Avalanche Game 3 Plus/Minus: Eller’s Elevated Play, Byram/Makar Here to Stay
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.
+ Lars Eller is in Playoff Mode
When the Avalanche traded for Lars Eller back in early March, they had envisioned the Dane as their third line center come playoff time. He had a history in his career of stepping up when the games got more intense. We saw glimpses of it down the stretch, as his best games came against teams that looked like they would be in the playoffs.
Through three games of the series, he’s been really strong. He was hurting a bit tonight after tumbling into the boards in game two, but he toughed it out and played another heavy game. In the face-off circle, he won eight of the 10 he took, and that’s another reason he was brought in. He was tremendous on the penalty kill, which we’ll get to later. The offense isn’t really there, but everything else he’s provided has been exactly what the team had hoped when the trade was made.
+ The Superstars
I said it before the series and nothing has really changed, but the Avalanche have star power on their team that the Kraken have no match for. That was, quite easily, the difference in this game. MacKinnon scored not one, but two highlight reel goals. Rantanen, who I actually didn’t even think had that good of a game, picked up three points, and Makar had dominant possession numbers to go with two points of his own.
The stars may very well be the difference in the entire series, and they certainly were in game three.
– Georgiev’s Puck-Handling Skills
A lot of goalies are not very good when it comes to playing the puck, but Georgiev’s limitations have become more and more clear over the last few weeks. I don’t know if it was poor communication with Byram, but on the second Kraken goal, Georgiev just left it behind the net for no one. It ended up going to the Kraken, and they scored a few seconds later.
– Denis Malgin
I quite liked Malgin the first two games, but he had a really tough night with the puck in game three. He had multiple turnovers in the offensive zone that allowed the Kraken to counter with the puck, and had a brutal turnover in his own end in the third period that forced Georgiev into a big save. The team isn’t at full strength right now, but if they ever were (highly unlikely, I know), games like this would have him danger of being a healthy scratch.
It seems like it’s going to be very hard to separate these two now that we’ve seen them together for a few games. They’re dynamic in the offensive zone together and have been pretty strong defensively at even strength. As a pair, they controlled 80% of the shot attempts on the ice. If your top pair is doing that, the other team usually doesn’t stand a chance. We’ve seen this pair together at times over the last year, but you really do get a glimpse into the long-term future of the defense when they play together.
– The Nichushkin Situation
The Avalanche confirmed after the game that Nichushkin is no longer in Seattle. It sounds like something happened at the team hotel, but details of everything are a bit foggy. Now, the big Russian winger is no longer with the team. Hopefully the situation becomes a little clearer in the next 24 hours or so. The team was able to win game three without him, but they tend to struggle when he’s not in the lineup. Hopefully everything is okay.
+ Andrew Cogliano’s Return
If something is keeping Cogliano out of the lineup, then you know he must really be hurting. With Nichushkin and Helm coming out of the lineup, they really needed Cogliano to return, and they got just that on Saturday night. He was solid on the penalty kill and that line actually had a good game in terms of possession. He talked after the game and seemed to make it out just fine, so hopefully it’s less of a concern moving forward.
+ The Penalty Kill
The powerplays for both teams just have not been good through three games, but some credit belongs to the penalty killers on both teams. In game three, the Avalanche got a shorthanded goal and held the Kraken in check up until the goal at the end of the game, which was ultimately meaningless. There was a kill at the end of the second period that was really important, as the Avalanche had just given up two straight goals. A third would have given all the momentum to Seattle, but the Avalanche penalty killers held strong. The PK was tremendous in the playoffs last season, and it’s off to a good start this year.