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 Golden Knights for the Avalanche.
+ Sam Girard
Whenever I write about Sam Girard, things get a little heated. The fanbase is pretty divided on him. Through camp and preseason, I think he looks tremendous. Sure, he still struggles to get his shot through traffic, but he’s engaged, throwing his body around, and his stick has been really active. I loved him on the penalty kill against Vegas. He read multiple plays to get easy clears, and even had a shorthanded rush.
As much as I’ve loved his game, I don’t love that pair, but I’ll get to that…
+ Nathan MacKinnon
Nate might not have needed any preseason games, but he was forced into a few. Last night, he looked ready to go, with the competitive juices already flowing. I have no clue what he did to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the first, but he looked like he had a smirk on his face in the penalty box, so maybe he knew what he did.
He blew a one-timer past Thompson, and used his strength all over the ice. MacKinnon is ready to start the season like the rest of us.
– Lack Of Chemistry On Lines 2 And 3
At even strength, the middle six looked like they had never played together.
That’s…sort of true?
With Mikko Rantanen’s injury, there was a new character on each line. Tomas Tatar moved up to the second line, while Riley Tufte got a chance to play with Ross Colton and Miles Wood. That made it 5 new additions in the 6 spots available. Between the two lines, I didn’t see much of any chemistry together. That’s a little alarming, but not terrible. It’s important to remember all of them are still adjusting to a new team, which doesn’t happen overnight.
Will there be some growing pains heading into the regular season? It’s entirely possible. They’re good players, but chemistry doesn’t happen overnight.
+ The Powerplay
Winning the face-off to start a powerplay certainly helps, and Ryan Johansen is showing that he’s going to be very useful in that department. The powerplay has looked pretty deadly in the preseason, and we still haven’t seen the whole group together. I liked Drouin on the wall, but we all know Rantanen is taking that spot when he returns, and that will only make the unit more dangerous. Drouin really isn’t a threat to shoot, while Rantanen certainly is.
The top powerplay unit looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch, but even the second unit is going to have a lot of talent on it.
– The Byram/Girard Pair
Two good players that simply don’t fit together, in my opinion. The pair forces Bowen Byram to play his off-side, and he doesn’t look entirely comfortable there. If you watch the Nichushkin goal, he starts it with a nice play on the breakout, but it came on his strong side.
Josh Manson did not play in this game, and if he’s healthy, maybe this duo isn’t playing together, but we won’t know until opening night.
– Jack Johnson/Sam Malinski
I thought Malinski had a rough night, but he wasn’t helped much by the veteran Johnson. They both got caught up the ice in the first period, giving Jack Eichel a breakaway, and were out of sorts on the first goal by Vegas. It started with a Malinski turnover, and then Johnson got caught up too high, giving away an easy passing lane.
Malinski won’t be there on opening night, but Johnson will. In an ideal world, the Avalanche will go out and find another defenseman for depth. That could happen in a few days, or a few months. We really just don’t know, but it’s very necessary, in my opinion.
– The Men In Stripes
Through two periods, the refs called everything. Then in the third period, they called nothing. Given the standard they set with some of the calls they made, I’m not sure how that’s possible.
But the refs weren’t the only men in stripes that struggled. The linesmen were brutal, and you could see the players on the ice getting visibly upset with them when they wouldn’t drop the puck for face-offs.
It’s preseason for everyone.
The competition is over. It sure looks like Fredrik Olofsson will start the year for the Avalanche as 4C, and he’s earned it. He and Logan O’Connor looked good along the boards, maintaining possession in the offensive zone a few times. Although he lost the face-off on the second Vegas goal (after the linesman screwed up the first drop), he had his best night in the face-off circle. Put a better winger on the other side and the Avalanche will have a fourth line they can trust.