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 Jets for the Avalanche.
+ Lars Eller
That’s now two games in a row where Eller has stood out. I still have concerns if the offense is going to be there at a third line level, but he absolutely looks better playing with skilled wingers as opposed to full-on grinders like Cogliano and O’Connor. He had a dominant night in the face-off circle at 75% and drew multiple penalties, one of which was actually a penalty shot. He wasn’t able to score, but is he starting to find his groove? Most of the Avalanche skaters were lifeless, but Eller certainly was not.
+ Denis Malgin
Not only did Malgin score the opening goal of the game, but he was one of the few forwards creating chances offensively.
He also tried to get some energy in the building in the second period, and it kind of worked. He threw a big hit on the much larger Brenden Dillon, which got the fans excited. Unfortunately, Dillon kind of landed on Malgin’s leg, which had Malgin in a lot of pain on the bench. I’m not sure if that’s the reason he left in the third period or if it was the puck he took to the face on the bench, but it appears he’s likely out on Friday, which stings. He’s the one bottom six forward who’s been able to consistently contribute with goals over the last two months.
His loss would hurt.
– MORE INJURIES
Malgin wasn’t the only forward to leave the game. Andrew Cogliano, the man of steel, took a very awkward fall into the boards in the first period. Once he got up, he was clearly favoring his left shoulder. Usually when Cogliano heads straight to the locker room, he’s back a few minutes later. That wasn’t the case this time.
Bennett Durando from the Denver Post saw him going in for x-rays, so it doesn’t appear to be good. At the start of the second period, he was announced as being out for the game. If it’s something that keeps Cogliano out for the rest of the game, it probably isn’t very good. Bednar said after the game there’s “no timetable” for his return.
For one day, the Avalanche had to make a tough decision with the lineup by taking Ben Meyers out. They couldn’t even go 24 hours without losing two forwards to injury. It just never ends.
– Low Energy Game
Perhaps the news of Gabriel Landeskog‘s season being over really killed the buzz in the arena and in the locker room (Bednar disagreed with that notion), because even though they won, the Avalanche didn’t look great doing so. This was a Winnipeg that scratched six of their best players, and the Avalanche struggled to generate anything for most of the game. Granted, they didn’t give up much, but 35 shot attempts at even strength in 48 minutes is low-event hockey to the extreme. I think if the Avalanche were playing any other team, they would have been in trouble, but they got Winnipeg’s C-squad and were able to pull out the win.
A win is a win, but a game like that in the playoffs will likely end with a different result.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
With the win, Georgiev sits at 39 victories on the year. There’s a chance he plays on Friday in the season finale, and if he wins that, he’ll finish tied with Linus Ullmark for the league lead at 40. Who could have imagined that back in July?
He’s played more games than I expected, played much better than I expected, and maybe most importantly, been remarkably consistent all year long. For someone who has almost doubled his career high start total in a season, that consistently is actually incredible. Night in and night out, he’s given the Avalanche a chance to win. His big save moments before the game-winner changed the course of the game. He’s been so good that Bednar could very well turn to him on Friday, even though it’s a back-to-back.
And can you blame him?
– Rantanen and MacKinnon
Mikko Rantanen scored a beautiful goal on the powerplay, just moments after his turnover allowed the Jets to score shorthanded. Between the two of them, Rantanen and MacKinnon only generated three shots on goal at even strength. MacKinnon alone usually gets more than that. It wasn’t their best night, but they found a way to win.
+ It All Comes Down to One Game
This is what you ask for, right? A team that has gone the entire season without their captain, has not had the reigning Norris Trophy winner for 1/4 of the year, as well as various other players, is now just one win away from another Central Division title. That seemed unheard of back in January when they were five points out of a playoff spot.
Win and you guarantee home-ice for the first two rounds. It’s up to the team to get it done.
+ Evan Rodrigues
Great pass on the Rantanen goal and then the smart zone-entry and shot for the game-winner. Because of injuries, he won’t finish with a career high in points, but his pace this year was better than what he did in Pittsburgh last season. They’ll need him to be more consistent in the playoffs.
+ Lehkonen Returns
The Finnish Assassin returned to the lineup and provided what you would expect from him: a few chances, reliability defensively, and non-stop effort. He nearly scored on a spinning shot in the second period, then labeled an empty netter from 150 feet away. I guess that finger was feeling pretty good.