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 Islanders for the Avalanche.
+ Ross Colton (And the third line)
That was easily Ross Colton‘s best performance in an Avalanche uniform, and he was rewarded in the most absurd way possible – by getting his first on a goal he didn’t even put in the net.
The truth is, he probably deserved it. He was robbed early in the game by Ilya Sorokin on the powerplay, and at 5-on-5, led the team with four shots on goal. He also had the highest individual expected goals for on the team, so in a way, he got what he had rightfully earned. It was the first game where I saw the Colton I saw on film in Tampa Bay. He looked a bit unsure of himself at center through five games, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Joining a new team and system can be difficult, so hopefully Tuesday night was a sign of things to come.
The rest of his line deserves some props as well. Miles Wood drew another penalty, and I feel like that was the most Jonathan Drouin has touched the puck in a game so far. That might be the benefit for him of playing on the third line.
In the 7:10 of ice time the line played together, the Avalanche controlled nearly 70% of the shot attempts. That’s probably what the team envisioned when they went out and got Colton and Wood this summer.
+ Rantanen Dominance
Mikko Rantanen is so good that on some nights, he’ll score four points and it’ll just look like a walk in the park for him.
The reality is, it probably wasn’t his best night overall (that line got hemmed in a few times), but as he usually does, when he gets an opportunity, or has even a slight opening to create something, he makes the other team pay. Colorado had 10 shots on goal with Rantanen on the ice, and three of them went in. He’s just efficient, and all of his points were primary ones.
The game-winning goal was one that only pure goal scorers can score. Sorokin, an elite NHL goaltender, expected high glove, and Rantanen fooled him by going five hole. He makes even the best goalies in the world look bad sometimes.
– Georgiev Off Night
After the third Islanders goal, people were in my mentions on Twitter (not calling it X), telling me how the Avalanche are over-working Alexandar Georgiev. I don’t think it’s that. The team has had plenty of days off since the season started, and their schedule is pretty spread out.
I just think he had a bad night, and that happens. The fourth goal was ugly, and he knew it. The second goal went right through him, although the stick of Devon Toews might have played a role in that.
I do wonder if Thursday is the game for the Avalanche to give him a night of rest. The Penguins are a mess right now, and Colorado could stand to clean some things up defensively. If they start Ivan Prosvetov, the team would be forced to buckle down.
+ Makar’s Offense
I don’t know if we can ever take for granted just how special Cale Makar is, and he’s already well over a point-per-game pace.
His goal in the first period was beautiful, but it wasn’t even his first burst up the ice of the game. With both teams playing 4-on-4 early, he cruised through the defense, only to send his breakaway shot wide of Sorokin.
He didn’t make that mistake on his goal, wiring a backhand top shelf. He added two secondary assists, but his first one was pretty important, as he broke up a play in the defensive zone and sprung Rantanen and Johansen for a 2-on-1.
– Top Pair Defense
As good as Makar was offensively, there were struggles defensively, and it wasn’t just him. Devon Toews had issues as well. That pair was on the ice for three of the four goals from the Islanders.
Both seemed to have trouble picking the puck up off the wall in the defensive zone. Makar fumbled one on the first Islanders goal, and Toews fumbled one in the third period. Makar seemed pretty unhappy with himself on the third goal, as his guy got open in the slot. They’ll clean things up, but maybe not their best night defensively.
+ Byram’s Confidence
You could tell how much Bowen Byram needed that goal just by his reaction. It was a huge goal for his team (Turning Point?!?), but maybe even bigger for Byram himself.
It hasn’t been a good start to the year for him, and not just defensively. He hasn’t been very assertive offensively, and maybe this goal will kick-start him. The Islanders gave him a ton of room, and he took advantage of it. He’s still the x-factor for this team, because very few NHL teams have a guy this talented on their second pair, so hopefully this gets things moving in a positive direction for him.
+ Road Record
Good teams know how to win on the road, and the Avalanche are clearly a very good team. For whatever reason, they’re extremely comfortable playing away from home. Having elite players certainly helps, but it’s always fascinating to me that Jared Bednar is not afraid to hide from matchups the opposing coaches want. He doesn’t mind his top players going best-on-best. He welcomes it, and I think that plays a big role in Colorado’s comfort away from home.
I don’t know what more needs to be said about Valeri Nichushkin that I haven’t said after the last few games, but it’s pretty obvious.
– That Second Period
That’s now two games in a row where the team has come out sloppy in the second period. Unlike the game against the Hurricanes, it took them a bit longer to get something going in the second. Their elite ability came through at the end of the period, but it was pretty ugly, for the most part. Three penalties, two of which came in the offensive zone, didn’t help matters at all.
Just another example of this team finding ways to win, even though they aren’t playing perfect games. There are still some things they have to clean up, and that’s completely normal. You aren’t going to dominate every night.