Avalanche Game 66 Plus/Minus: Defensive Clinic, Eller Getting Comfortable
Did the Colorado Avalanche play their best defensive game of the season on Wednesday night? I think so.
Heading into Toronto, where the Maple Leafs were 24-7-4 coming into the game, the Avalanche knew they needed to tighten things up. They did exactly that, and walked away with a 2-1 shootout victory.
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 Maple Leafs.
+ Defensive Clinic
Far and away the best defensive game the Avalanche this season, especially when you consider the opponent. The Avalanche really slowed the Maple Leafs down through the neutral zone, and didn’t allow them to enter the offensive zone with any speed. The Maple Leafs finished with only three high-danger scoring chances.
This team is still missing some important players, and against the Leafs, they adjusted. Jared Bednar deserves a lot of credit for the game plan, and team executed it perfectly.
+ Lars Eller
It’s really looks like Eller is starting to trust his instincts more, and the team is benefitting. Once again, Eller had dominant possession numbers, as the Avalanche controlled 76.19% of the shot attempts with him on the ice.
His most impressive play came in the second period. Jack Johnson had broken his stick in the corner, and with the long change, it could have been a long shift for the Avalanche in their own end. Instead, Eller outmuscled a Leafs forward in the corner, and just overpowered everyone around him to get the puck to center ice. He dumped it in, allowing everyone to change, but he wasn’t done there. He chased the puck into the corner and put a shot on net, forcing Samsonov to freeze the puck.
Not only did he get the Avalanche out of their own end, but he created an offensive zone face-off out of it. He looks a heck of a lot more comfortable with the team. Now, we just wait and see if the offense follows.
+ Bowen Byram
The young defenseman, who has a beer coming out this weekend, looked ready for the spotlight in Toronto. It seemed like every time he was matched up with Auston Matthews, he came away with the puck. A big-time performance from the 21 year old defensively.
– Evan Rodrigues
Missed chances offensively (I think he missed the net by about 8 feet in the first period when he was all alone) and not one, but two penalties. Late in the game, you could see the staff was looking for a more dependable player on that top line, and moved Nieto there to switch things up.
Rodrigues has been better the last few games, so hopefully he’s able to bounce back against Ottawa. Without Lehkonen, they’ll certainly need him to be much better.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
Say what you will about the only Leafs goal, but if you give a talented shooter nothing but time, they are going to pick their spot. Do you want to see a big save there? Absolutely, but I put more of that on the sloppy defense. That was probably the only time all night you could say that.
After that, Georgiev shut it down. He made a big save on Rielly on the powerplay in the second, and had nice stops on Nylander and McCabe in the third. Then, in the shootout, his quickness was on display. Three very talented Leafs shooters were given nothing, and he hung with them every step of the way.
Now, does he get the night off against Ottawa? I think so. You can’t run him into the ground with no Francouz. And frankly, he’s earned a break.
+ The Penalty Kill
The Maple Leafs entered the game with the second best powerplay in the league, the Avalanche took away a lot of what they wanted to do. Every time Matthews had the puck, the Avalanche took the Marner option away, with Devon Toews usually covering the passing lane with his stick. I don’t remember Matthews getting a good look off with the man advantage all night long.
The Avalanche gave up their first powerplay goal in 17 attempts on Monday against Montreal, so it’s nice to see them bounce back against a much tougher opponent.
+ Taking the Crowd Out of it
I know that Toronto isn’t the best crowd in the league, because a lot of executives end up buying the seats, but the crowd was just not into that game at all. If you completely take a crowd out of the game, then you take away a big part of the home-ice advantage. By giving the Maple Leafs nothing offensively, the Avalanche eliminated that home-ice advantage. They did that a lot in the playoffs last year…
+ Mikko Rantanen
I don’t think MacKinnon had his best game overall, but I really liked what Rantanen was doing. He hit Rodrigues all alone in the third for a chance to take the lead, and put an absurd move on Bunting in the first period to create a scoring chance for himself. Yeah, his goal was a little flukey, but when you play well, sometimes you get a nice bounce here and there. He’s up to 44 goals on the season, and 50 is within reach.
Completely agree this was their best team defense game this year. And if they are to do anything in the playoffs more games like tonight are going to be needed. I think folks have forgotten how outstanding they were as a team last year defensively. Limiting teams to single digit shots for whole periods at times, like the did tonight in the second period. With the injuries, this is the remedy for the rest of the season. It’s not sexy but if it results in a win, who cares.
Really good analysis Evan as usual! Really enjoying your work!
I wasn’t able to watch the game, but based on highlights and TOI, I think it’s really smart to note Bednar’s (and entire coaching staff, of course) brilliance last night! It looks like he was basically going with 11-6, as if a forward was injured. I assume that Galchenyuk’s lack of TOI was due to not being sharp and not due to injury. And, really, can’t blame the guy being his first game up in awhile and jumping into a game like that. I hope he’s able to find some way to contribute a little!…we sure could use the depth!… Read more »
In the first period Galchenyuk literally skated by his man with the puck and let the player go unimpeded to the goal. It was a frighteningly shocking display of an inability to understand his defensive role. After I saw that, I said to myself well he isn’t playing the rest of the night! In all fairness to him, Rodrigues and Mac had other similar defensive plays as well.
I’m watching games on Altitude through Fubo. Just curious, how are others watching when Altitude doesn’t cover the game like last night?
Maybe not the answer you are looking for, but I moved from CO to CA in October of last year. In CO, I lived in a more rural area and so I had Dish. When Dish got lost, I would watch on my ipad using streaming services I found on the internet. When it was clear that Dish wasn’t going to bring Altitude back, I got rid of Dish and switched to Hulu + Live with Espn + but ESPN + blacked out every Avs game so still watched on Ipad. It has been awesome though since I moved as… Read more »
Stream the game through onhockey dot tv best place to watch in colorado since kronke is still a masdive ahole
I watched streaming via TNT’s app on my Fire tv. Use by brother-in-law’s/sister’s cable password…
The ones I can’t watch are the NHLN broadcasts, not in their cable package. All of the TNT/NHLN/in-market games are suppose be available on-demand on ESPN+ (sub which I actually paid for) 24 hours after the game ends. I had to wait ~48 hours to watch the Montreal game though.
Nice work as always Evan.
Good summary of a big W for the Avs. Team D was really noticeable vs Canadiens AND Leafs. Power play vs Leafs was not good, tho, IMO.