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Avalanche Game 63 Plus/Minus: Parise’s Presence, Slump Buster

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Avalanche Blackhawks

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 Chicago Blackhawks for the Colorado Avalanche.

– Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks did generate some good looks throughout the evening, but I do feel the need to preface everything I’ve written in this piece by saying – wow, that’s a bad team. Really bad.

They’re 1-7-2 over their last 10 games, and with only 20 games remaining in their schedule, look like they have a very real chance of finishing with less points than the 2016-17 Avalanche.

I think Chicago knew they were going to be bad this year, but it’s one thing to anticipate it and another thing to live through it. They’ve got Connor Bedard, which is a heck of a way to start a rebuild, but they really don’t have much of anything else. It might be a long time before this team is any good.

+ Justus Annunen

Annunen’s glove was really working on Monday night. He stopped Colin Blackwell in the slot late in the first, which the crowd loved. He snagged a Bedard shot with his glove on a first period powerplay, which will always get a cheer, but his big moment came in the second period. Bedard had snuck onto the ice because of a line change, and both Byram and Girard pinched in, so it was as clean a breakaway as you’ll ever get.

Annunen didn’t even budge with Bedard’s initial fakes, and when the young star came in, Annunen stood his ground, stopping the shot was his glove hand. The jumbotron cut to Annunen, and the crowd loved it. This is only his second career appearance at Ball Arena, and the first one didn’t go so well, so I’m sure he was happy to put on a good show for the fans.

We’ll find out what happens in the coming days, but Annunen has done his part to show he can handle some starts down the stretch.

+ Nathan MacKinnon

It’s a race again with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in scoring.

It’s not a fair matchup against that Chicago team, and when Colorado’s top line and defensive pair were on the ice, it was a bloodbath. MacKinnon racked up four points and now is tied with Kucherov at the top, as both have 105 points. By next week, it’s entirely possible MacKinnon has a new career high in points, and there will still be another month left in the season. The way he’s produced at home this season, it might even happen this week.

+ Cale Makar

The last two games against Chicago, Makar has looked a bit like the Makar of old, creating chances offensively and breaking plays up in the defensive zone. The issue for me is that the Nashville game was sandwiched in there, and he didn’t look good at all in that game. In fact, it might have been one of the worst games I’ve seen him play, at least with the puck on his stick. That’s why I struggle to say “he’s back!”

It was nice to see him break that goalless drought, even if a small drought like that is normal for 99% of defensemen around the league.

– Girard/Byram Back Together

With no Josh Manson, the Avalanche decided to put Sam Girard and Bowen Byram back together, and I wasn’t a big fan of the results. Their expected goals for percentage was 26% as a pairing, and they gave up some of the better chances for the Blackhawks on the evening. Both got caught pinching in on the Bedard breakaway chance.

When Manson comes back, they’ll be put back on separate pairings, and that’s for the best.

+ Drouin Ends His Drought

There was a disallowed goal somewhere in there, but a month and a half is a long time for an NHL player to go without potting one in the back of the net. That’s what made Drouin’s celebration even better. A lot of guys probably would have been elated to end their slump, but Drouin was calm, cool, and collected. The refs waved off the goal, but he just pointed at the net to tell them it was in, and didn’t even bother continuing with the play.

He knew.

He still was picking up assists during the goal drought, so it’s not like he wasn’t contributing, but you don’t really want one of your skilled wingers going through something like that down the stretch.

The clean shave worked!

+ Zach Parise

I thought Zach Parise might still have some game left in him when watching his Islanders tape from last year. Turns out, he definitely does.

He’s not necessarily a guy that will drive the play forward at this point in his career, but he’s a perfectly fine complimentary forward in your bottom six. And come playoff time, I have a feeling he’s going to score some important goals for this Avalanche squad, simply because he spends so much time around the net. There’s nothing special about that goal last night. It’s just Parise planting his body in front of the net, and the puck just happened to bounce off his foot and go in. That’s where you score goals late in the season when NHL teams (maybe not Chicago) start to lock things down.

+ Caleb Jones

Good for him that he was able to get back into the lineup and play against his brother. He works hard in practice, and it’s got to be awfully difficult practicing every day, not knowing when you’ll get another chance to play. I talked to him back in December about his role on the team, and he was prepared for sitting a fair bit, but I don’t know if you can prepare for sitting out nearly two straight months.

He’ll have some bragging rights over Seth for a little bit, and even managed to pick up an assist.

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