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.
– Every Single Forward Not Named Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon was far from perfect in this game. We’ll get to the reffing below, but his frustration and smashing of the glass ended up costing the team, because the guy who replaced him in J.T. Compher was just a half-step behind stopping the goal at the other end. But MacKinnon is trying to create. Maybe he’s trying too hard because he’s the only one left to really create much, but he’s trying.
The rest of the forwards are just giving the Avalanche nothing.
Artturi Lehkonen has been poor the last two games, and on two glorious chances in Game Five, he just plain missed the puck. Rodrigues scored one of the flukiest goals you’ll ever see, but too many turnovers on his part trying to do a too much. J.T. Compher can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a shot right now, and has been a total non-factor at even strength. And the bottom six? You’re getting nothing. I’ve liked Eller, and I actually didn’t mind him again on Wednesday night, but at some point, you need some offense. You’re not getting it from him, and you’re not getting it from anyone else. Logan O’Connor was once a guy who created chances but struggled to finish them. Now? I can’t remember the last time he had a good look at the net. Alex Newhook looks like he has no confidence at all. It’s dire, and without Valeri Nichushkin, it’s not going to get much better.
– The Inconsistent Reffing
This isn’t just an issue with this series, because it appears to be a league-wide issue. No one knows what a penalty is on any given night. All the focus will be on MacKinnon getting tripped before the Kraken’s second goal, but the trip he took in the first period at center ice seemed far more egregious. And then you look at the penalty they did call on the Kraken in the second period, where Tolvanen gave MacKinnon a slight tap on the leg. A tap that probably happens 30-40 times a game, if not more. THAT’S what you call?!? How is anyone supposed to understand the standard with a call like that?
And we’ll never hear an explanation from the refs either, because they never have to explain what their line of thinking is. I can only imagine how frustrating it is inside of a game for player who just has no clue what the standard is.
– The Top Three Defensemen
I really thought Byram was going to be the guy to step up without Cale Makar in the lineup. It was almost the exact opposite. He struggled at both ends of the ice. Part of that might just be him getting overextended, as he played more at even strength than any other defenseman and just looked exhausted, but his man got away from him on the game-winning goal. On the first goal, he looked to have his man pinned but Wennberg snuck away, leading to a good look in the slot and eventually, a goal.
But Byram was far from alone. Sam Girard and Devon Toews didn’t have very good nights either, and most of those issues came offensively, in my opinion. Without Makar, the Avalanche needed at least one of these guys to step up. None of them really did.
— HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) April 27, 2023
– The Intensity
Game One felt like a regular season game. Game Five was the same, but even worse (somehow). There was no intensity to either side, in my opinion. After the Makar hit and suspension, I expected there to be a lot of hate and animosity between the two teams. We got none of that. Ball Arena credited the teams with a combined 80 hits. I just don’t see it. It was a tame game with very little intensity. One team certainly played better than the other, and it wasn’t the home team.
+ Shot Suppression
I am struggling to find any actual positives from this game, so I’m going to go with shot suppression. The Kraken still had their chances, but they were severely limited. Even in the first period, when the Kraken registered 15 shots on net, they were kept to the outside. They finished with 10 high-danger chances, but a lot of those late in the third came when the Avalanche basically just pinched all the time, so the Kraken were getting 2-on-1’s every shift.
They figured out the shot suppression, but they never figured out the other half of it.
+ Erik Johnson
Could this be the last game Erik Johnson plays at Ball Arena? It’s entirely possible, and I thought he played relatively well. He had the highest expected goals for on the team, and blocked some big shots. I feel like the bar is pretty low based on the rest of the game from the Avalanche, but I liked EJ’s night.
– Physical and Mental Exhaustion
As the game went on, the Avalanche looked like a team that is running on empty. After the game, Jared Bednar said he’ll play MacKinnon 30 minutes if he has to. I’m not so sure that will make anything better. MacKinnon showed signs of exhaustion in this game, and so did Rantanen. As their shifts were going on, you could see them trying to get whatever rest they could while on the ice because they needed it.
This has been a long and taxing year on the team. Every time someone came back, someone else got hurt. MacKinnon and Rantanen carried the offense to a Central Division title, but they may have emptied the tank to do it. The series isn’t over, and I would not be the least bit surprised if it comes back to Colorado for a Game Seven, but I’m not sure how much this team has left in them beyond that.