The Colorado Avalanche offense is clicking, and the defense is picking up, too.
The Avalanche got goals from stars Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon to set the tone, and Philipp Grubauer needed just 18 saves to earn his career-high fourth shutout of the season. Colorado piled up 46 shots on goal for the second game in a row to earn a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
Here’s three takeaways from the victory:
Grubauer Returns to Form
Lost in Colorado’s avalanche of shots for the third consecutive game was the play of Grubauer.
He only had to make 18 saves – his fewest total in any of his four shutouts this season – but needed to make three monster saves in a late LA power play to preserve the win. But he wasn’t on an island during that penalty kill, either.
With Tyson Jost in the penalty box, Los Angeles hammered Grubauer quickly, and he had to make back-to-back stops on Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. But Ryan Graves blocked two shots and Devon Toews deflected a pass meant for Kopitar’s stick that went out of play. That deflection was huge, as Kopitar had an opening because Grubauer was recovering from his third save of the kill.
The Avalanche goalie hadn’t been tested very much in his last two starts, facing just 28 shots combined over two games against the Arizona Coyotes. However, Colorado dropped one of those games and needed overtime to win the other. In Wednesday’s overtime win against Arizona, the Coyotes also had a stretch of more than 24 minutes without a shot on goal.
However, all four goals Arizona scored in those two games deflected off an Avalanche player. There was no bad luck on Wednesday, though, and Grubauer’s fourth shutout also ties him for the NHL lead. He previously had three shutouts in three separate seasons.
Rantanen Leading Way for Avs
Colorado’s go-to goal-scorer is delivering again, and now he’s atop the West Division in goals scored. Rantanen had a hand in both goals on Friday, scoring one and assisting on the other. His goal midway through the second period started the scoring and proved to be the game-winner.
The goal was Rantanen’s fifth in the last five games. His 13 goals easily lead the Avs, but Rantanen is also tied for the goal-scoring lead in the West Division with the Kings’ Dustin Brown.
Rantanen could have tallied his 14th of the season, but deferred to unselfishness, instead. There was nothing but ice between him and the empty LA net late in the third period, but Rantanen opted to pass on the freebie, dishing to MacKinnon, who finished the play off. The result was MacKinnon’s sixth goal on the season, and Rantanen’s 14th assist.
In a season marred by injuries, Rantanen is one of just four Avalanche players to play in all 25 games. As a result, his 27 points – four more than MacKinnon’s total of 23 – leads the team. MacKinnon has missed four games.
Shots Coming Fast and Furious
Over the last three games, Colorado has outshot its opponents by a blistering 127-46 – and 18 of those opposing shots came on Friday. The Avalanche have recorded 46 shots on goal in back-to-back games.
Along with the 46 shots on target on Friday, the Kings also blocked a whopping 23 shots in the loss. Over the past three games, Colorado’s opponents have blocked a total of 64 shots. That accounts for 191 shots for Avalanche players over the last 180 minutes – and that’s not including Colorado’s attempts that missed the net and weren’t blocked.
Five different players have recorded at least five shots on goal in a game over this three-game surge. Nazem Kadri leads the charge with 14 over that stretch. MacKinnon returned from injury in the second game of this three-game stretch, and has piled up 13 shots on target the last two games.
The problem is that for all of those shots on goal, the Avalanche just have six goals to show for it. That is a paltry 4.7 shooting percentage, but that has been a double-edged sword over the past three games.
While Arizona’s Antti Raanta and Los Angeles’ Cal Petersen were sharp, the workload for Grubauer hasn’t been overwhelming – and Grubauer is a guy the Avalanche must have to be successful. However, Grubauer isn’t going to get a shutout every night, either, so Colorado has to start lighting the lamp more going forward.
They’ll get another chance to pile up some more gaudy shooting statistics when they face the Kings again on Sunday at Ball Arena.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.