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Avalanche Game 3 Plus/Minus: Rantanen Wins Possession, Clutch Lehky



Avalanche Jets

It’s time for playoff plus/minus! As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in Game Two against the Winnipeg Jets for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Rantanen PP Face-Off Wins

Has Mikko Rantanen been quite at the level people would have hoped so far through three games? I don’t think so, and I don’t believe that’s unfair to say. He’s taking a beating in every game and I do think he’s been trying to physically engage, but the play hasn’t been what you expect.

However, for the people that really care about face-offs, go back and watch the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal. Mikko Rantanen, who is not a natural center at all, is winning face-offs against Adam Lowry to get the Avalanche possession of the puck. I think they might have given up possession just once on those goals.

After the game, Rick Bowness was asked what they have to do to be better on the penalty kill. His answer started with “win the face-off.” Rantanen hasn’t been at his best, IMO, but those face-off wins have been huge. That used to be Gabriel Landeskog‘s job, but Rantanen has since taken it over and done a fine job. He was the only Avalanche player to finish above 50%, winning 10 of his 15 face-offs.

+ Clutch Lehkonen

What more can you say about this guy? When you need him the most, he’s there, and he’s always got his nose in the dirty areas of the ice. If you want him on the first line, he fits perfectly with MacKinnon. We’re finding out real quickly that he and Mittelstadt appear to have some chemistry as well. On the powerplay, he’s in that bumper spot and seems to eat cross-checks every two seconds. He’s big on the penalty kill. He does a little bit of everything and you need guys like that this time of the year.

+ Casey Mittelstadt

I’ll keep this short, because I’ve raved about his play through three games. I pointed out his play along the wall after Game Two, and Bednar made it a point to mention how good he’s been along the wall after Game Three. He was really good in Winnipeg, so he did deserve to get rewarded with some points.

– The First Goal Against

That could have been a killer. A backhand goal from the goal line is not a good one to give up, and the Avalanche were controlling most of the play at that point. That’s the type of goal that Georgiev just can’t give up, but he did respond…

+ The Breakaway Save On Toffoli

This was the turning point. It was 2-1 Jets at that point, and 3-1 would have given them all the momentum in the world. Toffoli made a nice move on Georgiev, but the Avalanche netminder stuck with him and made a great blocker save. That allows Colorado to stay within one, and that ended up being a really big deal.

– The Second Period

Period two was the first time I felt like the Jets started to play their way, which wasn’t good news for Colorado. They controlled the puck, and slowed the Avalanche down for most of the period. High-danger chances were 8-1 in favor of Winnipeg. They’re a very good team, so the Avalanche weren’t going to dominate every period, but those are the types of periods we saw the Jets play against Colorado in the regular season.

– The Dillon Injury

I had the photo of Brenden Dillon’s hand sent to me multiple times after the game, and I seriously can’t look at it. That looks brutal, and I hope he’s okay. I was heading down to the locker room at that point, so didn’t see it and I’m not really sure what happened, but hopefully Dillon is okay. I got cut by a skate on my wrist when I was in high school, and depending on where you get cut, it can do some real damage.

+ Sam Girard‘s Return

It is not easy to come back and play a game after missing a few weeks. It must be even harder to come back when it’s the NHL playoffs, where things are more intense than ever. Sam Girard stepped in and looked like he didn’t miss a beat.

Look at these numbers, all of which were tops on the Avalanche with no other defender even close to him:

68% CF%

66% SF%

+3/-0 in terms of goals with Girard on the ice

The next closest defenseman on the team was Manson, who was down at 54%. Girard came back and didn’t miss a beat, and might have even had a moment worthy of a GIF. After Pionk shot the puck out of play, Girard could be seen taunting him on camera, and it looked like he was giving him the Ric Flair “WHOOOOO!” I’m trying to find it to clip it, but that was entertaining.

+ The Ball Arena Crowd

The Jets crowd is a tough one match, but Avalanche fans did a mighty fine job, especially in the third period when the game started to get away from the Jets. That’s when teams can really feed off the energy of the crowd, and I think the Avalanche did that.

The fans also did a nice job hyping up Georgiev for the first hour, starting the “Georgie!” chants before we even got to the anthems.

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