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 New Jersey Devils for the Colorado Avalanche.
– What Is Goalie Interference?
I said it on social media right when the Devils challenged the Josh Manson goal, but I could not tell you what’s going to happen when a goal is challenged for goalie interference.
I see both sides on this one. O’Connor is heading towards the net, and while he’s pushed, he has to be in control a little bit and he does run into Vanecek. On the flip side, the push is mostly what sends him into Vanecek, and then Vanecek holds onto O’Connor’s stick, which delays his own ability to get back into the net. It could have gone either way, in my opinion, but this one went against the Avalanche. I’ve seen it called the other way by the NHL as well. That’s kind of the issue. The rule is pretty vague and that that leads to inconsistency.
“He wasn’t going into the goalie without being hit. That was my take on it. That’s what I thought the rule was. They obviously saw it different.”
That was Jared Bednar after the game. I don’t know what constitutes calling a goal back, and I don’t know if NHL coaches truly know either. That’s kind of the problem, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon, unfortunately.
+ Lehkonen Digs In
Luke Hughes got trucked by Artturi Lehkonen on the second goal, although I’m not entirely sure that was what Lehkonen meant to do. He did go in with his stick first, which dislodged the puck right to Makar for the goal. That being said, Lehkonen was involved a little bit more last night, and with the team struggling to produce, Bednar went to his safety blanket on the top line. It’s not that Drouin was necessarily playing poorly, but he was just looking for any sort of spark.
On the Girard goal, Lehkonen may have gotten away with some interference, but I guess he sold it well enough to where the refs weren’t going to call it. Just nice to see him involved after taking a few games to get used to everything.
– Big Mistakes From Big Stars
Colorado, perhaps more than any team in the league, depends on their star players to win them games. It’s not that other teams don’t rely on their stars, but given how much the Avalanche play their best players, they need them at their best.
Since coming back from the break, the star players have been stuck in their own end more than they’d like to be, and on two goals Tuesday night, they got beat badly.
The second goal from the Devils, which came just a few minutes after Josh Manson’s goal was disallowed, happened because of a bad pinch by Cale Makar. Yes, the F3 wasn’t where they should have been, but if you’re Makar, that’s not a pinch you can make unless you know you’ve got help.
The game-winning goal by the Devils was a mess in front of Justus Annunen. Byram blew a tire, Lehkonen dove to block the shot, and John Marino was able to one-time the winner home right in front of Nathan MacKinnon. Late in the game, that kind of chaos is never good, and it cost the Avalanche at least one point.
The numbers since Lehkonen returned to the lineup for Ryan Johansen, outside of point production, look good (not so much on Tuesday), but you watch the game and it’s clear that he’s a step behind his linemates every step of the way.
He barely hit the 10 minute mark against the Devils, and at even strength, played under nine minutes. The Avalanche are essentially hiding him at this point between two hard workers, and it’s a glaring hole in the lineup. He hasn’t scored a goal in the calendar year of 2024, and has just three assists. At this point, I’m not sure there’s a good spot for him anywhere in the lineup, and that’s a big problem heading down the stretch. We’ll see if he can prove me wrong.
+ Drouin Delivers
It was nice to see Jonathan Drouin chip in even when he wasn’t attached to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. While he’s goalless in eight games, he’s still finding ways to chip in, as he’s got five assists in his last five games.
– Colton’s Cool
The Avalanche brought in Ross Colton because he plays right on the line, but a few times this season, he’s crossed the line and hurt his team a little bit. On Tuesday night, he took an unsportsmanlike penalty right after the Devils had scored two straight goals to make it a 3-1 game. Now, I obviously don’t know what was said, but the refs called the penalty when Colton was already on the bench, so he must have gone at them pretty good.
Colorado killed off the penalty, but at that point in the game, you have to control your emotions a little bit. If the Devils had scored there, that’s a three goal deficit and as good as the Avalanche are at erasing leads, you don’t want to have to come back from something like that. Colton has to keep his cool a bit in that moment.
+/- Justus Annunen
I’m indifferent to how Annunen played. He made a big stop on a Bratt breakaway in the first period, and played well early in the game in general. On the third goal, he just lost the puck after making a nice stop, and didn’t even seem to know he didn’t have it covered. He still looks a little slow in net to me, and I need to see a heck of a lot more to be convinced he’s a capable NHL backup goaltender.
– Sam Malinski
Colorado recalled Sam Malinski on Monday and inserted him in on Tuesday on the second half of a back-to-back. I anticipate them doing that a bit down the stretch, but didn’t love Malinski’s game overall. He got involved offensively on his first shift, but on the Devils opening goal, he did turn the puck over behind the net. Stopped a few wrap arounds at one point, but that was after being hemmed into his own end. Just didn’t think the game went as smoothly as some of the others he’s played.
I liked Olofsson’s game a lot to start the season, but there’s been a pretty large dip in his game. It doesn’t help that for a lot of games, he’s been stuck between players that the staff just doesn’t trust, but it seems the staff may have lost trust in him. He’s not really being used on the penalty kill anymore, and was even chosen to serve the bench minor on Tuesday. Just like Johansen, he does not have a goal in the calendar year of 2024, and has just one assist. He’s not here to score, but you do need the occasional point from your fourth line center.