In the win over the Chicago Blackhawks, it wasn’t the usual suspects who did a lot of the heavy lifting for the Colorado Avalanche. Instead, it was the depth on the team that stepped up, especially early in the game. And perhaps the two most impressive forwards were a couple of players that were brought in earlier in the season to help strengthen the depth of the team.
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 Blackhawks.
+ The Fourth Line
The most consistent line from start to finish for Colorado was the fourth line. In the first period, they were the only line to really maintain possession in the offensive zone. Their extended shift early on is what created MacDermid’s goal. By the end of the night, all three of them had the best possession numbers on the team, and they generated shots at a very high rate. Nice to see after the line struggled a bit on the road trip.
+ But Specifically, Alex Galchenyuk
This was easily Galchenyuk‘s best showing in an Avalanche uniform. Granted, it wasn’t a very high bar coming into the game, especially since he barely played in the previous three games, but he was noticeable every shift he was out there. Only Nathan MacKinnon generated more shot attempts at even strength than Galchenyuk, and he had good looks too. He was engaged defensively as well, including a nice play standing up his defenseman in the third period. No one seems to be close to returning, so he might be sticking around for a while. Games like this one will help his case.
The second line (we’ll get to them) didn’t create a single shot attempt until 6:17 into the second period, and it was Malgin’s goal. And really, most of the work was done by the Swiss forward. He carried the puck through the neutral zone, got it into the offensive zone with speed, and made the drop to Nichushkin. The finish on his first goal is what is impressive. For a guy who’s had trouble finishing in his career, he made it look easy from a pretty tough angle. He even managed to draw the powerplay that Rantanen scored on.
He added two more points in the third period, and received more praise from his coach after the game. With all the injuries, he’s going to need to keep scoring down the stretch if this team wants to make a run at the division title.
– Another Injury
Already down Artturi Lehkonen, the team can’t really afford to lose another top six forward. But this season, the injury bug has bitten the Avalanche hard, so what else did you expect?
Evan Rodrigues took a big hit in the second period and he was not happy about it. I only saw one replay in the arena, but it looked like Murphy got a lot of Rodrigues’ head. Naturally, Rodrigues was angry, and threw a decent hip check right after. The refs called a penalty on it, but that’s not really important anymore. What’s important is that Rodrigues never came back out for the third period, and now the Avalanche might be staring down another injury to a key forward.
It’s tough because Rodrigues had finally started turning things around of late after a pretty long slump. Hopefully we find out more after practice on Tuesday about his injury. All we know for now is that it’s “upper-body.”
+ Blackhawks Giving Effort in Tough Season
The San Jose Sharks have two less points than the Blackhawks, but the Sharks team that showed up two weeks ago looked like they were ready to pack it in for the summer. The Blackhawks looked like a team still trying, and gave the Avalanche trouble at times. It’s a team that clearly is lacking in talent, but they weren’t lacking in effort. Luke Richardson deserves some credit for keeping his team’s effort level high this late in a tough year.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
This is becoming a nightly part of the Plus/Minus segment, because Georgiev has been so good. Against Chicago, he didn’t have to make any spectacular saves, but he stopped everything thrown his way. His most difficult save came pretty early, when Athanasiou got behind MacDermid for a deflection in front.
With his fifth shutout, he’s now tied for the NHL lead. Keep in mind, the Avalanche didn’t even have to give up a draft pick higher than a third rounder to get him. Georgiev has made the front office look pretty good with his play.
– The Second Line
Malgin was able to escape this line in the third period because of Rodrigues’ injury, but the Compher/Nichushkin duo struggled with everybody they played with. Against one of the worst teams in the league, those two were dominated. The Avalanche only controlled 14% of the shot attempts when Nichushkin was on the ice, and 25% with Compher out there. They both picked up assists, but neither of them were that effective most of the night.
+ Kurtis MacDermid
I’m convinced MacDermid was trying to dump that puck into the corner to maintain possession on his goal, but the bounce of a lifetime left him with his first goal of the season. And after that, he wanted more. He was pinching in consistently, and looked determined to pick up another goal. He really took replacing Cale Makar seriously.