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Avalanche Game 67 Plus/Minus: Stars Shine, Officials Struggle



Avalanche Senators

It’s tough to follow up a defensive performance like Wednesday night, but the Colorado Avalanche at least found a way to get out of Ottawa with two points. In the process, they may have officially caused the playoff chances for the Senators.

The stars led the way offensively, and the third line did a lot of the grunt work. It wasn’t a perfect night (certainly not for the officials), but it was good enough to get another win.

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 Senators.

+ Stars Get it Done

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar combined for eight points between the three of them. MacKinnon had a tough night in the face-off circle, but he won one cleanly in the first period to create Makar’s goal. That first goal was just three stars making a play. It looked to me like a set face-off play, but if it wasn’t, it’s just three creative players creating on the fly.

As of this moment, MacKinnon is the only player in the NHL averaging over a point per game at even strength. Last season, two players were able to pull off that feat. This year, MacKinnon is in a league of his own.

Ideally, you don’t want to have to depend on your stars this much, but that’s why they’re your stars. You pay them the big bucks to win you games like this.

– Officiating

The first period was ugly to watch. Five penalties between the two teams, and a lot of them were pretty questionable (on both sides). Things only got worse after the Eller goal. I completely understand why the Senators were upset after that goal. The no-call on the icing, to me, was iffy. The Senators defenseman pinched up on the winger, and when that happens, linesmen will sometimes waive off the icing. But it looked to me like Sogaard had the puck covered up long enough for a whistle. Credit to Eller for sticking with it, because you play to the whistle, but a strange play all-around.

When the fans are mocking you over simple icing calls, you know you’re having a tough night. The game took almost three hours to complete because of all the whistles, penalties, and having to review that weird goal.

+ The Third Line

Eller is clearly finding his game with the Avalanche, but the other two guys on the line had strong nights as well. O’Connor was flying all night long. In the third, he created a mini-breakaway where he missed over the net, and then he had a clear breakaway just a few minutes later that Sogaard stopped. Obviously, you’d like a little more finish from him, but at this point, we kind of know who he is.

+ That Save by Johansson

Do I think Johansson was great? No, not really, but he was good enough. None of the goals he gave up were particularly bad on his part. But who knows what happens if this game goes to overtime. The Avalanche didn’t have their legs after playing in overtime the night before, and another overtime game might have been tough.

The save on Debrincat was just crazy. Watching it live, it looked like a sure goal. For him to get across shows athleticism for one, but a lot of fight as well. He didn’t give up on the play, even with Debrincat having such a clear look at the net. Easily his best save in an Avalanche uniform, and probably the save of the year for the team.

– The Fourth Line

Bednar said after the game that the fourth line was “not good enough” defensively. They had some good moments offensively, but those go out the window when all three of the members of the fourth line are on the ice for two goals against, while none of them play more than five minutes. Newhook even took a penalty, although it didn’t look like the best call. You can’t have a fourth line that you can’t play due to trust issues. Newhook was in position defensively on the second Senators goal, but it slipped past him and he got beat. Then on the third Senators goal, everyone seemed discombobulated and had no clue who to cover.

+ Pesky Byram

I didn’t think what Byram did to Giroux was particularly dirty. It just looked like a good defensive play, as he was hard on his stick on front of the net. But Bo has that ability to get under the opponents skin. He’s not afraid to run his mouth out there. Even before the incident with Giroux, they had a moment along the bench where you could see Byram jawing at him. You need guys like that on your team. Confidence is not an issue with him, and he can back it up.

He almost had a nice goal in the second period pinching in, but Sogaard stuck his gigantic left leg out to stop him.

+ Road Warriors

The Avalanche actually have a better record on the road than they do at home. I’m not sure it’s going to matter much in the playoffs if they get home-ice advantage or not, because they are completely comfortable playing away from Ball Arena. We saw it in the postseason last year.

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