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.
+ Evan Rodrigues Goes Beast Mode
Was that the best game Evan Rodrigues has ever played in an Avalanche uniform? There’s a good chance it was. It started early, with a huge hit on his first shift of the game, and it kept going all game long. A great feed to Nichushkin on his goal, and then he sends Vince Dunn flying through the air later in the period, which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
On the game-winning goal, Rodrigues is the guy who gets possession back for the Avalanche. He outmuscles a much bigger defenseman to tap the puck back to MacKinnon, who sent it to the point. Small plays like that go a long way.
His possession numbers are so much better than everyone else’s that it’s kind of crazy. The Avalanche out-attempted the Kraken 31-6 with Rodrigues on the ice. That’s absurd. I liked him in game one, but this was a big-time performance from him. He was under the skin of the Kraken all night long.
+ Artturi Lehkonen
I knew he was going to be the guy who got elevated to the top line, because he just fits with MacKinnon and Rodrigues. It worked earlier in the year, and it’s no surprise it worked again. He just creates space for his linemates by digging the puck out of the corner and outworking the opposition. His deflection was about as perfect as it gets, and exactly what was missing from game one. With no Landeskog around, he becomes even more important because of how he scores his goals. He proved that again on Thursday.
– That First Period
That could have been the worst period of hockey the Avalanche have played all season long. It feels even worse because the team was coming off a game one loss where they didn’t play all that great, so you expected them to come out flying.
The opposite happened.
They came out physical, but it was almost like they were too focused on throwing their bodies around. That’s not how they’re built to play. And when they would finally get the puck, no one wanted to hold onto it. It was all of their best players that were driving the struggle bus. That shorthanded goal was unacceptable all around. Gourde just outworked three Avalanche players for the puck, and then the goal that goes in isn’t the best from Georgiev.
But maybe a period that bad was what they needed to wake up, because they certainly figured things out.
Game two was a big night for the “face-offs matter” crowd. The Avalanche won 55% of the face-offs, but they scored two of their three goals directly off face-off wins. Like I mentioned earlier, Rodrigues played a huge role in the game-winner, because that’s actually a face-off MacKinnon looked to have lost. Rodrigues just beat his man to the puck so that it was technically a win for the Avalanche.
If you look at all four goals scored by the Avalanche this series, three of them are off face-off wins. They’ve mattered so far.
+ The Tanev Celebration
The game needs more personality, and I liked Tanev showing it with his little “kiss” celebration to the fan in the front row. Colorado got their revenge with how the rest of the game unfolded, but I enjoyed that moment because it’s still a game meant to entertain people. Have some fun with it.
– Josh Manson
There’s no way this man is healthy. He doesn’t look completely comfortable with his movements, and even when he went to throw some hits in the third period, he couldn’t keep his balance. Another bad penalty where he just gets a little too aggressive. I think he iced the puck 4 or 5 times on the night as well. You take that over a turnover, but still a sign he’s not really sharp. The Avalanche only controlled 30% of the shot attempts with him on the ice.
+ Valeri Nichushkin
Big game from the big man, and he needed it, because he had a rough game one. Nice patience on his goal, all while being hooked from behind. He was also good on the penalty kill, which has been solid through two games so far. Of all the players on the team that aren’t stars, he might be the most important.
– Mikko Rantanen
Makar and MacKinnon both recovered from rough first periods to make an impact. Rantanen, however, never found his footing in game two and struggled to do much of anything. His passing was way off and he was trying to force too many things. He tried to jam the puck into Compher on a powerplay and it just wasn’t there.
But look on the bright side. The Avalanche just won a big playoff game and they got no points from MacKinnon or Rantanen. Now, MacKinnon played a role in two of the goals with face-off wins, but beating a good team without any production from those two is a positive.
– Another Injury?
Halfway through the third period, Lars Eller got tripped and went hard into the boards. Really hard. It took him a while to get up, and once he did, it took him a long time to get to the bench. He never took another shift in the third period. The good news is that he stayed on the bench, but he was talking to the trainers the entire time. During the final TV timeout, he went on the ice but just didn’t move. Bednar wasn’t asked after the game about the injury, but we’ll look to get more info on him on Friday.
+ Devon Toews Gets Redemption
Another rough start to the game for Toews, but he eventually got his redemption. A great breakout pass on the Nichushkin goal, recognizing that the Kraken were changing and moving it up quick. He bounced it perfectly off the wall to avoid the one Kraken forechecker. And then he ultimately gets the game-winner on a classic Toews play, where he pinches in down low just by reading the play.
I liked the new defensive pairs as the game went on. I imagine they won’t change for game three.