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Avalanche Game Five Plus/Minus: Lab Lehky, Even Strength Mittelstadt



Avalanche Stars

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 Four against the Dallas Stars for the Colorado Avalanche.

They’re not dead just yet…

+ Artturi Lehkonen

It’s not just the goals, although he managed to score (another) huge goal. It’s not just the assists, although he managed to pick up the assist doing most of the work on the insurance goal that finished off the game.

It’s everything else, or, to make it even more simple, everything. With the game on the line and under three minuets left, who else is Jared Bednar putting on the ice? And, as he usually does, Lehkonen rewards Bednar’s faith by working his butt off, putting his body in front of shots, and diving to make sure the puck gets out of the zone.

He’s not as talented as a Mikko Rantanen or a Nathan MacKinnon, but he does everything right and he’s plenty talented in his own right. That’s why he feels like a player that a hockey coach built in a lab. That head coach might have been Jared Bednar.

+ The Powerplay

Colorado played quite well at even strength, I felt. They were generating chances and they weren’t exactly giving up a ton at their end. The problem was that they couldn’t find the back of the net to stay in the game.

That’s where the powerplay, which has struggled since Game One, came up so clutch. Who knows where this game goes if the Avalanche don’t get one at the end of the first period. Same goes for the goal towards the end of the second. In the third period, the even strength offense came alive, but those two powerplay goals allowed the Avalanche to hang around in the game and get things going.

+ Cale Makar

I don’t know what else to say about Makar that I didn’t already write about late last night.

When he’s doing the things he was doing at the offensive blueline in Game Five, there’s no one that can stop him. He pulled a nearly identical move off on 1/4 of the Stars forward core, and there was nothing they could do about it. He’s a competitor, and that showed up last night.

“His skill shines through and his competitiveness shines through tonight,’’ Jared Bednar said after the game.

– Devon Toews

It’s understandable that he struggled a little bit, as it didn’t sound like he was close to 100%, but it sure looked like it. When you’re sick, you get tired a lot quicker, and tired players make mistakes. That’s what happened when Toews, without a ton of pressure on him, just shot the puck out of play. I’m not sure what it is about Dallas and that penalty, but it’s the third one the Avalanche have taken at American Airlines Center this series. In the third, his exit pass missed everyone and created the third Stars goal.

You’d much rather have an even 80% Toews in the lineup over Caleb Jones (no offense to Jones), but it was clear he was struggling lats night.

– Losing Trenin

The Avalanche don’t exactly have a ton of center depth to begin with, as Yakov Trenin wasn’t even playing center full-time when he got to the team, so losing him hurts quite a bit. Bednar and company had been moving him around in games, as he spent a lot of time with Colton and Wood when the team needed a different look on that line

The explanation for his injury was a little strange, but when you consider he was hurt very early in the game and wasn’t able to come back, it feels like it might be somewhat serious. My assumption, given that he’s a center, is that Chris Wagner would get the call in his place, but we’ll see.

(or dress Gabriel Landeskog just so you can have him on the bench)

+ Splitting Up MacKinnon and Rantanen

It had to happen at some point, because the combination of the two of them together just wasn’t getting enough done to justify it continuing with the series on the line.

Is it possible the Avalanche would have won this game with these two together? Yeah, it’s definitely possible, but it gave them a new look and Colorado played well with them separated. Since you won, you have to keep it going. The second line, in particular, had really strong numbers.

About that…

+ Casey Mittelstadt

What makes what Casey Mittelstadt is doing so impressive is that it’s pretty much all coming at even strength. He’s not on the top powerplay unit, which on the Avalanche means he might as well not be on the powerplay at all, because that second unit doesn’t play.

Mittelstadt’s nine even strength points this postseason have him tied for second in the NHL, behind just Sebastian Aho and Brock Boeser. He’s been what the Avalanche had hoped, and even better than they probably hoped with his defensive play.

The only problem is that they’re probably going to have to fork over a lot of cash to him this summer…

+ Zach Parise

This guy is giving it everything he has in what looks to be his final NHL season. He took an absolute beating in front of the net in the second period that probably would have knocked anyone else out of the game, but he went back to the bench, shook it off, and assisted on the huge goal to start the third period.

He wants that Cup.

– The Second Stars Goal

Full credit to the Stars, who took advantage of the fact that the Avalanche and every other team in the NHL would expect a drop pass at that point in time. They drew up a play that caught Colorado off guard and created a very nice goal.

That being said, never a good look to give up a 2-on-0 while you’re killing a penalty. Georgiev had very little chance there.

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The 2 on 0 was caused by your 1st + being caught out of position and losing his man. Don’t get me wrong I love Lekhys game and think he’s absolutely one of the best players on the ice most nights. But that goal is no him.

Joseph Crotty

My minus: the refs. How does Rants not draw a double minor when he was clearly bleeding? From the NHL rulebook for 2023-2024: 60.3 Double-minor Penalty – When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders and makes contact with his opponent’s neck, face or head so that injury results, in the manner of drawing blood or otherwise, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty. Penalties minutes by game: DAL vs COL Game 1 – 6 vs 10 Game 2 – 8 vs 12 Game 3 – 10 vs 8 Game 4 – 6 vs 6… Read more »

Karl Keen

If the Avs were the aggressors and controlling the play I would agree with you but when you are the team on your heels or just skating around for most of the series, the team with the better the play tends to get more PP chances.


You talk about how Bednar relies on Lehky late. He is the same coach who puts Mikko out late. Let’s call that a wash. As for paying Mitts, we all know where that money could come from. If Rantanen gets an extension involving a raise or even same pay, the Avs are officially off the rails. All that said, way to survive, let’s hope they can play with same passion (and less dumb) on Friday.

Joe Cerwinske

So much hate for Mikko among frequent commenters. You all realize that literally every team in the league would fall over themselves to get a deal done if he became available? If you were to redraft 2015, Mikko would go 2nd behind McDavid regardless of who had the pick. You spoiled, spoiled fans who don’t appreciate what we have in him: a top ten scorer who can get goals and assists in bunches, can move throughout the lineup including playing center if needed, and a popular locker room guy. Seems you all forgot last year, when MacKinnon was out for… Read more »


Avs played well last night. Makar and Mac had great games were skating hard. So glad to have Drouin back. What a complete (and fast) player he has turned into in the last 9 months. But, boy, the difference between Rantanen’s skating last night and the last 4 games was very noticeable. Not sure if something is going on personally with him, but he didn’t look to me like he was even trying the last 4 games. His feet just weren’t moving. But last night he skated hard after pucks and the difference was huge. It allowed us to maintain… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by huckleberry
Rick Bennett

Other than marvelling at Makar’s otherworldly performance my overriding thought after that game is that the Avs need to lock up Mittelstadt for as long as they can. His poise and skill just jump off the ice and you just get a felling that he’s going to thrive and continue to get better playing with the Avs. The silver lining of trading Nichushkin is that they’ll have cap space to re-sign Drouin and have the possibility do more than just a QO or bridge deal with Mittelstadt.

Karl Keen

Who is going to trade for Nichuskin? What GM in their right mind would trade for a player on a long term contract who has ghosted his team for two straight playoffs?

Rick Bennett

Yep you’re right. No NHL GM would take the chance to think he can be the one to turn around a point per game player who is on PP1, PK’s, is impossible to move away from the net and was leading the NHL playoffs in scoring at the time he was suspended. I mean, no one wanted to trade for a guy like Naz Kadri after he was suspended in the playoffs for crazy reckless hits two seasons in a row? It would have to be a pretty reckless organization to do something like that, right? Pro sports GM’s would… Read more »


Comparing Kadi’s suspension to Nichushkin’s is apples and oranges. Kadri’s was a disciplinary suspension, and another violation would likely have resulted in an even heftier fine and a short suspension in comparison. Val’s has entered the player assistance program for the 3rd time, and it carries a 6-month suspension. If he’s reinstated, another violation would be a lifetime ban! Trades are about more than swapping players. You’re also trading contracts and that’s what made the trade for Kadri special since he was a bargain 2C. Nobody disputes that Val has all the talent in the world but at the end… Read more »

Karl Keen

Accusing me of emotions? I am literally considering why a team would take on a player with 6 GUARANTEED freaking years left on his contract. You are acting like he has one year left at $3 million! That’s a flyer, that’s a risk. Not let’s take a decent chunk out of our cap space for a player who missed 32 games last season and didn’t finish the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The Avs cannot apparently terminate his contract — which is astounding because any of us with employment contracts would not have such favorable terms but the NHLPA… Read more »

Joe Cerwinske

I would say there should be some teams willing take a flier on him, especially if they’re a team hungry to make it to the playoffs like Detroit, Buffalo, or Ottawa. Colorado may have to retain some salary, and I’m not sure what or how much they’d get in return (maybe some mid-round picks or some fringe prospects), but I definitely wouldn’t consider him untradeable. Heck, I could also see a team desperately trying to keep their Cup window open – like Pittsburgh, Washington, or Boston – take a chance on him. A player that talented will have a place… Read more »

Karl Keen

Val Nichuskin: “I’ll help you get to the playoffs, I just won’t be there to help the team win in the playoffs.”

Is that his agent’s selling point?

Last edited 10 days ago by Karl Keen

Over 30 teams in this league now. Guaranteed at least a couple would take him.


THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO TRADE NICHUSHKIN! Any GM should lose their job if they trade for him. He’s not an inexpensive, low risk player you take a flyer on like the Avs did when they originally signed him. His current contract is for 6 more years at over 6M per. NHL contacts are fully guaranteed. If they move on they’ll have to find another way without hamstringing the team with a major dead cap hit spread over many years. He’s in the driver’s seat but again, if they move on an ideal situation would be if he… Read more »


Well we’re going to find out in time aren’t we?

Joseph Crotty

The Nuk take here is off base. We’ll get to the specifics post season, but suffice to say you can not get value from an under water investment.


To me, Mittelstadt is a priority off-season signing. Lots of talent there and I believe he has just scratched the surface. Lehky? One of the best trades the Avalanche have made in their history. A Montreal gift that keeps on giving. I thought Parise was all over the ice last night. Cogs? Looks like he’s hurt or he’s running of fumes. That wasn’t the Devon Toews we’re used to seeing on the ice. It might be from his lingering illness and I hope he gets his strength back soon. The Avs were very physical against Dallas and that’s the way… Read more »

Joseph Crotty

Benn needs several punches in the face ASAP. I am here for it.

Jeffrey Anderson

Spot on Evan! I hope that the 1st and 2nd lines stay as is for game 6, and beyond. Mitts was great last night, and much of postseason. Good to know that at 5 v 5, he’s 2nd in postseason scoring. Hopefully, when this season’s over MacSak can find a way to keep Drouin. They’ll have an extra $6.125M in cap space until the Nichushkin situation is resolved in 6mos+.

I can only watch JJ and Walker pairing with a hand over my eyes.

Karl Keen

I’ll be honest I did not watch the game. I had a scheduling conflict, but I am not sure I would have watched it anyway given the effort of the Avs the last three games. I did watch the highlights however and I’m not trying to be a downer, but those three goals the Avs gave up were f*cking ridiculous and painful: Goal 1: No communication between Manson and Girard apparently. Looked to me like Girard had it under control and Manson just swooped in anyway and retrieved the puck. May have been ok, but Manson decides to not continue… Read more »


I’m as critical as anyone regarding the Avs but they are still my team. So I’ll watch them through thick and thin.

Bob Neal

But they still won despite all of those miscues. Val issues are behind them for the time being and I thought they looked much more cohesive as a group. I was pleased to hear Bedsie’s pregame speech sound so unflustered. I think the boys were very relaxed despite facing eliminatio and that they’ve got a good opportunity to win this series.

Joseph Crotty

Was a B game overall for COL. They clearly have another gear to hit if they hope to win two more. It’s doable …


It looked like the whole team finally started standing up straight like a confident person does when that 3-2 goal was scored.
Constantly playing from behind is not much fun in the long run. An injection of self confidence surely seems to have made a difference.

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