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Avalanche Game 58 Plus/Minus: Impressive Annunen, Makar Concern



Avalanche Annunen

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 Detroit Red Wings for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Impressive Annunen

Is this game enough for Justus Annunen to convince the Avalanche that he can be the backup down the stretch? I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a nice start.

It’s not that Annunen has played poorly in any of his starts this year. I would say he’s been…okay. However, in every one of those starts, he allowed four goals against. At some point, that number has to go down. On Thursday night, it did.

Through two periods, I do think the Avalanche did a good job of limiting the high-danger chances the Red Wings got. Their best opportunity was probably a breakaway from Jake Walman in the second period, but Annunen was up to the task. Colorado chased a bit more in the third period, and Annunen was a little deep in his net on the tying goal, but you can’t ask for too much more from a backup goaltender than what he gave them. In fact, they owe him a big “thank you” for his stop on J.T. Compher late to get the game to overtime. Otherwise, we’d be sitting here talking about Colorado not even walking away with a point.

– Drouin Penalties

When Drouin takes penalties, he seems to take them in bunches. He also has been caught a few times when the Avalanche have a powerplay, negating their man advantage. I didn’t love the call in the third period on him, but I didn’t really love any of the penalty calls in the third period on either side. Both penalties were stick penalties, though. Those are the types coaches don’t love.

– Special Teams

There’s really no getting around it – special teams cost the Avalanche at least one point on Thursday.

Both teams got two powerplays in the third period. The Avalanche failed to take advantage of either of there man advantages, while the Red Wings tied the game up with one of their powerplays. If not for that late Annunen save on Compher, they would have gone 2-for-2, and I’m not quite sure how he was left all alone in front.

The powerplay has hit a wall since the All-Star break, going just 2-for-29, which is second worst in the NHL in that timeframe. Do they really miss Valeri Nichushkin that much?

+ First Two Periods

Was it the most exciting hockey in the world? Absolutely not, but for two periods, the Avalanche looked like they were going to put together a really solid road game. They limited the chances the Red Wings got, they were disciplined, and their goaltending was strong.

You see those first two periods and you know this team has it in them to figure it out on the road, but it has to be a full 60 minute effort.

– What’s Up With Makar?

Seven games without a point for Cale Makar, which is far and away the longest drought of his NHL career. The question I get every night is about his health, and I really don’t know how to answer that. He hasn’t missed a game in a few months now, but he still looks…off. At one point in this game, he blocked a shot and went to the bench very gingerly. He just doesn’t look very comfortable out there. I had the 2022 playoff highlights pop up on YouTube the other day, and the Makar we’re seeing right now doesn’t have nearly the same burst as that version of Makar did. It’s a little concerning. An 80-90% Makar is still a better skater than the majority of the NHL, so maybe we’ve been spoiled in that sense, but having seen what he can be before, you kind of expect that now.

No surprise that the powerplay struggles coincide with the struggles of Makar and Rantanen.

+ O’Connor Returns

That “Roaring 20’s” line had the shift that created all the momentum leading up to MacKinnon’s goal, and it’s the type of energy they could use. O’Connor wasn’t super noticeable beyond that, but just nice to have him back in the lineup.

– Continued Road Struggles

The fact of the matter is that any team is going to have to win some games on the road if they want to go far in the postseason, and right now, the Avalanche don’t look like a team that can do that. That doesn’t mean it can’t change, but the road record is extremely concerning.

13-13-5 doesn’t look that bad on paper, but four of those wins came right at the start of the season. Since then, they’ve looked like a very different team away from Ball Arena. Home ice advantage is going to be huge for this team, but even with home ice advantage, you need to take care of some of your business on the road. Can this team figure it out?

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