Avalanche Game 4 Plus/Minus: Bednar’s Guts, Dominant Second Line

Colorado Hockey Now

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 Winnipeg Jets for the Colorado Avalanche.

We’re on the road again. Sitting at the airport, waiting to fly back to Fargo for the journey to Winnipeg. Thanks for all the support. The Avalanche are guaranteed at least one more road game this postseason, and if you’d like to continue to support, you can here. Again, nothing is expected. Do not feel obligated. Now, let’s get to plus/minus.


+ The Second Line

On paper, this second line wouldn’t be one that stands out, and maybe that’s because a 39 year old is on one of the wings, but that 39 year old looks pretty darn good right now. The other two look dominant, and he’s not that far off.

During the first period in particular, this line was fantastic, and that was with the top line maybe not playing the way they’re capable of playing. They could have had a few goals, but had to settle for just one. It all starts with the forecheck, as they forced Logan Stanley into one of the many mistakes he made in Game Four. Parise recovered the puck, got it to Mittelstadt, who made Stanley look silly behind the net. A not-so-easy pass to the front to Lehkonen and the Avalanche were on the board.

This was the dream for Chris MacFarland, right? You know the big guns will get their points, even if they’re not necessarily playing great (we’ll get to that). To have a second line that can chip in and play borderline dominant hockey is the things that dreams are made of for a GM and a coach.

+ Bednar’s Cojones

That’s now three times that Jared Bednar has thrown someone into their first NHL game in the playoffs. Cale Makar, Sampo Ranta, and now Nikolai Kovalenko. The thing about Kovalenko is that, unlike those other guys, he didn’t even skate with the team once. They just threw him right in there. That takes real guts from a coach, and I guarantee you 95% of coaches in the league aren’t taking a chance like that.

+ Kovalenko Doesn’t F Up

Listen, the numbers are bad, and I think Kovalenko looked overwhelmed with the speed of everything. How could he not be? In the morning, he thought he’d be playing an AHL playoff game, and next thing you know, he finds himself in the NHL playoffs. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I don’t know how much the staff actually expected out of him with no practice time or even a morning skate. The message to him had to be “don’t screw up and we’ll go from there.”

And he didn’t. He played physical, and made some big plays in slot in the defensive zone to protect his net. You build from there and hope it gets better with some time around the team.

– Kiviranta Injury

The drop off in effectiveness on that third line was very noticeable, and you had to expect it. It stinks that Joel Kiviranta got hurt when he was playing probably the best hockey of his Avalanche career. He’s a reliable player and seemed to fit in really well with that trio. Bednar said it’s day-to-day, so it doesn’t sound too bad, but you never really know this time of the year.

– Mikko Rantanen

You can’t really beat around the bush anymore. Mikko Rantanen is just not playing up to his capabilities. The Avalanche are still finding ways to win, and he’s picking up some points here and there, but expectations are higher as far as how he’s playing on the ice. The first couple of powerplays had a few plays where things just died on his stick. Is he still getting his legs back under him after going through concussion protocol? It’s possible. Remember, during that 2022 Stanley Cup run, he didn’t exactly play great the first two rounds after missing a few weeks due to illness at the end of the regular season.

He’s a super talented player, so he’ll turn it around, and it’s a positive that the team can find ways to win when he’s not at his best.

+ Big Val At The Net

All the questions after the game to Bednar and to Nichushkin’s teammates were about how he’s doing off the ice. That’s everyone’s number one concern right now, but he seems to be doing just fine. That’s translating to the ice. He’s tied with Zach Hyman for the league lead in goals right now, and he’s back to being the dominant presence in front of the net on the powerplay that we saw most of the year. This is a very different Avalanche squad when he’s rolling.

+ The Makar Goal

Cale Makar won’t hype himself up, even though multiple reporters tried to get him to do just that after the game. If he won’t do it, I will.

That was ridiculous. There’s only one defenseman in the world who can score that goal, and he plays for the Avalanche. Eight points through four games is just absurd. He’s doing things from the blueline that no one other than Bobby Orr has done in the NHL playoffs. Good luck to the rest of the league.

+ Sean Walker When He’s Skating

There were a couple of moments when Sean Walker stopped moving his feet and got himself in trouble. When any defenseman does that, they’re going to have issues, and he’s no different. When he was moving his feet, he was remarkably effective. You can tell that he just feels a lot more comfortable on his natural right side. The return of Sam Girard just slots everyone back into the spot they’re most comfortable in, and the team has benefitted from it.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

Another strong game. Again, he just needs to be good enough, he doesn’t have to steal any games. His best save came on Namestnikov at the end of the first, and then the team kind of locked things down in front of him.

– NHL Cameras

How does a professional league not have high-definition cameras at their bluelines if they’re going to make such a big deal out of challenges like that? It looked like a flip phone camera with the quality of the photos we saw.

As much as people dislike it, I don’t have an issue with the goal standing. If the play is that close, you can’t overturn it, and it looked really close. I would just hope the league will look into better cameras than what they’ve currently got.

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