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Avalanche Game 57 Plus/Minus: Ovation For Girard, Johansen’s Surge

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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 Vancouver Canucks for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Signs Of Life From Johansen

Well, ever since I wrote about Ryan Johansen and he has struggled with the Avalanche, he’s gone out and produced four points in four games.

Coincidence?!?!?

Probably. I doubt he’s reading this.

Do I suddenly think he’s a second line center? No. There’s plenty of sample size to show that he isn’t that. However, any sign that he could potentially help the team down the stretch is a good thing. His compete level the last four games has looked remarkably different, and he’s winning a heck of a lot more battles all over the ice.

“There’s just a little bit more competitive spirit in his game here recently.”

That’s an interesting quote from coach on Johansen, and just goes to show they probably weren’t super happy with what they were getting from him. Can he keep it up? That’s what we’ll have to watch down the stretch.

+ Big Ovation For Sam Girard

Since returning from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, Sam Girard has been a difference maker every night, and you could certainly argue he’s been their most consistent defenseman.

Towards the end of Tuesday night’s game, the Avalanche were forced to kill off a penalty, and Girard was stuck out there for a significant amount of time, just like the rest of the penalty killers. You don’t usually expect Girard to outmuscle bigger players, especially not at the end of a shift, but that’s exactly what he did to get a clear. He went toe-to-toe with J.T. Miller, outworked him for the puck, and emphatically cleared it down the ice.

And the crowd went nuts.

Girard seems to be in a very good headspace, and it shows on the ice. His play, along with Josh Manson, has allowed the Avalanche to not force Cale Makar into so many minutes on the penalty kill of late.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

In the first period, Thatcher Demko made the save that Alexandar Georgiev didn’t. The rest of the game, Georgiev locked things down, including a spectacular save on Hoglander in the third period.

He’s not putting up mind-blowing numbers, but over his last nine games, his numbers are closer to what he produced last season. It’s also worth noting that he got a nice break from the All-Star week, as well a few nights off during that time, which I do think helps. If Colorado can get him some consistent breaks down the stretch, maybe things will be okay.

– Face-Offs

At one point during the second period last night, I checked the box score and the Avalanche were sitting at 20% in the face-off dot. They finished the night at 38%, but that’s still a pretty ugly performance.

Did it matter all that much? No, because they won the game. How much face-offs matter is a conversation for another day, but you never really want to see a team get dominated that badly. Even Johansen took a beating in that department.

+ The Penalty Kill

Colorado’s penalty kill has taken a step back of late, but they looked significantly better on Tuesday night against a scary powerplay unit. The PK in the third period we’ve already talked about, but the Canucks got a powerplay in the second and the Avalanche gave them absolutely nothing. That might have been a more impressive kill because Colorado had just tied the game up, so the Canucks could have taken back the momentum, but the PK didn’t allow it.

+ Pace Of The Game

I thought this was a fantastic hockey game. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the Vancouver Canucks on the second half of a back-to-back, but they still look pretty good to me. The pace of the game was extremely high, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Even though the Canucks lost, I became a little bit more of a believer in what they can do. That’s a good team.

– Fourth Line

Colorado is still trying to find a fourth line that can truly be relied upon. The returns of both O’Connor and Nichushkin would certainly make a difference, but on Tuesday night, the Avalanche didn’t get a single unblocked shot attempt from their fourth line. Chris Wagner played just 18 seconds in the final 13 minutes of the game. It’s hardly uncommon for a coach to shorten their bench in a tight game, but I just remember back to the Stanley Cup run from Colorado in 2022, and how important a good fourth line was for them.

The return of some key players will get them closer to having that.

– Drouin Can’t Buy A Goal

I don’t know if anyone had more Grade-A scoring chances last night than Jonathan Drouin, and they all came from right around the net. Demko gave him absolutely nothing, though. He had one taken back against the Coyotes, but we’re still looking at 14 games without a goal for someone on the top line. You don’t want that to continue much longer.

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