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 Stars for the Avalanche.
+ Riley Tufte
He just keeps scoring, and this one looked personal. That was quite the celebration for a preseason goal.
Cannot unsee Tufte's celebration pic.twitter.com/adPBsmGjDw
— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) October 1, 2023
We know Tufte won’t make the Avalanche as a center, but he’s making a strong case to stick around as an extra forward. His play to drop down for the one-timer on Olofsson’s goal was pretty impressive. That was a hard pass from Lehkonen, and he found a way to get the puck on net. My main issue with him is his defensive game, or lack thereof. If you’re going to be a bottom six player, you have to be able to play on a special teams unit, and he wouldn’t play on either. He’s done just about everything else, though.
– Alexandar Georgiev
Nice save on a breakaway in overtime, but that first goal was ugly. Second goal wasn’t much better, as he looked a little lost in net. Not sure I care all that much, though. Goalies have off games, and I think he’ll be fine by the opener.
+ Sam Girard’s Anger
I don’t expect Girard to come into every game this season pissed off and with a chip on his shoulder, but it is entertaining watching him take runs at people. It happened on more than one occasion. In the second period, he chased someone down in the neutral zone and plastered them along the boards with a big hit. 10 seconds later, he nearly scored on a break. In my opinion, he was the best defenseman on the ice.
– The Injury to Jedlicka
This would be a real bummer. He got hurt doing the right thing, as he was trying to throw a hit on Mason Marchment, but Marchment is a much stronger guy, and that seemed to catch him off guard. We’ll get more info on what’s going on tomorrow, but I don’t love that the injury kept him out for the third period. Hopefully nothing serious for the 7th round pick of the Avalanche.
+ Jonathan Drouin’s Game (for the most part)
Drouin was in the right place a lot in the offensive zone, and if you do that while playing with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, you’ll get your chances. He certainly had plenty of those. His zone entry and drop on the overtime winner was about as perfect as it gets. He entered the zone with speed, and drew both defenders to him, giving Olausson a ton of time and space to get his shot off. That’s a skilled play.
I loved a few backchecks he had on the night, as well. He hunted down some Stars forwards in the neutral zone to create turnovers. That’s the stuff that will get him on Bednar’s good side.
– Drouin’s Finish
Yes, it’s only preseason, and it’s very encouraging that he’s getting these scoring chances, but he missed a lot of great looks on Sunday and in the first game he played. The types of misses that remind you he’s got just 8 goals in his last 136 NHL games. If he’s going to play on the top line, he will need to finish with more consistency this season. MacKinnon looked eager to get him a goal, setting him up whenever he could. It would be nice to see him pot one before the end of preseason, just as a boost to his confidence.
+ AND – Sam Malinski
Malinski found himself in the right spot A LOT on Sunday. The puck seemed to find him a ton, and it only will do that if you know where to be on the ice. That’s a very good thing.
The unfortunate part is that when Malinski got the puck, he seemed a little nervous. He made some turnovers, flubbed some passes, and when he had some open looks in the offensive zone, his shot was off.
It’s encouraging that he’s getting these chances, but the execution wasn’t always there.
Is it time to crown him the fourth-line center for the Avalanche? If not, he took a big step towards earning the job on Sunday. Nice work in all situations of the game, and if you’re looking for someone to play between Andrew Cogliano and Logan O’Connor, he seems like a better fit than Ben Meyers, just because of the way he plays the game. He’s good along the boards, and can grind it out just like those two.
Over the summer, a scout told me that he thinks he’s a better center than winger. Right now, that’s where he’s earning a job for the Avalanche.
+ Joel Kiviranta’s board work
It just makes sense, at least to me, that Kiviranta is brought in by the organization to be the 13th or 14th forward. He’s dependable defensively, and really strong on the boards. That board work was on display Sunday night, as he can dig the puck out along the wall, and he generally makes the right decision with the puck.
Tufte’s play is making things a little more complicated, but I still think Kiviranta gets a contract and sticks with the team. They are very different players. There’s nothing flashy about his game, and if he gets used above the fourth line, his lack of skill will probably stick out, but Bednar has made it clear they need players that can kill penalties. That’s where he can fill in.
+ Artturi Lehkonen
The easiest way to shake off the rust is to work your butt off, and that’s never an issue with Lehkonen. He came out ready to play, and was his usual self on the forecheck, frustrating Stars defenders. That led to him drawing a penalty late in the game, but he looked ready for the season to start.