things worse.
– Devon Toews
Last game, Toews was probably the best defenseman on the ice. Against the Devils, it was the complete opposite. There were multiple instances of him fumbling the puck. The turnover on the fourth Devils goal, as discussed above, was not pretty. At one point in the third period, he went back to retrieve a dump in and just fell over with no one around him.
Without Makar in the lineup, a tough night for Toews only gets magnified, and this was not his best showing.
– Justus Annunen
This game was not Annunen’s fault. He could have used a lot more help, particularly on the first four goals by the Devils. Bednar did say after the game he was “hung out to dry” early, and I agree.
But six goals against on 28 shots is not a good night for any goaltender. On the fifth goal, he was basically at the goal line, deep in his net, so Wood had a ton of room to shoot. And on the sixth goal, which happened to be the game winner, the pass from behind the goal line went right under his goal stick. He probably would agree he needs to stop that pass from getting through.
He did make some big saves in the second, including a breakaway stop on Hischier, but this was the type of night that has you a little worried moving forward on how things will shake out without Francouz.
+ The Resiliency
Getting down 5-1 is not good, no matter how you slice it. The team could have packed it in at that point.
But they didn’t.
Three goals in less than three minutes had the crowd buzzing, and they were close to tying it. Nichushkin hit the post not long after Compher cut the lead to one. They had a lot of real good looks, but the Devils started getting in front of shots to protect their goaltender, who didn’t have a good night of his own.
You don’t get the win, but you like to see the team sticking with it and battling.
– New Second Line
The new second line of Newhook/Compher/Rantanen was stuck in their own end the majority of their time together. In the 8:04 of ice time the three had as a unit, the Devils out-attempted them 19-3. Scoring chances were 11-2 for the Devils with those three on the ice.
Now, the funny thing is, this line created two goals. Those were the only two shots on net they created. Pretty good shooting percentage, but they spent the majority of their time in the defensive end.
+ Artturi Lehkonen
We talk about battling and sticking with it. That’s Lehkonen’s game. He picked up two assists, but could have easily had more. He had the great pass, while taking a beating in front, to Nichushkin in the second period when he hit the post. I’m not sure if he meant to kick the puck to Nichushkin on his goal, but it looked cool, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. You know that no matter what the score is in a game, you’ll get the same effort level from Lehkonen.
– Another Injury?
Josh Manson “tweaked” something at the end of the game, according to head coach Jared Bednar. He didn’t have an update on his injury, though.
Manson has been taking a lot of “maintenance” days since returning from injury, so hopefully this isn’t related to the prior injury that kept him out over two months. The Avalanche are off on Thursday, so we won’t know anything more until Friday.