The 2023-24 version of the Colorado Avalanche has proven to be an incredibly streaky bunch.
Right now, they’re stuck in the wrong type of streak, and their lead in the Central Division is slowly disappearing.
The Avalanche outshot the Philadelphia Flyers, but made far too many costly mistakes on their way to a 5-2 loss. It was their fifth loss in six games, coming on the heels of them winning seven of eight. I asked Jared Bednar after the game if he can explain how streaky the team has been this year.
“Well, no. I just keep going to our play,” he said. “I don’t think attitudenally that there’s anything going on. I think our guys hearts are in the right place. I’d have to dig into it a little bit more, but that’s certainly where the season is going so far.”
The red-hot Nathan MacKinnon scored the first goal for the Avalanche, while Josh Manson added the other. In net, Ivan Prosvetov stopped 29 of the 34 shots he faced.
Colorado came out strong, led again by Nathan MacKinnon, who has been on fire of late. The top line generated a large chunk of the offense for the Avalanche, but they weren’t alone. Ryan Johansen, moved to the fourth line to start the game, had a clean look off the rush but missed wide.
The first 11 minutes came and went without much of consequence happening. Ivan Prosvetov took an accidental hit from Josh Manson and had to get checked out, but he was just fine. The Avalanche got the first powerplay of the game, but couldn’t capitalize, although they came close. Mikko Rantanen, who hadn’t scored in eight games, hit the crossbar on a chip shot, but it didn’t go in.
With under three minutes remaining in the first, the Flyers got on the board first, catching the Avalanche on a breakdown in transition. Jack Johnson got caught in the neutral zone, leaving Johansen as the last player back. Sean Couturier made a nifty pass back to Travis Konecny, who beat Johnson up the ice, and the Flyers leading scorer beat Prosvetov on the glove side, making it 1-0
Luckily for Colorado, they have MacKinnon on their side, and right now, that’s keeping things together. Josh Manson hit a streaking MacKinnon in the neutral zone, and the Avalanche superstar took advantage of some soft defense by Ristolainen. Rather than pull up, he took it straight to the net and tricked Carter Hart, tying the game at one with a minute left in the period.
The second period has been a struggle for the Avalanche this season, and that continued on Saturday night. Through the first 10 minutes of the second, the Flyers controlled the play, and Colorado struggled to generate any real scoring chances.
Nine minutes into the second, Philadelphia scored on another nice passing play. A bounce pass by DU alum Bobby Brink was collected by Owen Tippett. The bounce pass allowed Tippett to sneak behind Manson, but he did a nice job of picking up the pass in his feet. His initial shot was stopped, but the rebound was right there for him to smack home, making the game 2-1.
Just two minutes later, the top line looked discombobulated in the defensive zone, leaving Travis Sanheim all alone at the face-off circle. His wrist shot beat Prosvetov up high, and it was a two goal lead.
Colorado answered back pretty quickly after an offensive zone face-off win by Johansen. Josh Manson moved to the center of the ice a little bit, and his high shot went over Carter Hart’s shoulder, making it 3-2. Joel Kiviranta did a nice job providing the screen in front.
Immediately after the goal, Kiviranta took an unfortunate offensive zone penalty. However, the Avalanche were the ones on the offensive, despite being down a man. Logan O’Connor missed high on a 2-on-1, and Miles Wood couldn’t bury a breakaway, so the lead stayed at one. A late powerplay for the Avalanche did nothing, and the Flyers carried the one goal lead into the third.
The Avalanche started the third period by officially reuniting Nichushkin, MacKinnon, and Rantanen, which is usually a sign that Bednar doesn’t think he’s getting much from the other lines. He wouldn’t be wrong either.
That top line generally created most of the top chances for Colorado. Rantanen had a lot of the best looks in the third period, including a rush down the right wing where he was left all alone, but he couldn’t beat Hart. While the top line created good chances, they also gave up quite a few, including two breakaways for the Flyers.
On the first breakaway, Prosvetov made not one, but two incredible saves, stopping Atkinson and then Farabee. On the second one, Prosvetov stopped Konecny, but MacKinnon wrapped his arm around the winger, and the refs called a penalty shot.
That turned out to be the crucial moment in the third. Konecny ended up sneaking one past Prosvetov, who got a piece of the shot, making it 4-2. Less than a minute later, Farabee made it 5-2, essentially ending the game.
With the loss, the Avalanche fall to 16-9-2 on the season, and still sit in first place in the Central. This homestand has not gone according to plan, though. They have two more games to switch things up, as they host the Calgary Flames on Monday night. That game starts at 7:30 PM MST.