The Colorado Avalanche have tinkered with their powerplay of late, trying to move players around to find the best combination. Any combination they used against Montreal worked, and it’s something to build off of moving forward.
Unfortunately, a big part of that powerplay might miss the rest of the season.
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 Canadiens.
+ Bowen Byram
It had not been the best few games for Byram, and the offense had dried up a little bit. He had no goals in eight games coming into the match, and only two assists in that same timeframe. The goal by Byram was incredible, but the entire shift leading up to it was dominant. He and Girard controlled the play at the blueline, so it was only fitting that they created the goal.
He ultimately finished the evening with the best possession numbers on the Avalanche.
+ The First Two Periods
Not only did the Avalanche come out and score at will, but they didn’t give up much defensively either. Through the first two periods, the Canadiens registered only one high danger chance at even strength. Their goal at the end of the first period was a crazy deflection, and they got a powerplay goal late in the second. After 40 minutes, the Canadiens had only registered nine shots on goal.
+ Artturi Lehkonen’s Play
Everyone loves Lehkonen. Even Montreal fans felt the need to cheer after he scored late in the first period. It was fitting that he set a career high in goals in the place where his career started. The fact that he got injured because he was standing in front of the net is very believable, given the way he plays. What’s crazy is he was still making nice passes in the second period, even with a broken finger. His pass into the slot on the Compher goal was a real good look for Nichushkin.
No surprise that both of his goals came right in front of the net.
– Artturi Lehkonen’s Injury
This is a tough one. Without Landeskog around, Lehkonen has kind of filled that role with MacKinnon most of the year. He’s been the guy who goes into the corner and digs pucks out for Nate, in addition to being the defensive conscience. And on the powerplay, he’s right in front of the net, screening the goaltender. Replacing the fourth leading scorer on the team is not going to be easy, and I’m interested to see who gets the first crack at stepping into the top six. The Avalanche don’t really have anyone whose going to be able to play that same way, so it’s going to be a different look.
If it’s a similar injury to O’Reilly’s in Toronto, that puts him at 4-6 weeks. That’s right around when the playoffs start. I would venture to guess that even if Lehkonen isn’t 100% to start the playoffs, that he’d still find a way into the lineup. But the Avalanche now have to find a way to replace his all-around game for the last month of the regular season. That’s easier said than done.
+ Beating the Teams You’re Supposed To
Sure, the Avalanche struggled against playoff teams last week. But this is now three games in a row where they’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to. And they’ll have to do a lot more of it down the stretch, because they have the easiest schedule in the league in the last month. They play Anaheim twice, San Jose twice, Arizona twice, and Chicago once. Those should be easy points if they play the way they should.
+ Not Relying on Nathan MacKinnon
It wasn’t until the seventh goal that MacKinnon hit the scoresheet. You could tell he was getting a little annoyed that he wasn’t in on the fun, because he was getting extra competitive. He didn’t like Guhle’s dive at the end of the second, and made sure to let him know.
But the team still found a way to score without having to rely on MacKinnon, who has done a ton of the heavy lifting since the new year. With no Lehkonen, they’re going to need that even more in the final month.
+ The Powerplay
A perfect 3-for-3 on the powerplay. It doesn’t get any better than that. Two deflections in front, and MacKinnon making the defense look silly. The perfect night saw the Avalanche jump up to fifth place in the NHL with the man advantage.
– The Third Period
When you’re up huge going into the third period, it’s natural to let up a little bit. But the Avalanche stopped pushing the play like they did the first two periods. More importantly, they got a little sloppy in their own end. Unlike the Sharks the other night, Montreal came out in the third period with a little more pushback, so you have to give them some credit. The scoring chances in the first two periods were heavily lopsided towards the Avalanche. In the third, Montreal flipped it, out-chancing the Avalanche 10-2. Not a huge concern, but Montreal did try to make it interesting late.