The fans experienced the pre-playoff excitement of Colorado Avalanche hockey on Wednesday night and hope to experience it again on Thursday night. The team put up an entertaining, dominant performance in a 6-0 shutout over the Los Angeles Kings. From experiencing the thrill of a hat trick to seeing Philipp Grubauer get his seventh shutout of the season, the fans at Ball Arena were in for a treat. This Wednesday night treat was a taste of what the fans have seen from the team throughout this entertaining shortened season. They will hope to see more of this in the next step of the team’s pursuit for the Stanley Cup. Here are three takeaways from the Avalanche’s 6-0 victory.
Compher With a Hat Trick
The limited capacity at Ball Arena did not stop the fans from getting involved in the action. With 8:13 remaining in the second period, J.T. Compher positioned himself perfectly on the left side of the ice to set up for a give-and-go by linemate Valeri Nichushkin. His positioning allowed him to tap one into the net easily and prompt the fans to shower their hats onto the ice. This was Compher’s first career hat trick. Compher has started scoring, which is a great sign for the Avalanche’s depth. He has bounced between being the centerman on the second line and being on a backend line.
While he has not provided as much scoring as other players on the team’s attack this season, he has provided value in other ways, such as by winning faceoffs. This showed in his first goal of the hat trick when he won a faceoff in the defensive zone to lead up to him scoring. With just 45 seconds left in the third period, this goal gave the Avs a commanding 3-0 lead early.
“It’s exciting to get three and do it in a game when we’re pushing towards the end of the season and do it at home,” said Compher according to NHL.Com. “I pride myself on playing big in big games and I wanna be a big part of the run this year.”
Compher has certainly come up big in the last couple of games. He gave the Avs the crucial game-winner in Monday night’s 2-1 nailbiter against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Avalanche Second Line Is Back
No Nathan MacKinnon, no problem. The team was in the absence of their leading points scorer for undisclosed reasons. This did not deter them from putting up six goals on 37 shots. Thanks to several players from other lines stepping up, the offensive outburst was something they will need for a deep playoff run. The second, third and fourth lines put up solid performances in the game as they were responsible for 5-of-the-6 Avalanche goals. Even some of the members of these lines who didn’t score put up promising performances to keep an eye on. Nazem Kadri started to get some good looks again. Compher also attributes his success on the night to the support from his teammates on the ice with him.
“All three goals were great plays by teammates, Mikko on the first one and Toews on the second and Val on the last one getting it back to me. It was a great job by those guys, made it real easy for me,” Compher added according to NHL.com.
Presidents’ Trophy in Team’s Grasp, But Bigger Trophy Lies Ahead
Compher talked about big plays in big moments. Well, right now, the Avalanche are a team in the midst of big things. Their big-time scoring has earned them 80 points on the year, second to only division rival Vegas’ 82. Unlike the Vegas Golden Knights, however, the Avs have one more game left and the chance to salvage two more points. With more regulation wins than the Golden Knights, the Avs own the tiebreaker for the top seed in the Honda West and in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the team with the most points in each season. A win in their final game against the Kings on Thursday would earn them that trophy for the third time in franchise history.
While the Avs winning this prestigious award would be cause for celebration, their eyes will ultimately be set on winning the big one, the Stanley Cup. The idea of the curse of the Presidents’ Trophy still looms around the league, however. The majority of winners have surprisingly been eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoff. But whatever history says, the Avs will be making every effort to win that last game. Beyond the trophy, an important top playoff seed is on the line. While the team had similar records against their two possible opponents in the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, the team would probably rather have that play the Blues. They allowed an average of 2.63 goals per game against the Blues this season versus 3.13 goals against per game when facing the Wild.
Ben Rossi covers the Colorado Avalanche for THW. He can also be found writing and co-hosting the Exit Velo Podcast for the website BackSportsPage. For BackSportsPage he covers hockey, the Oakland Athletics, Major League Baseball news, and other sports stories that stretch beyond the playing field. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Denver where he covered the Denver Pioneers college hockey program as an undergraduate staff writer for the DU Clarion.