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Avalanche Game 11 Plus/Minus: Nichushkin Bounces Back, Closing Out Games



Avalanche Devils

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 Devils for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Miles Wood

I have Devils fans in my mentions on social media telling me that Avalanche fans shouldn’t expect to see that Miles Wood every night.

Well…yeah. If you saw that Miles Wood every night, he’d be making a lot more money. Consistency is one of the things that separates role players from star players.

But Tuesday night was exactly why the Avalanche targeted Wood. He can play physical, but also has the speed to play the way Colorado likes to play. The hit on Siegenthaler was massive, and really kickstarted all the chaos in the second period. Colorado isn’t used to being the bullies out there, but they were on Tuesday night, and Wood played a big role in that. Even beyond his shorthanded goal, he had a strong night on the penalty kill.

He seemed extra motivated that game, even if he won’t admit it.

+ Valeri Nichushkin

Saturday night was probably the worst game Nichushkin has played in Colorado, and on Tuesday, he got back to basics. Get the puck in deep, forecheck like a madman, and force the opposition into making mistakes. I’ll also say that while Val is a really big guy, he doesn’t typically play very physical. That wasn’t the case against the Devils. He was throwing his body around a fair bit, which was fun to watch.

He’s still looking for his first non-empty net goal on the year (hit the crossbar in the second), but this was a bit more like the Val we know.

– Nathan MacKinnon’s Start

I thought MacKinnon was going to come out flying after morning skate, where he scored on seemingly every single shot, but his start to the game was incredibly slow, to say the least. It wasn’t until partway through the second period that he was on the ice for a shot attempt by the Avalanche at even strength. He really picked it up in the third period, but it definitely doesn’t feel like we’ve seen MacKinnon go off with an incredible game yet.

+ The Third Line

We only saw this line for 30 minutes or so, but they were, once again, very good. All three of them were involved on the second goal, and each played key roles in the goal even happening.

With O’Connor on the line, they have a clear identity. Get the puck down low, and just outwork the opposition. The offense will likely come and go with this trio, but it’s pretty easy to see why they’ve worked so far.

– The 5-on-3

This very easily could have been the turning point of the game. It wasn’t a long 5-on-3, but the Avalanche won the face-off, so they almost certainly got a scoring chance, right?

Not even close.

Cale Makar almost immediately turned the puck over, and that more or less killed the two man advantage. The Devils scored on their 5-on-3, and usually whatever team takes advantage of their two man advantage wins the game. Colorado was lucky this moment in the game didn’t come back to bite them.

+ Ondrej Pavel‘s Third Period

Pavel looked a little nervous in the first period, then barely played in the second because of all the penalties.

With Colton’s ejection, the Avalanche were down to three centers, and Pavel got a real good look in the third. I was happy with what I saw. I still don’t think there’s much offense there, but he was hard on pucks in the defensive zone, and made smart decisions when he had the puck himself. At one point, he completely outmuscled the other Ondrej (Palat) to clear the puck. It’s easy to see why the organization likes him.

+ Ryan Johansen

Nice to see him get on the scoresheet at even strength, and the Devils player gave him a perfect tape-to-tape pass. You couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Even before that, he was playing well. He’s passing up a few too many shots, but that’s not a huge surprise, because he’s always been a guy who looks to make that extra pass.

Another real nice night in the face-off circle again.

+ Another Dominant Third Period

When Colorado scores goals, they win games, but one thing we’ve seen this season is when they are either tied or leading entering the third period, they know how to close games out.

This is not the first time this season where Colorado’s best period was the third, and it probably won’t be the last. Some teams just know how to close out games, and that comes with experience. This third period really wasn’t all that close. New Jersey generated next to nothing, and Colorado’s defending helped them create some scoring chances. As soon as MacKinnon scored, it was game over.

– Colton’s Cross-Checking

I could go either way on the boarding penalty they gave him. To me, it looked like Hughes was bracing for the hit, and then he just stopped. I can see why the Avalanche didn’t like it, but also understand why that call was made.

The cross-checking penalty? That one was pretty clear cut, in my opinion. I don’t think it’s worthy of a suspension or anything, but Colton did get Meier pretty good in the face. I know what he’s thinking in that scenario, because he can feel the retaliation coming from the opposition after the hit, but he did ultimately cross-check him in the face. And it all happened right in front of the refs. Colorado had the momentum in the game, so it wasn’t exactly the smartest play.

The Avalanche wanted to add some nasty to their lineup this summer, and Colton is a guy who will bring that. You might just have to deal with stuff like this on occasion.

+ Mikko Rantanen

He’s really, really good, but you all know this. Of the “big three,” he was the one locked in from start to finish.

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