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Avalanche Game 41 Plus/Minus: O’Connor Works, Complete Effort



Avalanche Bruins

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 Boston Bruins for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Logan O’Connor’s Work Ethic

With both Artturi Lehkonen and Miles Wood out, the Avalanche have had to look to Logan O’Connor to fill the void in the top six. He’s stepped up admirably, picking up points in each of the last four games. This is not a long-term fix, but the organization obviously trusts O’Connor and he can eat minutes if the team needs it to happen.

One thing that was really on display is his work ethic. His goal was remarkable. The effort he showed is not a surprise by any means, but it’s the fact that it came at the end of a 1:21 shift. Most players are exhausted and can’t wait to get off the ice, but O’Connor kept pressuring and pressuring Shattenkirk. Eventually, it led to a mistake. And how about that finish? He looked like Nathan Mackinnon with the quick hands.

If/when Wood comes back, I anticipate O’Connor drops down again, and that’s okay. It spreads the wealth in the lineup, but for now, he’s stepping up in a big way.

+ Cale Makar Kills The 4-On-3

We’ve spoken of late that Cale Makar’s defensive game has been lacking a little bit of late, but in overtime, he essentially killed the Bruins powerplay by himself. His stickwork in the defensive zone was top notch, and he gave David Pastrnak no room to work. Then, he created a rush up the ice. Nothing came from it, but Makar took the puck into the corner and killed time on the clock. After a whistle and a timeout, he came out again, took the puck back, and nearly ended the game at the buzzer. In total, he played 1:52 of the 1:58 penalty kill and made a huge difference.

+ Playing The Avalanche Way

From the drop of the puck, the Avalanche played like the Avalanche that we’ve come to expect, but haven’t seen with a lot of consistency this year.

And that’s the key. Consistency. They didn’t just play that way for one period. They played that way for the entire 60 minutes of regulation. Even if they would have lost the game, I think you still could have walked away from the game pretty happy with their performance. At 5-on-5, they dominated the shot attempts (59.79%) and scoring chances (61.54%). That’s a good Boston team that knows how to defend, so you have to be pleased with how the Avalanche played.

– Overplaying the Big Guns

All of Makar, MacKinnon, and Rantanen played over 30 minutes. Toews was 10 seconds away from hitting 30 minutes himself. Jonathan Drouin played over 28 minutes, and Valeri Nichushkin almost hit 27.

Then you have a big gap for the forwards and defensemen. Sam Girard didn’t even hit 20 minutes, which is a big surprise. Logan O’Connor was next up with 16:25.

The return of Wood and Lehkonen will help, as well as getting healthy on defense, but even with some of those guys healthy, the big guns are playing a ton. Another top six forward, in particular, is really needed, because these types of minutes will wear these guys down over the course of an 82 game season.

– Fourth Line

The fourth line barely played. They did have one strong shift in the first period where they kept the Bruins in their own end on the forecheck. Then, they got one single shift in the third period, and spent it in their end.

The depth of the Avalanche is being tested right now, and they’ve gone through a few AHL players, but having a fourth line that you can’t even trust to play 5 minutes is not a recipe for success at all.

+ Malinski With Another Makar Impersonation

If you watched Sam Malinski‘s goal on Monday night and didn’t bother to look at the number on the back of the jersey, would you have assumed it was Cale Makar? Because he sure looked like him.

Over a month ago, I told him he had a little Makar in his game. He responded by saying, “I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, for sure.” He isn’t doing anything to change my mind. He’s not Makar, but his work at the offensive blueline is impressive.

It’s telling that as the game went on, he moved up to the second pair and they moved Jack Johnson down to the third pair. In the end, Malinski played more. With some of these injuries, he’ll stick around and has more chances to show he belongs, forcing the Avalanche to make a difficult decision.

+ Cogliano/Johansen/Kiviranta

This is very much a makeshift third line, and the reality is, it’s not a third line on most teams. Cogliano and Kiviranta are fourth line players, and Johansen is a strange fit between them, but it worked against the Bruins. They kept Boston pinned in their own end for large portions of the game, and Johansen drew a penalty late in the game.

Johansen seems to fit better with two “workers” on his wing. That’s part of the reason why I expect him to end up between Valeri Nichushkin and Artturi Lehkonen when the Finnish forward comes back from injury.

+ The Atmosphere

People weren’t happy with the sheer amount of Bruins fans in the building, and I totally get that. There were A LOT. That being said, I felt like all of them being in the building turned a regular season game in the middle of January into a hostile affair. It added to the atmosphere of the game. At times, it even felt like a playoff game. I know it wasn’t, but the games at this time of the can kind of blend together. The atmosphere, combined with the quality of hockey on the ice, made last night stand out in a big way.

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