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 Florida Panthers for the Colorado Avalanche.
– That Second Period
It’s actually been a while since we’ve had to talk about a truly awful second period. They had a tough one in New Jersey, but this was a whole new level.
Give credit where it’s due – the Florida Panthers are a wagon. They manhandled the Avalanche for the entirety of the second period, and it really wasn’t all that close. The NHL was nice enough to take a few shots away from the Panthers after the game ended, but the shots on goal were still 24-10 in favor of the home team. The shot attempts? 42-21.
That’s a stunning amount of shot attempts to give up in a 20 minute span. And at times, it looked like it was way worse than that. There was a shift where Ryan Johansen lost his stick in the defensive zone, and the Panthers were able to just do whatever they wanted. The only reason the game wasn’t completely out of hand after period two was Alexandar Georgiev, who looked like the only player who came out of the locker room.
Florida looks like a team that will be extremely difficult to eliminate in the Eastern Conference, and the Avalanche couldn’t keep up.
+ First Period
The score says otherwise, but the first period was a lot closer than the score would indicate. The Avalanche created quite a few great scoring chances, including one from Cale Makar where he made a Panthers forward look absolutely silly. Sergei Bobrovsky was the difference, as he gave Colorado nothing in net and stopped all 15 shots he faced.
There was one big difference in period one, and it’s been an issue since the team came back from the All-Star break…
— Special Teams
Colorado got the first powerplay of the game, and they actually created chances, which hasn’t always been the case coming out of the break. Mikko Rantanen had two good looks on deflections. One missed the net completely, and the other was stopped on a great save by Bobrovsky. The rest of the powerplay wasn’t so great, as they struggled to even enter the zone cleanly, but they at least had a few looks to start.
Florida got the next two powerplays, and they wasted very little time capitalizing. They got some help from Colorado. Andrew Cogliano had a chance to clear the puck on the first penalty kill, but it was easily kept in. Moments later, Verhaeghe was left all alone on the backdoor, and it was 1-0. The second penalty kill was a bit more of the same, as Sam Reinhart, who has twice as many goals on the powerplay as the next closest player in the NHL, was left all alone in the slot. His one-timer, naturally, beat Georgiev over the glove, and it was 2-0.
The Avalanche didn’t play poorly at even strength in the first period at all, but special teams were the difference. And in the end, proved to be the difference in the game.
– MacKinnon’s Injury
With zero points on Saturday, Nathan MacKinnon has now gone three games without a point, which seemed unheard of just a week ago. In the third period, in a really awkward collision with the net, his face hit the ice. MacKinnon left the game and didn’t return, but at that point, the game was out of hand anyway, so no point in risking anything even if he was okay. There was no real update on him after the game, so just have to hope that he’ll be okay when the team gets back on the ice.
An injury to him would really be difficult to overcome, given how the other centers are struggling.
– Breaking Up The ‘Roaring 20’s’
At this point, I think you just need to lock into the Miles Wood, Ross Colton, and Logan O’Connor line, then figure out the rest. That’s one line where you know what you’re going to get, even if you aren’t going to get offense out of them every night. Figure out the rest, but don’t mess with this trio.
+ Alexandar Georgiev
I would certainly say he was outplayed by Bobrovsky in the first period, and that was a big difference, but the Avalanche hung Georgiev out to dry way too many times on Saturday night. He did his best to keep them in the game in the second period, but there was very little pushback from the rest of the squad. 24 shots against in a period is just absurd, and the fact that it was only 3-0 at that point is a testament to how well he was playing.
– Fourth Line
We’ve discussed the struggles of the centers a lot. We’ve discussed lack of depth scoring in depth at this point, so there’s really only so much more to talk about. However, the Avalanche are getting nothing from their fourth line, and it’s been that way for months.
These guys are not expected to score goals, but they need to help create some momentum, and that hasn’t been the case. Joel Kiviranta hasn’t scored in two months, Fredrik Olofsson has one goal since Thanksgiving, and the same goes for Andrew Cogliano.
The fourth line is NOT the reason this team is losing right now, but you do need some positive contributions from them at some point.
I’ve noticed on social media that Rantanen has become public enemy #1 for a lot of people. I do understand that a little bit. While he’s racked up a lot of points this year, he hasn’t looked anything like the guy we saw last season who carried this team through some really difficult times. He’s getting paid a lot of money to be a difference maker, and a lot of nights, he isn’t. I also think that this team is far too dependent on their star players, and when they struggle even just a little bit, the team spirals, which we’re seeing right now. It goes both ways.
I am not in charge of the line combinations, but assuming MacKinnon is good to go on Tuesday, I think it’s a perfect time to separate these two and see if you can spark Rantanen. Make him carry his own line. They’ve tried switching up the other wing on that line, but it’s been a while since we saw MacKinnon and Rantanen play apart. Now might be the time to try it.