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 Oilers for the Avalanche.
+ Lars Eller
Start to finish, that might have been Eller‘s best game in an Avalanche uniform. He was heavy on the puck, disrupted plays all over the ice, and creating some offense. On the four-minute penalty kill in the second period, he was a beast, breaking up plays and even getting some chances at the other end of the ice. In the third period, a hard backcheck by him drew a powerplay for his team. The staff hasn’t quite found the perfect combination of linemates for him just yet, but if he plays like that, he can really help the team in the postseason.
Does he still consistently have that in him? We’ll see, but in two games that have had a real “playoff-like” atmosphere with Edmonton and Toronto, he’s stepped up.
+ Home-Ice in Round One (At Least)
The Avalanche didn’t win on Tuesday night, but you saw the value of having home-ice advantage. Every time McDavid was on the ice, Bednar countered with MacKinnon. That’s the matchup he wants, and he can get that on home-ice. On defense, it was Sam Girard and Devon Toews, but you know that Makar would be on that matchup if he was healthy. And at even strength, McDavid was held in check. He’s Connor McDavid, he’s going to get his chances, but you contain him as much as you possibly can.
The home record for the Avalanche this year isn’t anywhere near what it was last season, but there’s still a lot of value in getting most of the games in a series on your home ice. Last week, MacKinnon admitted that home-ice in the playoffs is different than it is in the regular season. And now, at least for one round, the Avalanche will have it.
+ Ben Meyers
Safe to say that luck might finally be on the side of the young forward. After going months without scoring a goal at the NHL level, he scored his third goal in four games. Now, there’s a caveat to this one, as Nick Bjugstad did the heavy lifting, whipping it into his own net off his teammates skate, but it goes to Meyers. That was his second shift of the game, and on his first shift, he had a good chance coming around the net.
On this call-up, Meyers has been doing a lot of things right, and it seems to be paying off for him. Bednar had a lot of nice things to say about him after the game, and if he keeps it up, he may just get some postseason games in.
+ Sam Girard
That might have been the most physical game Girard has ever played. He was tossing around Yamamoto, and then really went after Hyman in the second period in the corner, taking him to the ice. Even beyond the physicality, he played really well, taking pucks away from opposing forwards consistently. His steal from Kane forced Kane to take a penalty in the third period.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
Georgiev had a slip-up against the Wild at home almost two weeks ago, and you start to wonder if he can handle the pressure as it gets close to the playoffs. He’s now played great against three straight playoff teams in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Edmonton. In the second period, the Avalanche were severely outshot and he helped keep the game tied with some big saves, including the breakaway stop on McDavid.
– Shot Generation Lacking
This was a good hockey game, and while I felt the Avalanche were outplayed, they held their own defensively.
Offensively, though, they didn’t create a ton. The second line that had been so good the last couple of games was a little quieter, with Compher registering zero shot attempts at even strength. Nichushkin didn’t register a shot on net at even strength either. The Oilers did a good job of not letting the defense on the Avalanche get involved in the play much, and offense from the defense is a huge part of Colorado’s success. In the first period, the Avalanche attempted 20 shots on net at even strength. In the last two periods combined, they only attempted 19.
13 skaters on the team ended the game with either zero or one shot on goal at even strength.
– The Powerplay
The last powerplay in the third period was good, and the Avalanche created some chances. The first two powerplays, however, were pretty ugly. I’m not sure they even got set-up on the first one. You can’t score on the powerplay every night, but the first two really didn’t help create any momentum for the team.
+ The Four-Minute Penalty Kill
The Oilers have the deadliest powerplay in the league by a wide margin, and the Avalanche held them in check on a four-minute powerplay at the end of the second period. The game really could have blown open at that point, and that might have led to the Avalanche not even picking up a point, but the penalty kill was great. Logan O’Connor had two massive shot blocks, and while he said he was fine after the game, it looked like he might have been going in for x-rays. As mentioned above, Eller was stellar, and did a nice job killing time.
The Oilers look better than they did last year. That’s scary for other teams in the West. I wasn’t sure on Mattias Ekholm, but he’s been a tremendous addition to their team and has really bolstered the defense. McDavid is on another level right now, and that’s the ultimate x-factor. Every team in the West has flaws, and with Edmonton, you just don’t know about their goaltending, but I think they might be the biggest competition for the Avalanche in the West.