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Avalanche Game 42 Plus/Minus: Georgiev Of Old, Nichushkin Reflection




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 Vegas Golden Knights for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Alexandar Georgiev Of Last Year

The Georgiev that the Avalanche got on Wednesday night is the Georgiev they got for the majority of the 2022-23 campaign. As a whole, the team didn’t give up a ton of top-flight chances, but this is the NHL. You ARE going to give up scoring chances, especially to a team that employs the likes of Jack Eichel and Mark Stone. When Colorado did give up those chances, Georgiev was there to back them up. The stop on Stone at the start of the third period, with the game still just 2-0 for the Avalanche, was massive. He had a breakaway stop later in that period as well.

The Georgiev we saw on Wednesday night battled. In the first period, there were a lot of loose pucks around the net that he had to cover up, and did just that. Colorado doesn’t need elite goaltending every night to be good. They’re a good enough defensive team to limit the chances of the other team. They just need the goalie to be good. On a lot of night’s this season, that hasn’t been the case, so consistency will be key here.

+ Reflecting on Valeri Nichushkin’s Journey

I can’t help but think back to when the Avalanche signed Nichushkin. By the time he finally scored a goal, it had been over a full NHL season’s worth of games. I still remember that goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs that ended the drought and the relief on his face. A few games later, he blew past Duncan Keith for a beautiful goal in Chicago. He was moving so fast that Keith actually pulled his groin trying to keep up. It’s been gradual improvement since then, minus a few hiccups.

Even when he couldn’t score, his underlying numbers were strong, so you knew he was probably better than the production you were getting. That being said, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player go from not being able to score at all to not being able to NOT score. He has 21 goals in his last 30 games, which accounts for about 75% of the season. We’re talking about a 57 goal pace there. In front of the net, opposing teams have no answer. How do you move a 6’4″ monster? Nichushkin alone is the reason why the Avalanche have a second line they can trust. When Lehkonen comes back, the entire makeup of this team will change, and big Val is able to hide whatever weaknesses the center on the second line may have.

Signing Nichushkin in 2019 might actually go down as the best free agent signing in Avalanche history. Who could have seen that coming at the time?

– No One

I can’t think of anyone who played poorly. Even the fourth line, which didn’t play a ton, kept the Golden Knights in their own end of a large chunk of their second period shifts. This was a team effort.

+ Caleb Jones

It’s not easy to sit out for a long time, sometimes watching an AHL call-up play over you, but Caleb Jones has had the right attitude all along. He knew he wasn’t going to play every night when he got to Colorado, but he continues to show why he was a sneaky good pickup. He was fantastic against the Golden Knights. The shift that led to the O’Connor goal was made possible by some nice keep-ins by him. The reason he’s able to hold the line is because he’s such a good skater.

1-8 on the depth chart, you’re probably feeling pretty good about where the Avalanche are at on defense.

+ Sam Girard

Girard has been back for six games, and is it a coincidence that the defensive metrics for the Avalanche have been trending up since then? I don’t think so.

For a large portion of the second period, Girard found himself playing with Cale Makar on the top pair because of the lack of stoppages. He held his own. He doesn’t use a long stick at all, especially for a defenseman, but he’s very good with it, and had some nice poke checks off the rush and while defending in his zone.

You can feel how you want to feel about him, but the coaching staff really trusts him to play a lot of minutes, and there’s a reason for that.

+ Mikko Rantanen

Rantanen can be really frustrating at times because you kind of wish he was more consistently dominant, but that’s hard to do at the NHL level.

A quick peek at the two primary assists Rantanen had on Wednesday night just show how special he is as a player. His vision is off the charts. I love that the Avalanche are starting to use him in different ways on the powerplay, and the presence of Drouin allows them to do that.

Speaking of that powerplay…

+ Powerplay

Just 12 games ago, the powerplay for Colorado was ranked 18th in the NHL at just 19.3%.

As of today, they’re up to 25% and sit 8th in the NHL. In the last week, they’ve scored two incredible goals where every player on the ice touches the puck in a span of five seconds.

The powerplay is rolling right now, and when you only get a few powerplays a night, having a top unit like this is a huge advantage down the stretch.

+ Ross Colton

Since returning from injury, Colton has struggled a bit with everything. Wednesday night was his best effort since returning. He was involved offensively and on the forecheck, and while he didn’t score, he was making an impact. There was some nice chemistry between he and Nichushkin as well. My expectation is that when Lehkonen returns, they put Ryan Johansen between the two puck hounds, but I could see Colton getting a look too.

+ Full 60 Minutes

This team has had plenty of dominant stretches inside of games this season, but the consistency hasn’t been there. For the longest time, the second period was a major issue, but that seems to have been resolved. The most impressive part of the last two games has been the consistency from puck drop until the final buzzer. It’s been a journey to get there, but it’s an 82 game season, and that’s why you don’t panic in November.

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