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 Kraken for the Avalanche.
– Playoff Intensity
Perhaps the Dallas/Minnesota game the night before set expectations really high, but this game felt more like an 83rd regular season matchup as opposed to a playoff game. It had a really strange vibe right from the get-go. There were some hits (we’ll get to some of that below) but at no point did I feel like I was watching a playoff game. Some of that might have been Seattle killing any buzz the crowd might have had early in each period. The one time the crowd got really into it was in the final 10 minutes of the first period. Beyond that, the Avalanche didn’t give them a ton to cheer about.
– Devon Toews Struggles
A rough night with the puck for Toews. On the first goal of the game, he didn’t get much support in terms of an outlet by the forwards, but if that’s the case, tossing it up the middle is probably not the safest play to make. That play seemed to rattle him with the puck the rest of the night. On a second period powerplay, he showed some panic at the offensive blueline and gave it away, and had some rough moments on the breakout.
The coaching staff seemed to recognize it as well, because we saw a lot of Byram with Makar in the second half of the game. Toews usually doesn’t have two rough games in a row, so I expect a bounce-back on Thursday.
– Rusty Manson
Does everyone remember his first game back from injury back in February? He was a monster.
Tuesday night was kind of the opposite.
He was put in a tough spot on the first penalty he took because of a bad pass, but rather than back off, he pinched and got beat. It was compounded by him taking a hooking penalty. We only saw one replay in the press box, but it didn’t look like he even hooked the guy, despite reaching. His second penalty, however, looked pretty legit to me. Penalties were an issue for him even when he was healthy early in the season.
On the third Kraken goal, he just read the puck rimming around, and instead of stopping when it slowed down, he kept going. It was way too easy for Wennberg to get that puck behind the net.
It’s tough to step right back into the lineup in the playoffs, but the margin for error is so small, and the reality is, he’s got to shake off the rust real fast in a tight series like this.
+ Makar’s Physicality
When Cale gets that nasty streak to him, he’s a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, this nasty streak only lasted about five minutes, but it was enjoyable. The neutral zone stand up on Bjorkstrand was great and the crowd loved it, and the reverse hit on Gourde soon after got a big cheer. It’s too bad it didn’t continue much beyond that.
– The Ice
Both teams had to deal with the same ice, so it can’t be used as an excuse for Colorado, but the ice looked atrocious. Players were falling over everywhere with no one around them, and the puck kept bouncing on players as well. After Kraken morning skate, Beniers commented how bad the ice was, and he was right.
The worst part is that it probably won’t be much better on Thursday night because the Nuggets play the night before.
On paper, that second line is built to be tough to play against defensively, and in the offensive zone, they’ll grind out some chances. Neither of those things happened in game one.
Compher was a bit of a ghost at even strength, and on rewatch, Nichushkin struggled a lot more with the puck then I remember. He completely whiffed on a great chance in the second period in front. Lehkonen didn’t really have much of an impact either. The reality is, the Avalanche could swap one of the wingers out with Rodrigues on the top line, and the second line still will be a question mark. The only fix, in my eyes, is dropping Rantanen down. Compher played his best with Mikko on his wing. Might be time to give it another try.
+ Denis Malgin
One of the few players on the team who seemed to have some confidence with the puck, and who could make some plays. Unfortunately, he barely played. I felt like I saw him a lot in the first period, and then he just got stuck on the bench as the game went on. Best possession numbers on the team but less than 10 minutes of ice time.
– Jack Johnson’s Injury
Jack Johnson took warmups, and was in the lineup originally, but when Erik Johnson took the ice at game-time, there was a lot of confusion. It came out that JJ is dealing with a lower-body injury. He’s pretty clearly been the preferred Johnson over the last few weeks, as he’s been playing a lot more, and EJ didn’t really look great in game one. I can’t imagine it’s that serious if he took warmups, so hopefully he can play in game two.
– Horrendous Execution
I don’t think effort was an issue for the Avalanche. They were trying, but everything was a little off. There were a few plays where they would have the puck in the offensive zone, and just couldn’t make a pass. At one point in the second period, Eller pulled up and had a wide open Girard at the point. His pass to Girard missed by about five feet, and the play was dead. In the third, I think the team went offsides three times in the span of a few minutes. It’s little things like this that added up over the course of the game for the Avalanche.