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Avalanche Game 68 Plus/Minus: Lehky’s Back, Gutsy Cogliano



Avalanche Oilers

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 Edmonton Oilers for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Speed Walker

Was this guy born to be a member of the Colorado Avalanche or what? Holy cow. He can really fly. On the game-tying goal, he literally appears out of nowhere into the slot for the one-timer. On the first goal, he was shot out of a rocket to create an odd-man rush. He nearly did it again in overtime to win it all.

Avalanche fans are already talking about an extension for Sean Walker. I’d give it a little bit longer before getting there, but he sure looks like a dynamite fit in this system.

+ Mittelstadt’s All-Around Game

The pass to Walker on the game-tying goal was a thing of beauty, but I was more impressed with the rest of his game. He made a great play in the first period, reading Connor McDavid perfectly to take the puck back for the Avalanche. In the third period, he had a great backcheck to stop the Oilers from entering the zone with possession. On top of all that, his patience with the puck was on display all over the ice. He typically makes the right play when he gets it, and finds a way to create room for his teammates.

He doesn’t have the quickest first step in the NHL, but he can recover pretty well if he gets caught, and that happened a few times on Saturday.

The one complaint I had about Mittelstadt was his unwillingness to shoot the puck, and we saw that a few times, but other than that, a great game.

+ The Return Of Lehkonen

The Avalanche sure felt the impact of Lehkonen’s return immediately. I thought he would go right back to the top line, but he started with Mittelstadt and Drouin, and they were quite good. Isn’t it nice to have an actual second line, Avalanche fans?

He was the guy who sprung Drouin for his breakaway that resulted in a penalty shot, and his willingness to take a hit led to the first Walker goal. And what else can you really say about the overtime winner? That’s a guy that just wants it more than Draisaitl. Coming off an illness and still having the energy to beat Draisaitl to the front of the net says a lot about him.

– Start of the Third

This was a great hockey game, and there really isn’t much to complain about from the Colorado side, but the start of the third wasn’t pretty. They did appear to take their foot off the gas for about 10 minutes and it burned them. Granted, there are two teams on the ice every night, and the Oilers are a real good team, but those are the teams you definitely can’t slow down against.

Edmonton‘s opening goal came off a couple of turnovers from the Avalanche. The first one was from Nichushkin, who failed to get the puck out of the zone, and then Girard’s clear went straight to Bouchard. Good teams will capitalize on mistakes.

It was a lull and that happens in a game, but this one nearly proved to be very costly.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

A real strong performance from Alexandar Georgiev in net on a big stage. His best saves might have come in the second period, as he showed off his athletic ability moving side-to-side. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins probably had trouble sleeping last night because Georgiev stonewalled him on multiple occasions, including that overtime breakaway.

Fair or not, there’s a lot of pressure on Georgiev down the stretch to show he isn’t the weak link on the team. He definitely held up his end of the bargain on Saturday.

+ Manson

Every few games, Manson turns into an angry Bobby Orr, and it happened again against the Oilers. He was stickhandling through everyone, creating chances offensively, and shutting things down defensively (for the most part). His one-on-one defense on McDavid in the second period was a thing of beauty. You don’t ever see McDavid take big hits, but Manson stayed with him and sent him to the ice.

Desharnais felt his wrath at the end of the second period in that fight, and never returned to the game. You don’t want to mess with an angry Manson.

– Colton Line Defensively

Colorado will experiment with the lines down the stretch, and while the trio of Miles Wood, Ross Colton, and Zach Parise did create some offense, they spent way too much time in their own end. Colton didn’t even hit 10 minutes of ice time, but he was one for 20 shot attempts against from the Oilers. For comparison’s sake, Mittelstadt played 15:40 at even strength and was only out there for 11 attempts against.

That line looks like it might be lacking some pure skill, but does deserve more than one game to show what they can do.

+ Gutsy Cogliano

Nikolai Kovalenko could come in and light the world on fire, but I still have a hard time seeing this team scratching Andrew Cogliano if he’s healthy. His shot block in the third period is a good example why. He’ll put his body on the line for this team and it doesn’t matter what the score is. In this instance, it was a tight game in the third period. A few weeks ago, it was the final seconds of a blowout to secure a shutout for a rookie goaltender.

He’s a huge leader in that locker room and everyone loves him for a reason.

+ A healthy team

I’m not sure how often we’ll see this Avalanche squad healthy, but we got a glimpse of it on Saturday, and they looked pretty darn good. If this team does manage to stay healthy down the stretch, look out. First in the West is within reach.

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