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 Kings for the Avalanche.
+ Stars Shine
The one thing that will separate the Avalanche from 98% of the NHL is their trio of stars, and in game one, they were the difference.
Los Angeles is a very good team, but they don’t have a true superstar up front. Both Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen showed what stars can do, creating something out of nothing, particularly on the fourth Avalanche goal, which sealed the game. MacKinnon beat his man on the icing, and Rantanen outmuscled his guy along the boards, and then in front of the net on the tip.
Is it ideal that they carried the offense in game one? Absolutely not, but it’s only one game, so you can’t really draw any conclusions from it. If this is the case after a couple of weeks, then there should be concern.
+ New Additions Stand Out On PK
Ross Colton and Miles Wood are likely to take on a big role on the penalty kill this year, and they got off to a strong start Wednesday night. Colton, in particular, was really good on the PK, blocking several shots and killing a couple of Kings possessions with a good stick. He told me he has played on the penalty kill at every level other than the NHL, so if he can keep this up, it will go a long way in helping this team.
Wood is a bit of a mad man on the PK, but it worked on night one. He pressured the Kings, and used his speed to his advantage.
It wasn’t just the new additions, though. The penalty kill overall was very good, especially early in the third period.
– Second And Third Line Offense
As good as the top line was, the Avalanche didn’t get much offensively out of the other two lines. I really liked Miles Wood’s game (which I’ll get to), but at even strength, the other five players left me wanting a lot more. The third line actually got caved in pretty badly, and Tatar contributed with zero shots on net.
The second line looked listless for two periods, and woke up in the third period a little bit, mostly because Valeri Nichushkin finally found his game. If that line stays together, he’s going to have to be the one driving the bus. I’m waiting on the eventual move of Rantanen to this line, but I can’t imagine it happens after this game.
I don’t want to keep banging the drum that this Girard/Byram pair isn’t working…but it isn’t. Maybe the team is waiting for Josh Manson to find his legs a little bit, but Byram just does not look comfortable on his off-side. There was one point towards the end of the first period where he tried to corral a puck for a clear, with plenty of time, but took longer to do so because he had to do it on his backhand. It resulted in a turnover, and more zone time for the Kings. Not everyone can play their off-side, and I don’t think it’s putting Byram in the best position to succeed.
Wood was built for a game like that, and it’s part of the reason why he was brought in. He’s very much a chaotic player, and a lot of times, he looks reckless, but on night one, it worked. His speed created chances, including a post at the end of the first period, and he was rewarded with the empty netter late. I was pleasantly surprised with his work on the PK, and I want to see how he does the rest of the year in that role.
– The Third Pair
Josh Manson was having a tough time staying on his skates all night long. He fell over on the first Kings goal, and on a penalty kill in the third period, fell over again multiple times. In fairness to this pairing, while they spent a lot of time in their own end, they kept the puck away from Georgiev. Manson did a good job blocking shots, especially in the first period, but this doesn’t look like a natural fit for a defensive pair.
+ No Backing Down
The Kings played chippy, and some would argue, a little dirty (I did not like Dubois sticking his leg out on Olofsson), but the Avalanche did not back down. The team fought back, and even dished it out a little with some questionable hits of their own. My favorite thing that happens a few times a year is when Sam Girard finds someone on the other team that’s his size, and takes a run at them. He did it to Blake Lizotte in the second period with a nice hit along the boards, and it knocked the wind out of the Kings forward.
MacDermid was on the ice for the Dubois hit and Fiala taking a shot at the empty net, but he wasn’t really in the thick of either scrum. The rest of the team handled it.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
It’s fair to say Georgiev didn’t have a great preseason, but there’s not a lot of structure to those games, so they’re tough to evaluate.
In game one, he was very good. His rebound control was a little iffy, but the defense did a good job clearing some of those rebounds out of the way. On the penalty kill, he was tremendous, especially on one in the second, when he had to stop Adrian Kempe all alone in the slot.
The schedule for the Avalanche is light in October. It wouldn’t surprise me if he plays almost every game this month.